Guerry Clegg

Is there such a thing as too much football? New league seems just OK so far

Atlanta Legends quarterback Aaron Murray throws a pass during the second half of an Alliance of American Football game against the Orlando Apollos on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Atlanta Legends quarterback Aaron Murray throws a pass during the second half of an Alliance of American Football game against the Orlando Apollos on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) AP

If nothing else, the Alliance of American Football has a natural sponsor in AT&T.

“Oh, that new pro football league? It’s OK.”

But lest we forget, AT&T’s tagline in the commercial is “just OK is not OK.”

Time will tell whether “just OK” will be good enough to keep the new spring football league going. The AAF debuted last weekend to lukewarm results. The first two games Saturday night drew 27,857 in San Antonio and 20,191 in Orlando. The next day it dropped to 17,039 in Birmingham and 15,000 (maybe) in Tempe, Ariz.

Let the half-full, half-empty debate begin. Charlie Ebersol, the league’s co-founder along with Hall of Fame NFL executive Bill Polian, said the turnout was “way above expectations.”

Of greater importance to the league was that it drew a higher TV rating than competing NBA games. But that’s due in part to the curiosity of a new football league — one with recognizable names — and in part to the country not being nearly as interested in regular season NBA games as ESPN wants you to believe.

We’ll see if that trend continues as competition for the TV remote heats up. March Madness. NBA Playoffs. Major League Baseball. The Masters. College spring football games.

Not to mention a couple of old reliables: The Office and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Granted, the AAF might have a future display in the Museum of Defunct Football Leagues. As much as we love college and pro football — and most of us love one or the other, if not both — are we ready for even more football just a week after the Super Bowl?

To me, that’s too soon. But pushing the season back a month or two would be counterproductive toward the real purpose of the AAF, which is to develop players for the NFL.

Whether the new league catches on with the public or not, this much is a safe bet. Some of these players will catch the eye of NFL scouts and wind up on rosters this fall. Whether there’s a Kurt Warner, whose pro career started in the Arena Football League and came to rest in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with an NFL MVP award and Super Bowl ring along the way, is debatable.

This first group of AAF quarterbacks doesn’t appear to have a future NFL starter in the bunch. Garrett Gilbert had the best debut, leading Steve Spurrier and the Orlando Apollos to a big win over the Atlanta Legends, whose nickname and pathetic opening performance seemed mutually fitting.

But unlike Warner, Gilbert hasn’t been stocking grocery store shelves waiting for a call. He has been cut by five NFL teams. He’s the son of a former NFL quarterback, Gale Gilbert. If he hasn’t made it by now, well …

As for Atlanta, the choice of Matt Simms as the starting quarterback is a bit odd. He’s the son of former New York Giants star Phil Simms and was once thought of as a future star himself. But he never distinguished himself even in college at Tennessee, let alone in the NFL. And now he’s 30.

Aaron Murray, the former Georgia Bulldogs great, has failed to stick in the NFL even as a backup. But at least he’s younger and is well known enough in Atlanta to bring out the curiosity seekers.

But there are players at other positions who maybe just need another chance. Nobody has enough linemen (offense or defense) or running backs.

As for the TV entertainment value, there’s not much else on other than an overdose of college basketball and meaningless, overhyped NBA games. So maybe I’ll tune in again, if for no other reason than to watch Spurrier have a sideline conniption. It beats bowling.

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