Before getting to the football news of the week, a bit of Notre Dame housekeeping … Linebacker D. J. Morgan will transfer to Connecticut, a departure expected since Morgan announced his intentions to leave the Irish in mid-January.
Now then … The Alliance of American Football suspended its operations Tuesday, an outcome seemingly on the horizon since the AAF’s inaugural season commenced and one portending the imminent and official end of the upstart league. While the decision deprives a few hundred young football players of the chance for potential career advancement, it should also underscore the realities of both the sport and its current alignment.
The Pacific Pro Football League originally hoped to have players in this NFL draft, meaning it would have been operational in the summer of 2018. Now, it is unlikely to get off the ground before the summer of 2020, at the earliest. Keep in mind, this was a league commenters of this space once posited would convince Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to join. Instead, he will be drafted into the NFL before it plays so much as a game, if it ever does.
The rebooted XFL will have better financing behind it, and the subsequent hype the WWE and Vince McMahon will provide it should certainly help the XFL sustain the ratings the AAF was so proud of after its first week. That may yield an extended runway, but in the end, expect the XFL to follow the same path of its predecessors, both its own and the AAF’s.
The average career lifespan of a football player is simply too short to support the minor league need and lifestyle. The NBA’s G-League relies on players well into their 20s to fill out its rosters. Football players well into their 20s are either making six (or seven or eight) figures in the NFL or not willing to sacrifice their health now and in the future for a minor-league income.
Thus, the AAF was not able to put together a product fans widely deemed worth watching. After that initial ratings bonanza, viewership steadily declined. No matter what reason league owner Tom Dundon had for suspending operations — be it his own tech aspirations or purely financial — continued strong ratings, or even rises in them, would have prolonged the league’s life, with Dundon at the helm or some other investor taking over.
Those ratings will not come, not when the interested public already gives up 21 Sundays, 17 Saturdays, 16 Mondays, about 14 Thursdays and even some Tuesdays to the sport, not to mention preseason NFL games and college bowl games. Conservatively speaking, the decently-rabid football fan already watches the sport 90 days a year. This, the audience the AAF needed, has already reached its saturation point. It is not about to spend days 91-100 on a vastly-inferior product.
This is unfortunate for the 10 former Notre Dame players who were in the AAF — linebackers Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini, defensive backs Cody Riggs and Max Redfield (pictured at top, on right), running back Tarean Folston, receiver Amir Carlisle, offensive lineman John Montelus, tight end Joe Fauria, punter Ben Turk and long snapper Scott Daly — but their football-playing days were pretty clearly numbered already. Perhaps some, the linebacker duo perhaps most likely, will get another chance in this summer’s NFL offseason training activities, but for the participants of the AAF as a whole, its ending was likely their career’s, as well.
Let’s keep this in mind when the XFL gets off the ground, and if the Pacific Pro League ever does. Most would argue there is already too much football. Shoddy football is not the way to even more of it.
On DeShone Kizer …
This space’s annual 40 preseason predictions included one in August suggesting the former Irish quarterback’s 2018 peak came in a preseason game. That ended up being very much accurate. A Green Bay columnist suspects that may have also been the high of Kizer’s time with the Packers.
Given how horribly Kizer’s two appearances in injury relief went last season, this makes some sense. Quite frankly, those auditions could not have gone much worse.
For first-year Packers head coach Matt LaFleur to demote a quarterback he knows from a season together at Notre Dame in 2014 will not bode well for Kizer’s future. No matter how much (or, more likely, little) time the two actually spent together in a season when the freshman preserved a year of eligibility, the optics will not aid his hopes of reviving an NFL career.
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— NFL draft sleeper analytics
— Where were the FBS coaches 10 years ago?
— How can Navy catch back up to Army?
— Aaron Lynch re-signs with Bears