Alliance of American Football: Raising a Winner
I will begin this piece by stating this: I am nowhere near the business tycoon mind of Charlie Ebersol. His visions and methods are far superior to mine and should be revered beyond the media and sports community. That being said, I am going to describe to you all what I believe the Alliance should strive to achieve within the next 5 years. This is only my opinion as a sports fan. I believe the current business model of the Alliance is superb in its ideals and can improve the game of football at all levels. Here is how I think they can ensure longevity.
Setting the Scene:
At the start of the league-wide training camp held in San Antonio, Co-Founder, and Head of Football, Bill Polian walks onto a podium in front of 600 men all hoping for one more shot. He makes sure to flash his Super Bowl ring to them all as he begins his statement. “Whether you’re here for the first time-your first crack at professional football or whether this is your second chance, we exist to give you that chance. The reason we’re all involved in this is to give you the opportunity to win one of these.” A powerful piece of motivation for anyone who has ever lived and loved to play the game of football.
Head of Player Relations: Troy Polamalu said: “What we are building is an approach to help the whole person.” This is a bit different from its NFL counterpart, which seems most interested in building the brand over the player. I will attempt to reserve giving too many opinions on the NFL. However, it would be asinine of me to act like the Alliance can succeed without using the NFL to its benefit or the NFL making use of the Alliance. Which brings me to my first point.
Remain complimentary not competition:
A powerful marketing point in attracting the best possible players thus far has been “Opportunity for Some, Redemption for others.”In order for the Alliance to succeed they need to stick by this. This has been billed by many as a league in which players, as well as coaches, can and will be developed for the NFL. At the end of the day, it is a second chance developmental league.
Therefore this should be embraced and capitalized upon. Go get those lower tier small school athletes. Take in the offensive lineman who was cut from the practice squad. More times than not a player who doesn’t pan out has to do with scheme fits or the limitations of opportunity. After all, there are only so many of these jobs available. Still, that doesn’t diminish the talent or ability of a lot of these guys.
Increase scouting efforts:
There is usually high turnover within developmental leagues. Be it G-League Basketball or Minor League Baseball executives, players and coaches move on. In order to retain a quality product on the field, you need to have quality players as well as coaches. How do you find those quality players and coaches? Scouting. With each team having to pull from a “regional pool” it is critical to find the best people in that region available. Teams should be allowed to develop scouting departments to ensure the best available talent is being brought in each year.
Send coaches to check out the local talent at some of the Div. 2 and Junior Colleges that are too often overlooked by NFL scouts. Go watch the 4A High School coach that is leading his team to victory week in and week out. One thing I’m not sure of, mainly due to the fact that I have not gotten any response to inquiries about the matter is eligibility of players straight out of high school. There are numerous talented young men at schools across the nation that for one reason or another don’t receive college offers. These guys walk off the field their senior years and never play another down.
With the incentive packages offered by the AAF, these players would be given the opportunity to continue developing their football talents and receive vocational training after they have completed their football careers. This could be a major selling point to parents of these young men as well. Knowing their child will be earning a solid salary as well as the chance to get an education would certainly be food for thought. This could be attractive to high-caliber prospects looking to “Go Pro” early as well, which in turn would improve the on-field product of the AAF.
Protect Your Assets:
Some of this section may seem counter-intuitive to points I’ve already made but bear with me. It will be important for the AAF to retain the exclusive rights to the technological advancements it is pioneering. Be it the real-time tracking of games and stats through the microchips implanted in the footballs and protective wear of the players, the newly introduced SkyJudge for officiating or the interactive app platform they must retain this edge over the NFL.
The need for marketing partners is indescribable. CBS, as well as Turner Media and yes NFL Network, have all been a huge part in getting the news of this upstart football league to the masses. It will be critical to maintain these partnerships throughout the first 5 years. MGM has signed on as well to be the exclusive wagering partner of the AAF. Fans will be able to bet on just about every aspect of the game through the groundbreaking Alliance of American Football App. The app was released on IOS as well as Android platforms yesterday(Thur Feb. 7, 2019).
Player development is a double-edged sword. While it is your sole intent to develop players and help them to succeed at the next level, the risk of losing a major contributor mid-season is a major downside. According to the AAF, “Any player who has an NFL offer he would like to accept is free to leave at any time before, during, or after the season.”
While the intent is commendable it risks alienating the fan base. Fans want players and coaches they can root for week in and week out. Knowing your star running back or even the head coach could be gone next week leaves a lot of fans leary. A simple fix would be to structure new player and coaches contracts to ensure completing at least the full and current season through elimination of championship contention at risk of penalty. This would still allow for advancement while protecting brand quality.
Form the Core:
Many players and coaches will move on to the NFL. Although, it will be imperative for teams to form a core the fan base can lock onto. Building a “Face of the Franchise” if you will. Facts are, that many good players and coaches who contribute in a major way to their teams will not make it to the NFL. It is these people who each team will need to promote on a yearly basis to help ensure team recognition. Give these players and coaches a reason to “stay home” if you will. Be it through increased incentives yearly or other attractive methods; Form the core your fans can relate to.
2020 is projected to be an expansion year for the Alliance. While I believe that is a bit soon, barring unforetold success year 1, bringing in outside investors will be imperative. To retain the single entity structure seems very crucial to the success of this league. However, the financial burden that will come from adding teams will be huge.
With the NFL benefiting from a league in which to develop coaches and players, it would be sensible for owners to invest in the Alliance. Form a partnership beneficial to all. The Alliance would hold the majority stake and allow investors to purchase minority shares. It would not give the investors exclusive rights to any one team. Instead, the regional aspect would help allocate funds to existing teams as well as the founding of new teams. This, in turn, reduces the financial hit taken by the Alliance and increases funding for expansion and improvement.
Rules and conduct enforcement:
We can all agree the NFL has taken numerous pies to the face in recent years. Especially over substance policies and domestic violence issues. They have also become transparent in their intent on protecting high dollar investment players. Namely quarterbacks and receivers. It’s almost gotten to the point of removing the contact aspect of the sport. This year the amount of ridiculous Roughing the Passer penalties was laughable. Even the quarterbacks had to shake their heads. None more egregious than the AFC Championship call against the Chiefs Chris Jones. A chop to the non-throwing shoulder of Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady. While Brady was in the throwing motion!
Enough tangents. Some of the defensive rules of the AAF are geared toward reducing blind side pressures and overflow blitzes. “No more than 5 players may rush on a single play. Any defensive player on the line of scrimmage is counted as an eligible rusher regardless of whether they bring pressure. No player may rush from more than 2 yards outside the widest set lineman or 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.” This seems a bit ridiculous to me but a major goal of the Alliance is to increase player safety.
They key though is not to turn this into a game of touch football. Too many old school football fans have already turned away from what the game has become. Face it. The hard hits are an exciting part of the game. Why take away a major point of interest?
As far as player conduct off the field, the Alliance should enforce the strictest of no tolerance policies. No drugs or you are out. This should also apply to DUI situations. While the domestic violence issue in sports is a hot topic, it is hard to make a ruling until the courts have their say. However, in the event of a domestic situation involving a player or coach, suspension until legal resolution as well as an Alliance investigation and ruling is the safest way to save face. Keeping the issues from exploding through the media and controlling the situation in a transparent. Yet a firm manner will be imperative.
There will be many more factors that go into the success or failure of the Alliance of American Football. Nonetheless, these are some key points I feel could help lead to success and growth. As a fan, I am excited by this endeavor and anxiously await the weekend. If you want to join in on the fun, tune in to CBS this Saturday evening @ 8 pm EST/7 pm Central.
Do you think the AAF can last five or more years? Leave a comment below.
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