The United Football League season kicked off yesterday to a decent-sized crowd of 14,209 and a 30-17 victory for Jim Fassel and his Las Vegas Locomotives. The Locos, as they're being called, defeated the Dennis Green-led California Redwoods - who, unfortunately, aren't being called anything else. Having followed the league since its inception, here are a few things that caught my attention while watching the game.
- The quality of play was just about what I expected. In fact, in may have been a little higher than that. One important piece of advice is do not go into the game expecting NFL-caliber talent and gameplay. I suppose I would compare it to that of pretty much any major college program. Which makes sense, seeing as these players are the ones who either got drafted late and released or barely missed hearing their names called on Draft Day. I mean, really, what is the difference between the last 10 guys that make the final roster cut and the 10 that don't? The product is exactly as advertised (or not advertised-where is the marketing for this league? Did anyone besides me know they were playing last night?)
- Though I was impressed with the product on the field, I have to say that whoever designed those jerseys needs to be in a different field of work - to put it very tactfully. Not only are they absolutely atrocious, all four teams have the same uniforms with different designs. Actually, atrocious might be a compliment to the person who designed them. And then, as if to rub salt in the wound of said designer, the Redwoods and Locos played in white and gray, respectively. I'm not talking about a nice, dark gray. More than once I found my mouth agape wondering how someone could completely run by a guy and miss a tackle, only to later realize that the player was a teammate of the ball carrier throwing a block. Is it too late to scrap the unis and start fresh? (I guess that went from kind of tactful to exactly the opposite in about 50 words).
- More question than observation, but what happened to J.P. Losman? Though his stat line looked pretty solid - 21-of-31 for 226 yards and two TDs - he was overthrowing receivers, underthrowing receivers, getting under the ball, getting on top of the ball ... you get the picture. He even fumbled on consecutive plays, losing the second one. Granted, I will credit him with settling down a bit as the game progressed and having a cannon for an arm, but this is a former first-round pick who seemingly should dominate a league like this. After watching the game, I'm not so sure his chances of getting back under center in the NFL would have been worse had he simply stayed home and waited for the phone to ring. I'm just the typical armchair coach so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but there is no way I would want someone who couldn't dominate in the UFL to man the helm for my NFL franchise.
- A quick note to the Bucs, Steelers, Seahawks, et al.: Graham Gano is better than your kickers/lack thereof. I was skeptical when Fassel sent him out there to try a 53-yarder, but he nailed it with a few yards to spare. I mean, the guy barely missed out on making the Ravens' 53-man roster and he's hitting 50-plus yard field goals. Sign him up.
- I suppose this is a way to differentiate the UFL's product from that of the NFL, but what's up with the referees' bright red golf shirts? I prefer to (lovingly) refer to the refs as "zebras" rather than, you know, Phil Mickelson or something.
- In the same vein, why the lime green yard markers and pylons?
- RB DeDe Dorsey should still be in the NFL. If this guy can stay healthy, he could be at least a fourth back on most teams. He scored twice last night; one on a one-yard pass from Losman and once on a nice nine-yard run.
Overall, I thought it was a well-played game that, like I said, met my expectations. With a little advertising and focusing on reaching niche markets, I think this league really could succeed. America loves its football, and the fact that most of these players are out there for the love of the game makes it an enticing product. Plus, listening to Green scream at his players from the sidelines with that high-pitched yell of his will never get old.