Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Meet the Man Who Could Make the XFL a Competitor

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 6, 2018

West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck, center, watches a women's NCAA college basketball game between Baylor and West Virginia at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, March 2, 2013. (AP Photo/David Smith)
DAVID SMITH/Associated Press

Andrew Luck's dad becomes commissioner of the XFL. Former Patriots argue over Bill Belichick's fun factor. What records will be broken this season, and who's going to win the Super Bowl. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

        

1. Bringing credibility to the XFL

Among all the moves made by the various football leagues this offseason, including the NFL and CFL, the hiring of Oliver Luck as head of the XFL was perhaps the smartest.

It was a major step toward credibility, and I'm not sure the XFL had much of it before.

This version of the league seemed to be on shaky ground. The hires have been slow, and the league has been mostly quiet, but the hiring of Luck changes all of that. He gives the league a shot at long-term viability. He's that smart.

If you don't know his background, Oliver Luck is the father of one of the best quarterbacks of this generation, the Colts' Andrew Luck, but he's also one of the most respected sports executives out there.

A quick run through his bio, via the league's release: "Luck served as president of NFL Europe and general manager of the league's Frankfurt Galaxy and Rhein Fire. Most recently Luck was the NCAA's Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Strategic Partnerships where he oversaw all NCAA regulatory functions including enforcement, academic and membership affairs, and the Eligibility Center."

He was also a Rhodes Scholar finalist, the athletic director at West Virginia, the president of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo, an Academic All-American quarterback at West Virginia and a second-round pick in the NFL draft, playing five years with the Houston Oilers.

A background doesn't get more excellent, or traditional, than that. So how will all of that translate as head of a league that is supposed to be, well, non-traditional?

"I've got a little entrepreneurial bent to me," Luck told Bleacher Report on Tuesday. "This is a very cool, challenging opportunity. These kinds of things don't come around very often."

Luck said the job came together quickly over the past two months. I asked him for his best Vince McMahon story so far. He chuckled and said he came away from his meetings with McMahon impressed.

"I don't really follow professional wrestling," Luck said, "but the more I dug into it, the more impressed I became."

Luck said the XFL business plan calls for the league to go "well into the 2020s. We want to build a league that will last. I'm convinced Vince is thinking longer-term."

No league opposing the NFL has lasted more than a few years. The XFL didn't the first time.

This time, because of Luck, that might just change.

      

2. Luck on Luck and peaceful protests

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 12: Former Dynamo President Oliver Luck (R) and his son Andrew Luck, first round pick in the NFL by the Indianapolis Colts during pre-game activity at the inaugural opening at BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Phot
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Two more things from Luck:

• When asked about the XFL's policy on players protesting during the national anthem, he said: "We respect individual freedoms. But we will require our players to stand for the national anthem."

• And when asked about the health of his son, he responded: "I'll give you a one-word answer, and I won't elaborate: fine."

            

3. Do you need to have fun playing football?

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Recently there was a bit of a kerfuffle, a commotion if you will, about what it means to have fun in the NFL.

The issue of fun and football came up when Cassius Marsh told the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch of playing for the Patriots, his former team: "There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it. I didn't enjoy any of my time there." Current Eagles player Brandon Brooks, but also a former Texans player under coach Bill O'Brien who is disciple of Belichick, told reporters the same: "S--t is not fun there."

Ex-Patriot Martellus Bennett responded to the comments with a tweet that said fun in football is all a matter of perspective.

Tedy Bruschi, a former Patriot, defended the team in a tweet of his own.

What to make of all this? It's pretty simple and goes to what Bennett said.

Some people need to have fun while playing football. Others are willing to endure the curmudgeonliness of Bill Belichick and his sometimes joyless program, because for them, winning and staring at their Super Bowl rings is the fun.

              

4. Sources: Broncos sale could net $3 billion

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The Broncos have been involved in a family dispute over who controls the franchise, and it could get really interesting.

The health of owner Pat Bowlen has been failing, and a board of trustees is running the team. Bowlen's daughter, Beth Bowlen Wallace, has been trying to get a seat at the table, and a fight has ensued.

At stake isn't just control of one of the most powerful franchises in sports. This fight is also about money. Lots of it. Lots and lots and lots of it.

Because if whoever does have control decides to sell the team, as ESPN's Seth Wickersham reported last week, the price could be astronomical:

Several league sources told me they think it could be as much as $3 billion.

It's all guesswork, but the Panthers just sold for $2.2 billion. The Broncos could be worth far more.

          

5. Players on verge of statistical greatness

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

ESPN.com's Mike Triplett wrote a story last week looking at individual records that could be broken in 2018. The NFL record book could be totally rewritten.

The first number that stood out: Drew Brees is just 1,496 passing yards shy of breaking Peyton Manning's career record (71,940). He'll get that, easy.

Second: Kicker Adam Vinatieri needs only 58 points to pass Morten Andersen (2,544 career points) as the career scoring leader. Vinatieri will get that easily as well.

Third: Perhaps the greatest potential player on the verge of moving up the record books is also one of the classiest guys in all of sports, Larry Fitzgerald. He can move into second place all-time in receptions (he needs 92 to pass Tony Gonzalez's 1,325) and receiving yards (390 to pass Terrell Owens' 15,934).

Fitzgerald is the most intriguing because he will make people reevaluate who the top three receivers of all time are. I sometimes shift, but generally my list is Jerry Rice, Owens and Randy Moss. Fitzgerald might force his way onto there, though.

              

6. Aaron Rodgers deal will get done

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 20:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers watches action during game three of round one of the Eastern Conference playoffs between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics at the Bradley Center on April 20, 2018 in Mi
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

One quick note on Aaron Rodgers and his potential contract extension.

Based on what I'm hearing, there's no reason to believe Rodgers won't sign an extension this summer or that it won't make him the highest-paid player in the league.

At this point, it'd be a shock if it didn't get done.

       

7. Super Bowl guarantee

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

One of my favorite things that happens during the offseason went slightly unnoticed this week: a Super Bowl guarantee. This one came from Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram on Monday:

"We [haven't] been to the playoffs for a while. I think it's going to be crazy. This Super Bowl we're going to win; we're ready. We're grinding. We're just going to keep grinding. We're going to grind, grind, grind, grind, grind, grind, grind no matter what. That's what our main objective goal is, to win a Super Bowl. Keep fighting. Keep playing. Keep grinding. No matter what. That's the goal: We've got to bring a Super Bowl to the city."

Ingram also said: "It's not added pressure. I was taught you've got to speak stuff into existence. If you want to do something, you've got to say you're going to do it and then you've got to go do it."

I find this stuff entertaining, but there's no question that if the Chargers don't reach the Super Bowl (and I think there's a chance they do), Ingram will be reminded of this quote.

             

8. Raiders stadium construction

Richard N. Velotta of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday published an interesting look at the data on the Raiders' stadium construction in Las Vegas. This paragraph in particular has some juicy details if you're a numbers nerd like me:

"The Raiders recently reported the team has spent $172.4 million, 19 percent of its commitment, on the stadium project. Another $43.6 million, or 22 percent of the total commitment, has been paid by the NFL's G-4 loan program, and $30.6 million, or 4 percent, of the public's $750 million contribution has been spent to date."

Do you know what this level of commitment means?

It goes beyond having the Raiders in Vegas. This means the NFL is going to have a Super Bowl in Vegas as soon as it can.

That's how it works: Build a new stadium, and the Super Bowl follows.

The next Super Bowls are Atlanta in 2019, Miami in 2020, Tampa in 2021, Los Angeles in 2022, Glendale in 2023 and New Orleans in 2024.

I'd bet anything Vegas gets the Super Bowl in 2025.

        

9. A new world

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

If you want to understand how quickly the gambling universe is changing after the Supreme Court made it possible for states to legalize it, look at what happened in Delaware on Tuesday.

The governor of the state placed a bet.

The idea of a governor placing a bet in the open outside of, say, Nevada would have been unthinkable even a year ago. But here we are.

The pace will only increase as we enter this new gambling world.

           

10. Interesting thought on Colin Kaepernick and Ray Lewis

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, Cali
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

One question that some players have asked me: Why didn't the league use its tremendous PR skills and ability to sway public opinion to defend players when their protests first started, namely Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid?

It's something that's been discussed privately by players and team officials alike for months. The belief is the league could have done a much better job explaining to fans exactly what the players were protesting and avoided a lot of this mess.

Such a thing has happened before, in fact, with Ray Lewis.

One league source put it this way in a note to me:

"The league did all it could to restore Ray Lewis to prominence. To rehabilitate his image. To put him back in a terrific light...after he PLEADED GUILTY TO OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN A MURDER CASE. I saw first hand how hard the league worked at this (featuring him in promotional spots, painting him in the most favorable light, etc.). I never understood it then, I don't understand it now.

"But what I do understand is this: the glaring dichotomy of the league's tremendous efforts to rehab someone who obstructed justice in a murder vs. the league's treatment of Colin and Eric."

It's a brilliant point.

            

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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