Heads or tails? That’s so NFL-ish.
In the Fan Controlled Football league, there’s no need for the ref to bring some spare change onto the field, because the game’s first possession isn’t determined by the luck of a coin toss.
Instead, it’s decided by skill, strategy and the ability to read an opponent…
Rock, Paper, Scissors…Shoot!
Yes, a captain from each team meets at midfield for a round of the classic, dispute-settling game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who receives the ball first.
“It's more like a feel thing,” said Austin Ekeler, co-owner of the Shoulda Been Stars and running back for the Los Angeles Chargers, of his Rock, Paper, Scissors strategy on “The People’s Pregame” podcast. “I don't necessarily think I have a designated, ‘I'm always going this….’ Which, I mean, that'd be a bad strategy if you did.”
So, one of the many creative elements within Fan Controlled Football, a professional football league featuring former NFL players like Johnny Manziel and Terrell Owens that allows fans to call the plays and make the rules, takes place before the game even begins. The league’s second season begins April 16, with all games broadcasted on NBCLX.
Here are 10 of the league’s most unique aspects that take place after rock beats scissors, or scissors defeats paper, or paper tops rock….
Fans Call the Plays
The days of blaming a head coach or offensive coordinator for a poor play call are over. That responsibility is on the fans in FCF. Prior to each play, fans of the offensive team vote between eight specific plays that have been previously inputted by the coaching staff for various scenarios based on down, distance and field position. Fans have roughly 12 to 20 seconds to vote via the FCF app or Twitch. The play that receives the highest weighted vote is relayed to the head coach and quarterback via headset.
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Fans also draft their team’s players… and not just once. Prior to the season, each team gets to designate a franchise tag for a player that will remain with the team all season. The Wednesday before the season, a draft will be held for all remaining players, who will be selected based on fan voting. A second draft will be held following Week 1 and a third and final draft after Week 2, as FCF combines reality and fantasy football.
“We know [the players] because we evaluated and scouted them, but we want you guys to know them,” FCF commissioner Ray Austin told “The People’s Pregame” podcast. “So, as you see these players play those first couple of games, you can start drafting guys and building that team up for the end of the season.”
Compared to the NFL, the field itself is half the distance to the goal. The field in Fan Controlled Football is 50-yards long and 35-yards wide, with actual sidelines, unlike other indoor leagues that have walls. It’s a shorter field, with fewer players. FCF is 7-on-7, with a standard offensive formation of a quarterback, running back, two wide receivers and three linemen.
No Kicking Allowed
There are no extra points, no field goals, no punts, no kickers, no special teams. All drives start on the 10-yard line. What happens after touchdowns, you ask?
Ever wanted to see a team’s top wideout go one-on-one against the opposing team’s top corner? That’s how “extra points” work in Fan Controlled Football. Fans vote whether their team will go for a one-point conversion from the 10-yard line or two-point conversion from the five-yard line. The only players on the field are the wide receiver, defensive back and quarterback, who has three seconds to throw the ball. Overtime is also a 1-v-1 situation, with each team getting four downs from their opponent’s 10-yard line to score.
No kicking means no onside kicks. Instead, retaining possession comes down to skill instead of a lucky bounce. A trailing team can try to keep possession by attempting a fourth-down play from their own 10-yard line. If they reach their own 20, they keep the ball and the drive continues. If they fail to convert, it is a turnover on downs, with the opponent taking possession at the spot. Known as the “Comeback Rule,” it can be used by the trailing team only after a touchdown or PAT only in the final five minutes of the game.
Pace of Play
Games consist of two 20-minutes halves, a six-minute halftime and a running clock that doesn’t stop for much more than touchdowns. Other stoppages include safeties, timeouts, penalties or injuries. Unless inside the final minute of each half, the clock doesn’t stop on incomplete passes or when a runner goes out of bounds. The play clock is only 10 seconds after fans have selected the play. Teams only have one timeout per half. Add it all up and it makes for a fast-pace game.
Forget the gray area of requiring inconclusive evidence to overturn a call. It’s not up to the refs in FCF. Challenges and reviewable plays are voted on and determined by the fans.
Fans have the power to give their team advantages through “Power Ups” that can each be used once per game. Coaches get to utilize unique benefits on the field that have been earned by their fan base in the week leading up to each game during fan engagement contests on the FCF app and website. That includes the “Power Play,” which forces the opposing defense to remove a player from the field for a series to create a 7-on-6 advantage. If a team possesses a “Flip the Field” earned by fans, after failing to convert on fourth down, the coach can use it to give an opponent possession at their own 10-yard line. Fans can also earn a “5th Down” to be used by their team’s offense after being stopped short on fourth down. Players from each team can also gain PAT benefits during the weekly “Man Up” show that gives quarterbacks, wideouts and defensive backs who win the Man-Up challenge the option to retry a PAT on game day.
Changing the Rules
Fans make the rules, fans can change the rules. Prior to the season, FCF allows fans to vote on league rules, including everything from what constitutes a catch to overtime format. Potential rule changes can also be put to a vote and implemented at any time.
So, some of the rules listed above could be subject to change in the middle of the season… or the middle of a game.