A new professional football league is riding the proverbial midnight train to Georgia and bringing with it a collection of former NFL stars.
On Wednesday, the Alliance of American Football ushered in a new era as it pegged Atlanta as the second franchise location for its fledging league. After announcing Orlando as the inaugural city, AAF co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol placed his second stake into the south’s football haven.
“This city and state is filled with football fans,” Ebersol said. “We look at cities like Atlanta as the bellwether of what we expect and want to deliver. We are very excited to come here to Georgia to do it.”
Atlanta’s franchise will feature a bevy of former NFL superstars including former Atlanta Falcons standout quarterback Michael Vick. The dazzling signal-caller will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator in the new league. He will also work alongside former Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress, who will take the same position with the franchise.
“This is an opportunity to further my career in terms of teaching, coaching and being an analyst,” Vick said. “I love the game of football and my Sundays consist of me being engaged in the game of football. Now I don’t just get to talk about it, but I get to help guys progress and that means a lot to me.”
Atlanta will play games at Georgia State Stadium starting next February. The franchise hopes to gain athletes from NFL free agents and former college standouts. Childress believes he can have a big hand in the developmental process. He got involved after speaking with AAF investor and former NFL great Jared Allen on vacation.
“When I found out they were doing it at the highest level and not leaving many stones unturned, it really intrigued me,” Childress said. “I started with another city, but I knew I wanted to be in Atlanta with the glut of football players here. To be able to bring a guy like Mike (Vick) was divine providence to work with him in a coaching role.”
Childress said that the team name will be chosen with input from the Atlanta community. He expects the league will take off among the cities football fans. Ebersol agreed and said the league will feature similarities of the standard NFL, but will also offer new enhancements.
For example, Ebersol pointed out that a team would have a chance to have the ball at 4th and 10 in lieu of the onside kicks. The goal of the changes is to help make the game safer overall and keep the action fast paced.
“The big changes are going to make the game faster,” Ebersol said. “We are going to a 30 second play clock so we can deliver a game under 2 ½ hours long. We are going to eliminate the kickoff and the onside kicks.”
Still, the AAF plans to cater to the fans. The idea is to bring unity between the fans, league and players. According to Allen, there are proposed initiatives to broadcast games on CBS and the official league app. Other plans include introducing fantasy gaming, live player stats and highlights.
“We want the cities to have fans that are very supportive and our players to be supportive of the city as well,” Allen said. “Without the fans, there is no league or sport in general. It is the core principles of our league.”
The AAF will unveil more teams in the upcoming weeks.
They plan to have eight teams split into the Eastern and Western Conferences. The games will be played during a 10-week regular season starting February 9, 2019. There will be two playoff rounds with the championship game in the last week of April next year. Fans have an opportunity to purchase season tickets for $50 beginning on Wednesday.
“The Alliance was founded on a commitment to players, fans and the game,” Ebersol said. “We believe in having head coaches with proven track records on the sidelines and former players at every level.”