The XFL is back.

Last week, World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon announced that the defunct league — which lasted just one season in 2001 — will return in 2020. McMahon found that now is the perfect time to bring the league back, on the heels of a successful “30 for 30” documentary by ESPN, and also on the fact that ratings for the National Football League have been declining.

For those of you who were too young — or not even alive — when the XFL first existed, allow me to give you a brief history lesson. It was a football league that was actually trying to challenge the NFL. The XFL used all sorts of strange ideas to be different from the NFL and gain ratings. For example, instead of a coin toss, two players from opposing teams had to chase after a fumble. Whoever won the fumble drill was the first to receive the ball. They had cameras everywhere, including the cheerleaders’ locker rooms. There were even crossover appearances by WWE talent — even in the broadcast booth — as head WWE play-by-play announcer Jim “J.R.” Ross and former wrestler-turned governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura were used for XFL games.

It failed. Miserably.

This time around, McMahon has promised a straight football league, with no crazy ideas and no WWE connection whatsoever. However, he does want to tweak some of the areas where the NFL is currently struggling, particularly the length of the game (a standard NFL game takes about three hours).

“We will present a shorter, faster-paced, family friendly and easier to understand game,” McMahon said during his press conference. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s still football, but it’s professional football re-imagined.”

McMahon also said only players with clean records — including no DUIs — will be allowed in the league (apologies to Johnny Manziel), and that all players will stand for the national anthem and politics will play no part in any XFL game.

Not shockingly, most of the national media believe this will again be another failure. That the quality of players won’t be great. That once the ratings begin to tank, McMahon will use WWE shenanigans as a way to lift numbers.

I believe the new XFL could work, if done correctly. Below are seven (the list would be longer, but we have only so much space) major keys McMahon needs to follow that will help the league on the path of success.

• Keep Vince McMahon off XFL television. McMahon, frankly, has been a lightning rod of controversy throughout his entire career, especially with the old XFL. He even came close to fighting veteran broadcaster Bob Costas over the league and the WWE (YouTube it, it’s quality television). Ever since he took the WWE to Wall Street as a publicly traded company in the early 2000s, he’s tried to find success outside of the wrestling industry. He’s had a hand in the movies, in football. Neither has had any success. The national public can’t separate McMahon from professional wrestling, and although he will be the lone owner of the XFL, the bombastic millionaire needs to stay as far in the background as he possibly can.

• Find cities hungry for professional football, but don’t have NFL teams. The new XFL will have eight teams to start, and they need to be in cities where there’s a strong love of the game, but a lack of a pro team. My immediate candidates would be: Orlando, Florida; Oakland, California (remember, the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas by 2020); San Antonio, Texas; Hartford, Connecticut; Columbus, Ohio; San Diego, California; St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee. These are cities that have either lost NFL teams recently, or that are big enough and have enough of an interest in football to show up in droves. Stay away from the NFL cities, especially Los Angeles, where there are already two NFL teams.

• Have quality coaches. Bring in coaches with NFL experience who may have recently been fired (such as Chuck Pagano, John Fox, Jim Caldwell), give them a large salary and let them run the teams. Having a recognizable face leading the franchise helps give teams an identity, something the old XFL failed to do back in 2001.

• Give Tim Tebow whatever he wants for money and have him be the face of the league. McMahon wants quality people to play in the league? Then sign Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida who has done nothing but win at every level of the game he’s ever played. It’s become obvious now that he will never play another snap in the NFL, mostly due to his unorthodox throwing mechanics, but he also clearly still wants to play football. Sign him and make him the center of your marketing campaign. It immediately gives you a recognizable name, and that helps tremendously.

• Have quality players. This is by far the biggest challenge the XFL will face. But they’ll be plenty of talent to choose from. The NFL cuts nearly 1,000 players every year during training camp, they can easily land jobs in the XFL. But the new league will also have to find some recognizable names beyond Tebow that will help the league. Perhaps players near the end of the line in their career, but still want to play for a year or two (just an example, Josh McCown of the New York Jets). While not huge names, they’re at least recognizable to fans for them to watch.

• No replay. At all. I truly mean this, replay has slowed the NFL tremendously, almost to the point of exhaustion with fans. In the new XFL, outlaw replay. Whatever the ref says, goes. It takes a lot of the argument away from the game. McMahon suggested getting rid of halftime in the new XFL, but I would instead keep halftime and shorten the quarters to 10 or 12 minutes. That should get you much closer to two hour games.

• Have a major TV deal. You need a reliable television partner to broadcast games, which means you need one of the major networks behind you to get this going. ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC are all involved in deals with the NFL, so they are likely out. But ABC could be a possibility. The XFL won’t survive on a second-rate network, and McMahon needs to work on a major TV deal immediately.

So there you have it. Seven simple rules McMahon and the XFL can follow going forward. It won’t guarantee success, but it will guarantee better luck for the league than the mess they had in 2001. Success for the XFL means the NFL will finally have to look in the mirror and truly find ways to improve the quality of its games, something the league has been incredibly sluggish to do in recent years.

And that will mean better football, for everyone.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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