After a fun-filled first two weeks, the FCFL has drawn the attention of numerous football fans across the country. While added eyeballs are a great sign for the league's future viability, many of those watching had a question or two about just what it is they were watching.
Here is a brief explanation as to how this brand of football is played on the field and the new rules that make the FCFL an exciting alternative to traditional pigskin.
The FCFL's Two Influences
A product that is noticeably different than professional and college football, the FCFL has added elements of play that help it stand out. Fan interaction has helped the upstart league find an audience, but to dismiss the FCF as a mere crowd-voting gimmick would be short sighted.
The FCFL's two main influences have set up the league as one predicated on speed, quick passes, and plenty of athleticism. Other than the indoor setting, the arena league similarities include a designated area where defensive and offensive linemen are allowed to play. Only the quarterback and one offensive lineman, who snaps the ball, are allowed in the offensive box. Unlike arena rules, lateral passes are not allowed, although everyone but the snapper is allowed to receive handoffs as a 'Superback'.
The other aspect of the FCFL is 7-on-7 football, another form of football that looks radically different than most professional leagues. With just seven men on the field, FCFL play style is dependent on passing, with plenty of room for receivers to create space. Like 7-on-7, there are no kickers, and drives to start a half or following a touchdown start at a team's ten-yard line. Halves are a mere twenty minutes, just like in 7 v. 7 tournaments. To keep offensive spacing from completely taking over defenses, the league field size is a more narrow 35 X 50 yards with ten-yard end zones.
Old Game, New Wrinkles
There are plenty of new rules that may seem strange to wary viewers. Despite some reservations, this is a smart move. The FCFL is attempting to establish a not-so-serious brand, and standing out from would-be imitators of the NFL is a smart business move.
The first major rule change comes in the form of extra points and two-point conversions. Since there are no kickers, conversions in the FCFL take the form of one-on-one matchups between a defensive back and a wide receiver. For the extra point, a play starts at the ten-yard line, and the quarterback is given five seconds to get rid of the ball. Two-pointers are placed at the five, and QB's have just three seconds to throw.
This format also plays a role in overtime. After a rock, paper, scissors battle at midfield, teams are given a college-style extra period where a winner will be named after a score and a stop on defense. By the second period of OT, teams are forced to attempt a two-point conversion following a score. In a potential fifth period, teams will shift to alternating two-point plays rather than actual drives.
As mentioned earlier, there are no kickers. Since this also means no punters, all drives become four-down territory. The fact that a three-and-out (in this case a four-and-out) can lead to an easy score for the other side is something that the fans calling plays need to consider every game.
There is a unique rule that allows for one 'Flip the Field Team Power', which can be won each week via a fan engagement contest. For example, if a team fails to gain a fourth down at their own ten, a 'flip' can put the ball on the other team's side of the field rather than give the opposition the ball mere yards away from a touchdown.
Player personnel is another factor that the FCFL uses in their game structure. Every third drive, a team's backup QB must enter the game, while fans choose who that week's starter will be. While going over the league's fan-friendly roster building is a conversation for another time, the enforcement of two different quarterbacks keeps the game fresh and helps prevent injuries for the team's two most important players.
Lastly, but just as important as the other main rules, is the way defense is played. Unlike the elaborate schemes in the pros, FCFL defenders are unable to pull off stunts and other elaborate packages when rushing the passer. Instead, a maximum of three defenders can line up in the Defensive Box, which extends five yards past the line of scrimmage. Any defender within a three-yard 'Defensive Belt' can only do so if lined up over a skill position player. While defensive lineman are allowed to pass rush, only linebackers can blitz, and they must do so between two defensive lineman, rather than on the edge.
The FCFL can seem intimidating for a first-time viewer, especially those who are simply watching for entertainment rather than calling plays and making transactions from their phones. Still, the new rules implemented are all crucial in making the league feel like its own brand rather than a poor knockoff. If people are willing to let the FCFL grow and work out any kinks, what may seem unfamiliar may soon be appreciated as key elements of a bolder, newer type of football to watch throughout the spring.