This is usually a dark and depressing time of year.
Sure, the NFL offseason features news and updates galore, whether it's the scouting combine, free agency or the NFL draft.
But there's no actual football. No hitting. Or passing. Or touchdown celebrations.
At least there wasn't until this past weekend.
On Saturday, the XFL began play for the first time since its lone season back at the turn of the century. The second iteration of the XFL features eight teams and a number of rule changes, from a modified kickoff to a shootout-style overtime.
By most estimations, the first week of XFL action was a success. But it left fans across the country asking themselves a perplexing question.
Who should I root for—and why?
Should I just pick the team that's closest to where I live? The one with the most players I recognize? The team with the sportiest uniforms?
Well, regardless of what qualities are most important to you in an XFL team, we've got you covered—with this complete guide of who to root for in the XFL in 2020.
The Quick List:
- Living in Texas or Oklahoma
- Steelers fans
- Logo/apparel fans
The Dallas Renegades have played only one game, but they have already accomplished something that is exceedingly rare.
The Renegades have given fans in Oklahoma and Texas something in common.
For fans in Texas, there's the obvious geographic tie-in. The Renegades don't play in the same stadium as the Dallas Cowboys (the Renegades play at Globe Life Park in Arlington, the former home of baseball's Texas Rangers), but it's easy for Cowboys Nation to call the crosstown Renegades their own.
The Renegades are based in Texas, but they have a very Oklahoma feel to them. The team is coached by longtime Sooners head coach Bob Stoops, who won a national championship in 2000. Stoops was reunited with veteran quarterback Landry Jones, who played at Oklahoma from 2008 to 2012 before spending five years as a backup to Ben Roethlisberger with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That Steelers connection could also make the Renegades an option for Steelers fans—provided the whole Cowboys-Steelers rivalry isn't too big a hurdle.
If you're the sort of deep thinker that bases rooting interest on apparel, the Renegades could be the team for you. Granted, this is a subjective exercise, but the Renegades' blue-black color scheme and bandit logo are both pretty sharp.
Finally, if you're a fan that prefers your weather fair and your wagon of the band variety, then the Renegades may be the team for you. Per the XFL's website, the Renegades were the preseason co-favorites to win the XFL championship.
Of course, that was before the team lost its debut 15-9 to the St. Louis Battlehawks in a game Jones missed with a knee injury.
The Quick List:
- Living in D.C. Metro Area
- Ravens/Redskins fans
- Ohio State fans
The Dallas Renegades did well with their uniform design. If that sort of thing is important to you, then the D.C. Defenders probably aren't the team for you.
This simple color scheme might work for a storied college team like Alabama. But the Defenders unis look like, well, a rip-off of Alabama with a slightly different red.
However, if you're more concerned about the on-field product, then the Defenders deserve a second look. As a matter of fact, after beating the Seattle Dragons 31-19 in their opener, the Defenders are arguably the best team in the XFL.
There's no shortage of name recognition with the Defenders, too. The team's quarterback is Cardale Jones, who led Ohio State on a magical run to a national title in 2014. The defense is led by safety Matt Elam, who was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens after a standout career at the University of Florida.
That link to the Ravens (and the obvious geographic proximity to Baltimore) makes D.C. and easy pick for fans both there and in the nation's capital. Jones' presence should create a soft spot for the Defenders in the hearts of Ohio State fans from coast to coast.
The Defenders also have a veteran coach in Pep Hamilton who was an assistant for five different NFL teams and quite a bit of recognizable talent on defense, whether it's linebacker Scooby Wright or safety Shamarko Thomas.
As it turns out, Defenders may be a pretty apt name for this franchise.
Now if we could just get a do-over on the uniforms.
The Quick List:
- Living in Texas and the Southwest
- Fans of the run-and-shoot
- Fans of a cool name
Are you a fan of offense? An old Houston Oilers supporter? A front-runner? Like really cool team names?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then the Houston Roughnecks are likely the XFL team for you.
The Roughnecks are coached by June Jones, a proponent of the run-and-shoot offense that the Oilers used with great success in the days of Warren Moon in the early 1990s. The Roughnecks had the most dominant effort of Week 1 in a 20-point win over Los Angeles, and as Ben Kercheval wrote for CBS Sports, Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker was the star of the first slate of XFL action.
"The former Temple product was deemed too short and perhaps a bit too slow to make it in the NFL, but he was unstoppable in Houston's 37-17 rout of Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon with four touchdowns and nearly 300 yards of total offense," Kercheval said. "Sure, he's a touch short and a tad slow in the 40, but he can ball. He's everything this league should want in a quarterback."
Walker may not have done anything in the NFL, but the Roughnecks have at least a couple players who have—one on each side of the ball. Wide receiver Sammie Coates is a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers who averaged almost 21 yards a catch with two scores in 2016. Defensive end Kony Ealy was one of the stars for the Carolina Panthers in their loss in Super Bowl 50, racking up three sacks with a forced fumble and an interception.
Add in the best team name in the XFL, and there's a lot to like about Houston.
Los Angeles Wildcats
The Quick List:
- Fans on the West Coast
- Fans of hard-nosed football
- Fans of old-school coaches
The Los Angeles Wildcats were on the wrong end of that beating from the Houston Roughnecks in Week 1. The Wildcats averaged less than four yards a play and struggled to move the ball through the air. Wildcats quarterback Chad Kanoff was pulled for a time. And while the team's color scheme is fine, the "LA" logo on the helmet is rather blah.
This team could struggle to generate fan interest—even in America's second-largest city. Los Angeles is rather notorious for having a short attention span where sports is concerned.
However, like the Dallas Renegades, the Wildcats opened the season with their starting quarterback on the shelf, and the team's fortunes should improve once Josh Johnson is back out there. The journeyman is the most accomplished signal-caller from the NFL—the Detroit Lions actually tried to sign Johnson in November but were blocked by the XFL.
The Wildcats also feature a kicker in Nick Novak who kicked (so to speak) around the NFL for years and an O-line prospect in Storm Norton who is one of the XFL's more likely players to make the jump into the NFL.
If you're into hard-nosed football and a no-nonsense coach, then the Wildcats should appeal to you. Head coach Winston Moss spent over a decade as an assistant in Green Bay, and Moss has shown in Los Angeles that he's not afraid to rock the boat.
On Monday, Moss released linebacker Anthony Johnson, who was one of the team's more recognizable players and a captain. He also fired defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson.
Moss appears bent on building a West Coast team with a Midwest attitude.
New York Guardians
The Quick List:
- Fans in New York/the Northeast
- Fans of a good human interest story
- Logo/apparel fans
The New York Guardians have quite a few things working for them.
For starters, there's the whole playing in America's largest media market thing. The Guardians drew fewer than 20,000 fans to their debut against the Tampa Bay Vipers at Met Life Stadium, but, per Sports Illustrated, even that modest total exceeded expectations for a chilly February afternoon.
The Guardians won that debut 23-3, giving them something that neither the Giants nor Jets had at any point last season—a winning record.
It's still awfully early, but the Guardians look to be one of the better teams in the XFL.
The Guardians have a quarterback with NFL experience in Matt McGloin. Just like in the NFL, the XFL will be decided largely by which teams get consistent play at football's most important position.
For the fashion-conscious, the Guardians have a foolproof color scheme. It's next to impossible to mess up a uniform when a club's colors are black, gray and red.
The Guardians also have one of the best human interest stories in the entire XFL. Former Towson running back Darius Victor, who led the Guardians in rushing in their opening-week win, was born in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast after his family left war-torn Liberia. He and his family came to America when he was a boy, only to see his older brother killed in a shooting.
It may be a long shot, but the idea of Victor parlaying success in the XFL into another shot in the NFL is an easy thing to root for.
The Quick List:
- Living in Seattle/the Northwest
- Fans of underdogs
- Fans of fire-breathing reptiles
If you're a fan of the underdog, then the Seattle Dragons are the XFL team for you. According to Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports, the Dragons have the lowest projected win total of any team in the league.
In Week 1 at least, that held true—the Dragons fell 31-19 to the Defenders.
It's not that the Dragons don't have any recognizable talent. Wide receiver Keenan Reynolds piled up all kinds of stats both running and passing at Navy. Defensive tackle Will Sutton was a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year at Arizona State. But Reynolds and Sutton were non-factors in Week 1, and quarterback Brandon Silvers barely completed half of his passes with a pair of interceptions.
It wasn't an auspicious start to the season.
Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will find a familiar face on the Dragons in defensive end Jacquies Smith. Smith hasn't logged a sack in the NFL since 2015, but the 29-year-old posted 13.5 in Tampa from 2014 to 2015.
The Dragons may lack big names, but they should have the advantage of raucous fans. Whether it's the Seahawks in the NFL, the Mariners in Major League Baseball or the Sounders in Major League Soccer, Seattle fans are some of the most enthusiastic in sports.
Plus, there's the whole Dragons thing.
Everyone likes dragons.
St. Louis BattleHawks
The Quick List:
- Living in the Midwest
- Indoor football fans
- Fans whose NFL team relocated
The St. Louis BattleHawks are unique among XFL teams for a few reasons.
The first is the team's name. Sure, no one's 100 percent sure what a BattleHawk actually is, but it does have a certain ring to it. The oversized logo on the team's helmet is also fairly impressive.
The second thing is that the BattleHawks are the only XFL team playing in a city that doesn't have an NFL franchise. Of course, St. Louis has had an NFL team—two, in fact. But the BattleHawks are the only football show in town in 2020—something that might appeal to fans in cities like Oakland and San Diego who know all too well what it's like to lose a team.
Then there's "The Dome." The BattleHawks play their home games in The Dome at America's Center, making the team the only XFL franchise that plays indoors.
There are at least a few familiar faces in St. Louis as well. Punter Marquette King may well be the only player in the entire XFL to be named a second-team All-Pro. Tailback Christine Michael spent time with both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
Head coach Jonathan Hayes isn't exactly a household name, but he has over 25 years of NFL experience as a player and tight ends coach.
No NFL team. The best player is a punter. The only XFL franchise in a domed stadium.
If outside the box is your cup of team, then the St. Louis BattleHawks are your XFL team.
Tampa Bay Vipers
The Quick List:
- Living in Florida/the Southeast
- Georgia fans
- Fans of the color green
The Tampa Bay Vipers are another team that should (in theory) have appealed to fans who prefer front-runners to long shots. The Vipers entered the season with the highest projected win total in the XFL.
That projection took a bit of a beating in Week 1, as the Vipers were the lowest-scoring team in the XFL. However, there's room for optimism that the Vipers will get things turned around in relatively short order.
For starters, head coach Marc Trestman has more coaching experience than any in the XFL. Trestman was head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2013 and 2014, and the 64-year-old has over a decade of experience as an offensive coordinator and three Grey Cups from his time in the Canadian Football League.
Whether it's Georgia's Aaron Murray or Michigan's De'Veon Smith, the Vipers roster features a number of players who starred at big-time colleges.
On paper at least, the Vipers came into the 2020 season as one of the XFL's better teams, And while they didn't look it in Week 1, the Vipers still have plenty of time to turn things around and give football fans in the Southeast a reason to cheer for the next few months.
Folks in that part of the country rather like the game—or so I've heard.
So far as the team's threads go, the Vipers settled on green as their primary color. It makes sense with a snake for the mascot. But…um….well…
If this strikes you as the best-looking uniform in the XFL, then you must really like the color green.
Oregon South, coming up.