Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: There aren’t enough good quarterbacks for the XFL

I get it, Vince McMahon.

You miss football once the season ends. The post-Super Bowl withdrawals are hard to take.

But McMahon has made so much money in wrestling that he just starts another football league when he gets the urge. Thus we have the second incarnation of the XFL, which showed up on my television last weekend, six days after Super Bowl LIV.

Unfortunately, minor league football is minor league football. It isn’t as good as the National Football League. It isn’t as good as major college football, either.

After watching a couple of games last weekend, I’m not so sure it is better than St. John Bosco against Mater Dei, the two top high school football teams in Southern California.

Some of the rule tweaks are nice. There are no kicked points after touchdowns. After a touchdown, the scoring team has the choice to go for a one-point conversion (from the 2-yard line) a two-point conversion (from the 5-yard line) or a 3-point conversion (from the 10-yard line).

That means that a team trailing by 18 points in the fourth quarter is only two touchdowns behind. It makes for closer finishes.

I also like the kickoff rule. The kicker stands alone at the 30-yard line. His teammates are 35 yards ahead of him at the 35-yard line. The receiving team lines up at the 30-yard line. Neither side can move until the return man catches the ball.

It eliminates the full-speed collisions on kick returns while giving the return back more room to operate.

There is one problem the XFL can’t solve with rule tweaks, though. There aren’t enough quality quarterbacks to go around.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. There aren’t 32 great quarterbacks. So with the XFL stuck with the 65th through 90th best quarterbacks in the country, you can see where quality at the position might be a problem.

And don’t expect Colin Kaepernick to start his comeback in the new league. He told McMahon he wanted $20 million a year to play. Since McMahon doesn’t plan on paying anyone more than $500,000 a year, Kaepernick will have to find some place else to kneel.

Los Angeles has its own team in the XFL. The Wildcats play their home opener at noon Feb. 16 against the Dallas Renegades at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. ABC will show the game live.

The Wildcats got off to a great start in the season opener at Houston last week, leading 17-12 midway through the second quarter. The Wildcats then surrendered the next 25 points and lost 37-17.

Head coach Winston Moss, a former linebacker for the Raiders, responded by firing his defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson the next day.

At least someone is taking the game seriously.

The Wildcats were quarterbacked by Chad Kanoff, who played his college ball at Princeton. Josh Johnson, who played 33 games over seven seasons (mostly with Tampa Bay) in the NFL, was sidelined with an injury.

Johnson has the most NFL experience of any XFL quarterback. He was 2-14 in 16 NFL starts. Again, it’s all about the quarterback.

The caliber of coaching in the league is better than the caliber of quarterbacking.

Former University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is the Dallas Renegades coach. Former Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn is coaching the Seattle team. June Jones, Kevin Gilbride and Marc Trestman also have run franchises in the NFL.

The teams play a 10-week schedule that ends in April.

The playoffs will be held April 18 and 19 with the top two teams in each conference facing each other for the right to play in the championship game April 26.

By that time, baseball will have started, the NBA and NHL playoffs will be getting under way and the NFL will conduct its draft.

I’m not sure how interested we will be in McMahon’s product by then. It depends how well the quarterbacks play.

BAD BOSTON: The Boston Red Sox front office should be fined by Major League Baseball for what it pulled after the Mookie Betts trade was announced last week and everyone from fans to sportswriters to radio talk show hosts blasted the team’s decision to trade the second best player in baseball.

The Red Sox responded by holding up the trade for four days because of a questionable medical report about a throw-in in the deal, relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol.

Graterol was sent to the Red Sox by the Minnesota Twins who got Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers as part of the trade.

The Red Sox didn’t like the heat they were receiving at home so they held up the trade, demanding additional compensation from either the Twins or Dodgers because they had envisioned Graterol as a starter, not a relief pitcher, but the medical report intimated that Graterol might be better suited to relief work.

The Dodgers got tired of haggling and finally agreed to send infield prospect Jeter Downs and catching prospect Connor Wong to the Red Sox. They then agreed to take Graterol from the Twins along with outfielder Luke Raley for Maeda, minor league catcher Jair Camargo and cash considerations.

By delaying the deal, the Red sox caused the Angeles to drop out of a deal that would have sent outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to Anaheim for second baseman Luis Rengifo.

I’m not sure what the Angels were thinking there. Stripling might be the best pitcher on their staff and Pederson is coming off a season for he hit a career-high 36 home runs.

Anyway, the Dodgers finally got Mookie Betts in time for spring training to open and Dave Roberts must be salivating at the lineups he will be able to send up most days this season. Most experts are already conceding the Dodgers will win the National League pennant again, with one prediction calling for the Dodgers to win more than 100 games and no other team in the league winning more than 90.

That’s a lot to live up to for the Dodgers as spring training approaches.

ALL STAR WEEKEND: It’s All-Star break time for the NBA with first-year Lakers coach Frank Vogel getting to coach LeBron’s team in the All-Star Game Feb. 16 by virtue of the Lakers having the best record in the Western Conference.

The Lakers failed to make a deal to improve themselves at the trade deadline and Darren Collison decided not to end his retirement, meaning the Lakers may already have their post-season roster set.

With 30 games to play, the Lakers are good enough to hold a three-game lead over Denver in the Western Conference with the Clippers another game back.

Only the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks own a better record.

The Clippers improved themselves at the deadline, acquiring forward Marcus Morris from the New Yorks Knicks. Morris makes the Clippers bigger and tougher and might be the difference in a tight battle for the Western Conference championship come June.

TIGER ON TOUR: You can catch Tiger Woods, still the best attraction in golf, through Sunday at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. Woods tees off at 11:41 a.m. Feb. 13 with Justin Thomas and Steven Stricker, which means he will probably tee off at around 7:30 a.m. Feb. 14.

Woods has never won at Riviera and he will have plenty of competition this week. Nine of the top 10 players in the world are here this week and 19 of the top 25.

Woods’ best finish here was in 199 when he tied for second behind Ernie Els. He skipped the tournament, which was originally the Los Angeles Open and is now the Genesis Invitational, from 2007 to 2017.