Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘XFL’ Category

2001 New York/New Jersey Hitmen

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Keith Elias New York-New Jersey HitmenXFL (2001)

Born: 2000 – XFL founding franchise.
Folded: May 10, 2001

StadiumGiants Stadium

Team Colors:

Owner: XFL

XFL Champions: 2001

 

The New York/New Jersey Hitmen were one of eight franchises in the XFL, a short-lived spring football promotion backed by the World Wrestling Federation and NBC. The team played just ten games in its existence, finishing the 2001 season at 4-6 and outside the playoffs.

The Hitmen roster consisted of a journeymen players from the fringes of the late 1990’s NFL and NFL Europe. Some other XFL franchises featured high profile NFL 1st round draft busts such as Jim Druckenmiller, Tommy Maddox and former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam. The Hitmen featured no such name-brand players.

Under head coach Rusty Tillman and offensive coordinator Greg Briner, the Hitmen suffered from an anemic offense. The Hitmen played in the league’s debut game on February 3, 2001 against the Las Vegas Outlaws in Nevada. Months of hype and WWF brand loyalty led to blockbuster Neilsen ratings with over 15 million homes tuned in. The Hitmen gave the new league a black eye with a flaccid offensive effort in a 19-0 loss. XFL viewership on NBC plunged more than 50% the following week and never recovered.

The Hitmen failed to score more than 20 points in each of their first nine games. They post a season-high 22 points in their regular season finale against the Birmingham Thunderbolts on April 8, 2001. This also proved to be the last Hitmen appearance ever, as the team failed to make the playoffs and the XFL went out of business one month later.

 

New York/New Jersey Hitmen Shop

ESPN Films 30 For 30: This Is The XFL

 

New York/New Jersey Hitmen Memorabilia

 

Hitmen Video

The Hitmen host the Orlando Rage at Giants Stadium on February 18, 2001.

 

In Memoriam

Offensive guard Troy Stark suffered a knee injury during the first month of the 2001 season. The Hitmen placed him on injured reserve and he had knee surgery. Stark had a second surgery in May 2001. The 28-year old was found dead on June 1, 2001. Authorities believe that physical therapy following Stark’s second surgery may have loosened a blood clot that made its way to his lungs.

 

Links

XFL Media Guides

XFL Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 6th, 2018 at 7:06 pm

2001 San Francisco Demons

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San Francisco DemonsXFL (2001)

Born: 2000 – XFL founding franchise.
Folded: May 10, 2001

Stadium: Pacific Bell Park

Team Colors:

Owner: XFL

XFL Championships: None

 

The San Francisco Demons were a popular but fleeting pro football entry that played at Pac Bell Park in the winter and spring of 2001. The Demons were one of eight franchises in the XFL, a $100 million joint venture between NBC and World Wrestling Entertainment.

The Demons posted a 5-5 record, good for 2nd place in the league. Former Cal quarterback Mike Pawlawski handled the signal calling and finished second in the XFL in passing yards and first in completion percentage. After dispatching the Orlando Rage in the playoff-semi-finals, the Demons advanced to the XFL’s “Million Dollar Game” championship game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. They were blown out 38-6 by the Los Angeles Xtreme.

The XFL folded three weeks later.  Although the league is largely a punch line today, the Demons attracted a decent following at Pac Bell Park in 2001. The franchise led the XFL in attendance with an announced average of 35,005 for five home dates.

 

 

San Francisco Demons Shop

ESPN Films 30 For 30: This Is The XFL

 

Demons Video

The Demons take on the Los Angeles Xtreme in the XFL’s “Million Dollar Game”, which was both the league’s only title game and the last game of its brief history.

Links

XFL Media Guides

XFL Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 8th, 2017 at 4:20 am

2001 Birmingham Thunderbolts

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XFL (2001)

Born: August 1, 2000 – XFL founding franchise.
Folded: May 10, 2001

Stadium: Legion Field

Team Colors:

Owner: XFL

XFL Championships: None

 

During the summer of 2000, executives from World Wrestling Entertainment and NBC Sports huddled to select eight cities in which to place the league-owned franchises of their new $100 million joint venture, the XFL.  When they got to Birmingham, Alabama, someone ought to have spoken up and said “Haven’t these people suffered enough?”  But, alas, no one did.

At the time, Birmingham was the only city in the United States to host a franchise in every major alternative football league launched since the AFL-NFL merger.  The pro football graveyard at Birmingham’s Legion Field includes:

Years Team Shining Moment Reality Check
1974 Birmingham Americans Won first & only World Bowl Had uniforms seized by bill collectors during first & only World Bowl locker room celebration
1975 Birmingham Vulcans First black pro quarterback to start in the Deep South (Matthew Reed) League folded in mid-season
1983-1985 Birmingham Stallions Stole former Auburn star Joe Cribbs from the NFL Owner Marvin Warner sent to federal prison in Reagan-era Savings & Loan scandals
1991-1992 Birmingham Fire Made the playoffs both years 12,142 avg. attendance in 1992
1995 Birmingham Barracudas None Lost $10 million in one year

 

Throw in the two forgotten, low budget minor league teams that spent a single season each at Legion Field (Alabama Vulcans and Alabama Magic), the Birmingham Steeldogs of Arena Football 2, and now the XFL’s Birmingham Thunderbolts and you’ve got nine teams in twenty-seven years trying to sell second-rate football in a town that wants nothing more than to yell “Roll Tide!” for a half dozen Saturdays every autumn.

The Thunderbolts and the XFL didn’t offer much to overcome Birminghamians deeply ingrained resistance to junk football.  One of the damning contradictions of the XFL was that it was both designed for broadcast television and committed to 2nd tier status at the same time. At least with Birmingham’s past experiences with the World Football League and United States Football League, there was a sense that these leagues were challenging the NFL, like the AFL had before them.  They were competing to sign the best collegiate and pro football talent available.  The XFL was not.  Their talent pool was limited to NFL training camp casualties, Canadian Football League refugees and overlooked collegians.  As for why such a drab product belonged on prime time national television, Vince McMahon seemed to perceive a marketplace clamor for marginally sluttier cheerleaders and relentless innovation of kickoff and punt return rules.

The main attraction for local fans was the presence of former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker on the ‘Bolts roster.  But Barker, who led the Tide to the 1992 national championship as a sophomore, was stuck on the bench behind former Florida State All-American Casey Weldon.  Barker eventually got his shot after Weldon suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6, but he too was soon packed off to the infirmary.  After a 2-1 start, Birmingham dropped its final seven games to finish in last place at 2-8.  The ‘Bolts were shut out in two of their final three games, starting third stringer Graham Leigh under center.

The ‘Bolts finished 7th among the eight XFL franchises in attendance with 17,002 fans per game (announced).

After NBC bailed out on a second season, Vince McMahon announced the closure of the XFL on May 10, 2001.

 

Birmingham Thunderbolts Shop

ESPN Films 30 For 30: This Is The XFL

 

Thunderbolts Video

The Thunderbolts host eventual the XFL champion Los Angeles Xtreme on March 11, 2001.  Highlights from the UPN broadcast.

 

Links

XFL Media Guides

XFL Programs

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Written by AC

February 18th, 2013 at 3:41 am

2001 Chicago Enforcers

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Chicago EnforcersXFL (2001)

Born: June 13, 2000 – XFL founding franchise.
Folded: May 10, 2001

Stadium: Soldier Field

Team Colors:

Owner: XFL

XFL Championships: None

 

The Chicago Enforcers were one of eight franchises in the failed XFL, a joint venture between World Wrestling Entertainment and NBC Sports.  Despite a national broadcast television contract, this spring football experiment lasted just a single season, folding shortly after its first and only championship game due to lousy ratings, big financial losses and the general scorn and ridicule of the American public and sporting press.

Chicago was the first XFL city announced in June of 2000.  The Enforcers named Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus as the team’s Head Coach a month later, although he later pulled out and took an XFL league office job instead.  Chicago replaced Butkus with the rather less exciting appointment of former Patriots and Colts head man Ron Meyer.

The Enforcers started weakly at 0-4, before winning five of their final six games to make the XFL playoffs at 5-5.  Chicago’s strength was its league-leading rushing attack, led by NFL veterans John Avery and LeShon Johnson.  Avery was an NFL 1st round draft bust (Miami 1998), but revived his career somewhat in the XFL, leading the league in rushing by a large margin with 800 yards.  Avery never returned to the NFL, but was able to springboard from the XFL to a 6-year extension of his football life in the Canadian Football League.  Johnson was a lymphoma survivor and, like Avery, he acquitted himself well in the XFL.  Unlike Avery, the XFL was the end of the road for Johnson.

In the playoffs, the Enforcers lost to the eventual champion Los Angeles Xtreme 33-16 in the semi-final on April 15, 2001.  This was the last game the team ever played. The XFL shut down less than a month later.

Despite being the first city to market, Chicago was the worst box office draw in the XFL.  The Enforcers drew 78,549 for five home dates at Soldier Field, for an average of 15,710.  By comparison, the league leading San Francisco Demons claimed an average gate of 35,005.

 

Chicago Enforcers Shop

ESPN Films 30 For 30: This Is The XFL

 

Enforcers Video

The Enforcers host the San Francisco Demons on March 18, 2001.  Highlights from the UPN broadcast.

Links

XFL Media Guides

XFL Programs

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Written by AC

February 17th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

2001 Orlando Rage

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XFL (2001)

Born: 2000 – XFL founding franchise
Folded May 10, 2001

Stadium: The Florida Citrus Bowl

Team Colors:

Owner: XFL

XFL Championships: None

 

The Orlando Rage were a One-Year Wonder pro football franchise in the NBC/World Wrestling Entertainment-backed XFL during the spring of 2001.   The Rage were the class of the XFL during the regular season posting a league-best record of 8-2 under Head Coach Galen Hall.  Hall was familiar to local fans as the former Head Coach of the Orlando Thunder (1991-1992) of the World League of American Football, a similarly doomed effort at minor league spring football in the Citrus Bowl a decade earlier.

The Rage got out to a 6-0 start with former NFL journeyman quarterback Jeff Brohm under center.  After Brohm’s season was curtailed due to injury, the Rage dropped three of their final five games, including an upset home loss to the San Francisco Demons in the first round of the XFL playoffs in April 2001.

WWE Chairman Vince McMahon folded the XFL on May 10, 2001 after major financial losses and disappointing ratings and response from league TV partners NBC and UPN.

 

Orlando Rage Shop

ESPN Films 30 For 30: This Was The XFL

 

Orlando Rage Memorabilia

 

Rage Video

The Rage host the San Francisco Demons in a semi-final playoff at the Florida Citrus Bowl on April 14, 2001.

 

Links

XFL Media Guides

XFL Programs

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Written by AC

January 26th, 2013 at 3:28 am

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