XFL Week 1: Winners and Losers

Like the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the former Alliance of American Football (AAF), the XFL is full of talent looking to make it to the NFL. The XFL is a chance for NFL hopefuls and former players to prove themselves worthy of making an NFL roster. The 8-team league debuted this past weekend and saw a largely positive response from the football community. The level of play is nowhere near that of the NFL, but unique rules and the on-field broadcast style make the XFL entertaining.

A few “big” names like Renegades QB Landry Jones and Wildcats QB Josh Johnson were sidelined for opening weekend. Many players increased their chances of making it to the NFL with stellar performances in their debuts. Others were less successful and showed why they’re not in the NFL. Here’s the winners and losers from Week 1 of the XFL season.

Winners:

PJ Walker

If there was an XFL Player of the Week, Walker would undoubtedly win it. After beating out former Raiders QB Connor Cook, Walker earned the starting job for the Roughnecks season opener, leading the Houston Roughnecks to a 37-17 victory over the LA Wildcats. The Temple product threw for 272 yards and 4 TDs and picked up 26 more yards on the ground. Walker’s game tape backed up his stellar stats, too. On one play he scrambled and threw a 40-yard bomb for a touchdown while on the run.

Nelson Spruce

Spruce was clearly the best pass-catcher in the entire XFL in Week 1. Despite being thrown to by 2nd and 3rd string quarterbacks for the entirety of the game, Spruce hauled in 11 catches for 103 yards on 15 targets in the Wildcats’ loss. Spruce became the first and only player to pass the 100-yard mark and emerged as a reliable target for Charles Kanoff. With Josh Johnson expected to return soon, things are only looking up for Spruce.

Oliver Luck

Luck is the commissioner and CEO of the XFL and the mastermind behind everything different about the rising league. Under the guidance of Luck, the XFL has implemented several unique rules that keep fans interested. There are 1, 2, and 3 point conversions, and while it hasn’t been used yet, football geeks are drooling over the double forward pass.

The XFL also broadcasts teams’ play calls on air and does sideline interviews with players during the middle of the game. Luck has turned the XFL into a perfect fan experience, and the strong viewing numbers and support from the NFL community indicate that he is doing a good job.

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Unbeknownst to many, Oliver Luck is the father of Andrew Luck

Losers:

Pepper Johnson

Johnson is the clear biggest loser of the week, as he lost both this weekend’s game and his job. In his first ever game as a defensive coordinator in any league (Johnson has also coached in the NFL and AAF), Johnson’s defense allowed 37 points to the Roughnecks. The future is bleak for Johnson and he likely won’t get another break. Johnson also becomes the first XFL coach of any kind to get laid off.

Marc Trestman

The XFL is all about proving yourself worthy, and Trestman did the exact opposite in Week 1. The Tampa Bay Vipers head coach, once touted as an offensive guru, led his team to just 3 points in a blowout loss. Trestman has failed to hold a coaching job for more than two years in his past three stints, most notably as Bears head coach. This may very well be Trestman’s last shot at a return to the NFL.

A look Bears fan know all too well

Aaron Murray

The Vipers quarterback was one of the few names NFL fans likely recognized on an XFL team. Murray was well known during his time at the University of Georgia, but never panned out as an NFL prospect. It became clear why on Sunday, as Murray mightily struggled against a defense arguably worse than an NFL practice squad.

Murray was 16-34 with 231 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 45.1. There certainly is time to improve for Murray and he has the most promising future of the other “Losers” on this list, but Murray’s stock is trending down.

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