The Revolutionary XFL Innovations You Still See In The NFL Today…And The Ones You’ll Never See Again

From the “opening scramble” to the “sky cam”

The XFL made quite a splash during its inaugural season in 2001. Founded by WWE owner Vince McMahon, the wrestling titan turned his focus to football, and brought in former players like Dick Butkus, WWE stars like The Rock and personalities like Jesse Ventura to hype the league. And then, shortly after its championship game, the league dissolved and was shut down.

But all the revolutionary ideas that started in the XFL, including some unique innovations that may seem very familiar to NFL fans, didn’t disappear when the league ended. Previously, Project FANchise co-founder Ray Austin talked about his time in the XFL (after his NFL career). At Project FANchise we’re all about giving more power to the FANS — find out more at our site — and there’s a lot that can be learned from what the XFL tried. 15 years later, let’s see what stuck (and what definitely didn’t):

  1. Opening Scramble: One of the most memorable innovations in the XFL was the elimination of the boring coin toss, and in its place, an “opening scramble.” One player on each team ran toward a single football 20 yards down the field — the first player to establish possession wins. The NFL hasn’t gone near it, perhaps because it caused a major injury on the first week of the season.

2. Cameras: On the other hand, one thing the NFL has adopted from the XFL is the innovative camera angles used as part of the TV broadcast. The most notable was perhaps the “sky cam,” which spanned the length of the field overhead and could give viewers a perspective that felt almost like a video game. The NFL now uses this in every broadcast.

3. Mics: Another innovation on the broadcast side were the microphones on many players throughout the game, giving fans an insight into what went was said during the game. While the NFL occasionally mic’ed players before, they never used the audio during the games in real-time — after the XFL, viewers were given that access as well.

4. Jerseys: One unique element to the XFL was the ability for each player to pick what went on the back of their jersey — meaning, it didn’t just have to be the player’s last name. Remember “He Hate Me” Rod Smart, the XFL’s best-selling jersey? The NFL hasn’t moved in this direction, although we have seen players like Donte Whitner planning to change his name to Donte Hitner (like Chad Johnson did to Chad Ochocinco) so the back of their jersey could reflect their nicknames as well.

5. PATs: The XFL was all about trying to make some of the mundane aspects of the game more exciting. With that in mind, they eliminated all extra points or PATs, and made all teams “go for 1” — the extra point after a TD was a single play from the 1-yard line. Later in the season, to up the excitement, they added a 2-point and 3-point option as well, from the 5-yard and 10-yard line. While the NFL didn’t jump to eliminate extra points entirely, they did make a change this season, moving the PAT yard-line back to encourage 2-point conversions.

6. Punts: Here’s something you definitely won’t ever see in the NFL — there was no fair catch rule in the XFL. In addition to that, punts became “live” balls, meaning either team could recover the ball after the ball passed 25-yards. It certainly made 4th downs exciting, but with the renewed focus on concussions and other injuries, the NFL seems to be going the other direction on special teams.

7. Overtime: The XFL’s overtime rules were very similar to the current college football rules. Each team got a chance to start from the other team’s 20-yard line, and score a TD or kick a field goal. The teams would go back and forth, alternating possessions. While the current NFL overtime rules aren’t exactly the same, they are closer to this, in that each team gets a chance to have possession (unless the first team scores a TD).

At Project FANchise, we bought a pro football team and we’re going to let the FANS run it — from picking our players and coaches, to the logo and team name, to the plays our team runs! Find out more at