The 2018 NFL season is over. The 4-12 San Francisco 49ers watched the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams fall to the New England Patriots 13-3 in Super Bowl 53. The victory gave New England their sixth Super Bowl ring, surpassing the 49ers’ five and joining the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only two franchises with six Lombardi Trophies.
49ers general manager John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, in Year 3 of their rebuild, now set their sights on the start of free agency on March 13th, and the NFL Draft, beginning April 25th. But in 2019, a new offseason dynamic enters the fray — the Alliance of American Football, and there’s a few reasons 49ers fans should tune in.
First, and perhaps most important, football no longer ends in February. The AAF has given those that continue to crave the gridiron two more months of potentially quality football leading right up until the NFL Draft.
The AAF is a brand new, eight-team professional football league with the intent of becoming both a complement and developmental system for the NFL. The inaugural season begins this Saturday, February 9th, at 5 pm PST on CBS. You can view the complete schedule here.
The regular season lasts two months, concluding on Sunday, April, 14th. There are four games every weekend — two on Saturday and two on Sunday (except for one Friday game on April 12). The AAF will feature a four-team playoff similar to college football, concluding with the championship on Saturday, April 27th in Las Vegas.
The NFL and NFL Network have already committed to broadcasting 19 AAF games in 2019, airing two games per week on Saturday and Sunday night. The first game of the season will air on CBS, CBS Sports Network will air one game per week, TNT will air one regular season game and one playoff game, and Bleacher Report Live will stream a game each week.
A shorter play clock, the absence of TV timeouts, required two-point conversions, no kickoffs, and a college-type overtime are just some of the reasons the AAF should give fans a new and worthwhile viewing experience. Games are expected to take 150 minutes, rather than 180 in the NFL.
In addition to the on-field adjustments, the AAF is releasing a mobile app this weekend that is expected to bring with it a suite of innovative and intriguing features. Free livestreaming, an animated and interactive recreation of the game in real-time, fantasy football and all-things betting are expected to be integrated into the AAF app over time.
The eight inaugural AAF teams are as follows: Arizona Hotshots, Orlando Apollos, Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, and San Diego Fleet. Roughly 70 percent of the rosters consist of players that have spent time on an NFL team. Among them are dozens of players that, at one point, spent time on the 49ers’ roster, giving fans a chance to check in on some familiar faces.
Receiver Quinton Patton (Iron), quarterback B.J. Daniels (Stallions), cornerback Keith Reaser (Apollos), quarterback Scott Tolzien (Iron), defensive tackle Mike Purcell (Stallions), receiver Dres Anderson (Stallions), safety Chanceller James (Stallions), and guard Andrew Tiller (Apollos) are among the over 20 names of former 49ers that are spread across the AAF. Kirk Larrabee of 247Sports did a fantastic job breaking down the former 49ers on each team’s roster, as well as their time spent in San Francisco.
Former 49ers head coaches Mike Singletary (Express) and Dennis Erickson (Stallions) were also given chances to once again lead a professional football team. Other notable coaches include Mike Martz (Fleet) and Steve Spurrier (Apollos). Rick Neuheisel is coaching the Hotshots, and you might recall he interviewed for the 49ers head coach job in 2003 while lying to his then employer (University of Washington) about it. Fun times!
In addition to former 49ers players and coaches, there’s a good chance you’ll also be watching future NFL players in the AAF. Quality players that slip through the cracks of NFL roster cuts will be given another chance to display their talent in the hopes of another shot in the league.
The 49ers’ front office over the past two years has shown an ability to identify players that may have been overlooked through the draft process. Running back Matt Breida and receiver Kendrick Bourne both went undrafted and have now developed into starters on the 49ers’ offense. It won’t take long before AAF players are given tryouts to join an NFL roster. Every player in the AAF is given an out in their contract in case of promotion.
The AAF begins its inaugural season on Saturday with the Fleet facing off against the Stallions in San Antonio, and the Legends versus the Apollos in Orlando. On Sunday, the Express face the Iron in Birmingham, and the Hotshots host the Stallions in Phoenix. Will you be watching?