The Cleveland Browns got D’Ernest Johnson and Michael Dunn from an alternate football league, so perhaps something good could happen if they pay attention to the new USFL.
The Cleveland Browns would do well to pay attention to this new football league, the USFL which kicked off its draft on Tuesday. Make no mistake, this is simply minor league football. But sometimes minor league players make the major leagues in baseball, and there’s really no reason why it should not happen in football.
A season in the Alliance of American Football (AAF) worked out great for D’Ernest Johnson who is still averaging five yards per carry after three seasons with the Browns. Backup offensive lineman Michael Dunn is still on the roster also. Washington has an ex-XFL guy as their quarterback in Taylor Heinecke. There are several players from the alternate leagues who are still on NFL rosters, so let’s not laugh it up prematurely about this latest incarnation.
The fact that they have adopted the USFL name as well as the extinct team names is not as dumb as it seems. They were able to obtain the rights to these names for next to nothing, rather than squandering money needlessly to invent new team names and register the trademarks.
Lawyers are expensive and a hassle that a new league doesn’t really need.
The Alliance of American Football went out of business because they had expenses like the NFL. They had to have 52 player rosters, only one less than the NFL. That is ridiculous for a minor league franchise, frankly. The new USFL is going to have 38 player rosters instead of 52. That’s much more reasonable.
In 1950, when the NFL first allowed free substitutions, the rosters were only 33. Football players can learn to play both sides of the ball, and it won’t hurt them a bit, especially if they are backup players.
The AAF, bless their greedy little hearts, had eight team logos, eight stadium leases, and eight camera crews, coast-to-coast travel for all eight teams, so no wonder they went bankrupt. This new league will play all of its games in two stadiums. They will be in Birmingham the first season, so they have two camera crews instead of eight; They have no plane flights and no hotel expenses.
They just play football in front of TV cameras in a small stadium.
This is exactly what a pro league needs to do in order to survive. The AAF was mindlessly spending at least 10 times as much money on stadium leases in major cities, twice as much money on player salaries, four times as much money on camera crews, who-knows-how-much on big league travel budgets, so no wonder they went bankrupt.
The original USFL in the 1980s went bankrupt on a larger scale by trying to spend money on the same scale as the NFL to compete for the same players. Why they thought it was a good idea, no one will ever know.
This fan watches semi pro football in Xenia, Ohio every year for five bucks per game, and they play really high quality football. They are not going anywhere, either. They have had football in this community since forever. It will be here next year and the year after that.
Hence, there has to be a way to play football without going bankrupt. If the league has a TV contract, that should not be a license to commit financial suicide. However, if you put NFL general managers in charge of it, they can spend unlimited amounts of money no matter what you give them. That doesn’t prove it is impossible to make money in minor league football.
The total expense of putting on a new USFL football game is going to be about one tenth the cost of the AAF by this fan’s reckoning. This is probably going to work. The new league will probably produce several players who will wear NFL uniforms in 2022.
Why the Cleveland Browns should care about the USFL
Dawg Pound, do you remember Kyle Lauletta? He looked good at times last summer in the exhibition games and was on the active roster for a few games due to the Covid situation. He made some friends in the Dawg Pound and impressed a few people, but not enough to earn a roster spot.
He was drafted on Tuesday by the Pittsburgh Maulers. The USFL draft is a modified snake draft in which they go position by position, drafting quarterbacks first, so that each team gets its top choice at three positions. They will complete the draft on Wednesday February 23.
It would be tough to root for any sports team from Pittsburgh, but maybe if Lauletta plays well in the new league, he might get his career back on track and catch on with an NFL team at some point, like Garrett Gilbert did. There’s no doubt that Lauletta needs playing time.
There’s no reason why the minor leagues should not work for the NFL. They had some player success with NFL Europe for a while, but as usual, spent too much money on it. But from the player standpoint, most male athletes are not fully mature physically, mentally or emotionally when they leave college at age 21 or 22.
A few more years of hard knocks is just what many of these athletes need to sharpen their games to compete in the toughest league on earth. If they weren’t at their peak at age 21, they might be better at age 24 or 25. Minor league football could really help the careers of some of these players.
MLB may be on strike for a while. If they are, God bless them. Why don’t we scout some for the Browns? Kickoff is on April 16 on Fox.