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XFL 2023: Breaking Down The League’s Eight Head Coaches

The XFL unveiled its eight head coaches for their 2023 season, which will begin six days after Super Bowl LVI on Saturday, February 18th.

On Tuesday morning, XFL Co-Owners, Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson appeared on ESPN’s Get Up show to make the official announcement. The longtime partners, Garcia and Johnson, also appeared on SportsCenter throughout the day to talk about the league’s coaching group and the XFL’s mantra heading towards kickoff in 2023.

As it pertains to the eight coaches, the XFL announced, when asked about what could be shared about selecting the league’s eight names. Dany Garcia credited the expertise of the league’s football ops team of Russ Brandon, Doug Whaley, and Ross in the recruiting process. Garcia also told ESPN that she and Dwayne had been dying to share the list for months.

Over the course of the last few weeks, coaching names have been slowly coming to the surface. Firstly, with multiple reports about Reggie Barlow leaving his post at Virginia State to join the league. Then most recently, word leaked out, thanks in part to a social media tweet of a contract signing by Terrell Buckley, that the former FSU legend had also accepted a head coaching position with the XFL.

A week ago, sources close to the league revealed the names of a returning Bob Stoops, Wade Phillips, Rod Woodson, Hines Ward, and Anthony Becht as possible head coaches in the XFL. Other names mentioned as potential candidates were Jon Kitna, Marc Trestman, and Jim Haslett.

Eight of those names have put pen to paper and have agreed to lead teams in the XFL. But it begs the question, what cities will the league announce, and where will the league’s great eight head coaches take up shop as they head towards the 2023 season.

Several rumors and dots are being connected to where coaches like Bob Stoops, Wade Phillips, and others could land. But a source close to the league told me today that the team designations for each coach have not been finalized yet. Here’s what sources have been indicating, but the situation is fluid.

Until the league makes it official, several key questions remain unanswered about the XFL in 2023.

Like, where will the eight 2023 XFL coaches coach? What new cities have joined the league? And as a result, what 2020 teams will they replace? And then, ultimately, where will the league set up shop as they head towards February?

There have been indications that RedBird Capital Partners has been exploring the potential of setting up a Hub site or central headquarters for the XFL in Texas.

Multiple sources have hinted at the possibility of a hub or a centralized location for the league in Arlington. In recent days, Those plans seem to be leaning more towards the latter option.

The XFL’s leadership group has reached out to officials from Choctaw Stadium in Dallas and the Houston Sports Authority, and TDECU Stadium about potentially using those venues again. The league has had logistics meetings with Rev Entertainment regularly.

As expected with any upstart league, there are difficulties securing beneficial venue deals. Often, and I’ve been informed that this is the case here, venues will demand guarantees from new leagues to safeguard themselves in this particular situation.

Upstart football leagues are at the mercy of top venues and city commissions because they can make demands and ask for larger percentages and fees. And because of the recent history of leagues like the AAF and XFL 2.0, venues are very hesitant to make deals with the next league that arrives on the scene because they have already burned before.

Perhaps, Wednesday’s news was a sign that the XFL might be reconsidering a full eight-team Hub for the 2023 season. And pushing towards getting back to individual markets instead.

The Rock posted a message on his Instagram page indicating that cities and teams would be revealed soon. Perhaps that could come before any news of venues.

The XFL on Wednesday, in their press release, released this statement citing the league’s moves thus far and their potential next steps. The release states that the league’s announcements of cities, teams, and venues will be unveiled in the coming months rather than weeks.

The XFL will kickoff in February 2023. Over the past few months, the XFL’s football operations department, led by Marc Ross and Doug Whaley, has made several key hires, including Dean Blandino as Vice President of Officiating and Playing Rules Innovation. Since January, the team has been attending college pro days, NFL Combine and actively recruiting players for the 2023 season. Earlier this week, the XFL announced an exclusive partnership with the NFL Alumni Academy to identify the next best players in football and offer more opportunities to play professional football. Additional details about teams, cities and venues to be announced in the coming months.

For now, a big piece of the puzzle has been revealed for the newly rebranded XFL. Let’s break down the coaches leading their eight franchises from now until 2023.

XFL 2023 Head Coaches

Bob Stoops

‘Big Game’ Bob Stoops is back in the XFL. And it took a hefty price tag to get him back. Sources indicate that Stoops will once again be the highest-paid coach in the league. And maybe that’s because the former National Champion coach had another suitor in the spring pro football world, the USFL, that reached out to him, but Stoops turned them down to return to the XFL.

Working college football broadcasts for FOX Sports didn’t lead to Stoops working for the network’s new pro football league.

The XFL bringing back the College Hall Of Fame coach is a big coup for the league. Despite the way things turned out with the XFL in 2020 ending prematurely, Bob Stoops thoroughly enjoyed his experience with Dallas two Springs ago.

It’s not challenging to connect the dots and see the possibility of Stoops riding with the Renegades again in Dallas. It makes a lot of sense. Some would argue that in a perfect world, Stoops would be back in Oklahoma. But the XFL and Bob Stoops experience in Dallas was a favorable one two years ago.

The XFL planned to think outside the box with some coaching hires. So to offset that, it was important to have an experienced head coach like Bob Stoops back. And because he is already accustomed to spring football. It makes this a perfect remarriage for both sides.

Wade Phillips

Like Bob Stoops, the ‘Son of Bum’ Wade Phillips brings many of the same qualities that Bob Stoops does. And also, similar to Stoops, the other spring league, the USFL had interest early on in hiring him. But the two parties went separate ways.

Wade Phillips is as respected in football circles as any coach in his field. Coaching pro football is in Phillips’ DNA. And his resume speaks for itself. You could argue that of all eight head coaches in the XFL. Wade Phillips is the most accomplished of the bunch. And as a result, he could very easily be leading the charge for the best team in 2023.

It remains to be seen if Wade Phillips will head up Houston or another team in Texas. Houston is a logical choice because of Phillips’s ties and history to the city, and his father, ‘Bum Phillips, is a legend in those parts.

XFL fans from 2020 may have a bittersweet feeling with Wade Phillips as the Sherrif in Houston. Simply because the team’s prior head coach June Jones did a phenomenal job with the Roughnecks, going undefeated two years ago.

It remains to be seen what Wade does with his staff. But you could do worse than offering June Jones a spot as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. It’s an unlikely pairing. But a fun one, nonetheless to imagine.

No matter how things shake out. The XFL hit a home run by hiring Wade Phillips. He gives the league tremendous credibility moving forward.

Jim Haslett

Jim Haslett’s hiring announcement by the XFL at the eleventh hour was a pleasant surprise. Other names reportedly in consideration for the league were Jon Kitna and Marc Trestman.

Jim Haslett has plenty of coaching and head coaching experience, and he was most recently a defensive assistant with the #1 AFC seed Tennessee Titans in 2021.

Jim Haslett is also no stranger to alternate pro football leagues.

Once upon a time, Haslett coached in the World League of American Football for the Sacramento Surge for two seasons in the early 90s. Haslet was also head coach of the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League, where he led that team to a 6-0 record and a championship game.

Like Bob Stoops and Wade Phillips. Haslett has head coaching experience as a former NFL head coach of the year with the New Orleans Saints and the St. Louis Rams. But another similarity is that Haslett is also a long-time defensive coach. It will be intriguing to see who these defensive-minded coaches hire to run their offense.

It isn’t easy to pinpoint which XFL team Jim Haslett will be coaching simply because he has had many stops coaching in different cities. Once upon a time, Jim Haslett was rumored as a potential candidate for the St. Louis job in 2020. Perhaps, that’s where he could end up when the smoke clears. But no matter what ship he sails on, the league did well bringing him on board.

Rod Woodson

Here’s where things get very interesting regarding the XFL’s head coaching choices.

Months ago, on this website, I wrote about the XFL’s intention to look outside the box and hire former players turned recent coaches to head up their franchises. A hire like this in the NFL would raise serious eyebrows. But the XFL, as an upstart league, can afford and should look to do things differently than taking the expected traditional route.

And the success of Deion Sanders at Jackson State has opened the door for entities like the XFL to hire similar candidates to be de facto CEOs of a football franchise.

Unless you were a fan of one of the rival teams, Rod Woodson victimized over the years with countless interceptions and pass breakups. It’s difficult not to respect the person and player; Woodson was in the National Football League.

The XFL mistakenly has Rod Woodson as a three-time Super Bowl Champion in their press clippings. But it’s an honest mistake because as great as Woodson was, it surely feels like he won multiple championships as a player.

Rod Woodson is a beloved person in the football world, and he has always shown strong leadership traits on and off the field. On the gridiron, the 6-time All-Pro, Woodson was known for taking calculated risks that paid off, to the tune of 71 career interceptions and a staggering 17 touchdowns.

The XFL’s hire of Rod Woodson may look like a risk to the traditional crowd, but this type of hire is an innovative step forward. And Woodson isn’t the only hire that fits what could be seen as a radical direction or choice.

Hines Ward

From one former great NFL player and Pittsburgh Steeler to another. Hines Ward has many of the same endearing qualities that Rod Woodson possesses. Except he played on the other side of the ball. But anyone who watched Hines Ward play always saw the star wide receiver play with a defensive mentality.

Hines Ward is the first coach on this list with an offensive background. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that his team in the XFL will lean towards offense. Ward, as a player, was as tough as they come but has always been very likable, maybe not so much to opposing defensive backs introduced to his notorious crack-back blocks during his playing career.

Although, Ward does have some coaching experience as an assistant in the college and NFL ranks. It remains to be seen how he handles running an entire football team.

There’s no questioning Hines Ward’s leadership skills. However, running an entire football franchise is another story. And it will be fascinating to watch how neophyte head coaches like Ward lead in the XFL. If his team resembles his style of play, they should be fun to watch.

Reggie Barlow

Another former NFL player on this list. But Reggie Barlow does have head coaching experience. And he’s had success as a CIAA Coach of the Year with Virginia State University.

Some people might scoff at Reggie Barlow’s resume because he didn’t coach at a Power Five school. But that mindset is part of the problem in the football world that hopefully will change moving forward. Thanks to the work that coaches such as Barlow has done. And Deion Sanders at Jackson State. A new pathway has opened up for coaches and universities that have been overlooked for decades.

Barlow’s ascent into a pro football head coaching job could open the door for others at HBCU schools to follow. Provided that he has success in the XFL.

Like Hines Ward, Reggie Barlow is another former NFL wide receiver heading up an XFL team. As will be the case with all these franchises, who you surround yourself with on your coaching staff and in the front office will be essential to your success.

Having a background like Reggie Barlow can play in his favor. Barlow has great knowledge and an eye for talent, especially when identifying diamonds in the rough who are often overlooked because they play in lesser publicized conferences. He could put that intel and experience into great use, compiling his XFL roster.

In today’s day and age, the ability to communicate with the modern athlete, and to favorably connect with a community are vital aspects for head coaches. Reggie Barlow has had success in both areas.

The early reports have Reggie Barlow as the XFL’s San Antonio coach. If he is in Texas, he could be competing against two wily veterans in Bob Stoops and Wade Phillips. It makes for a fun contrast in coaching matchups with the old guard taking on a new one.

Terrell Buckley

XFL fans in 2020 are going to miss Winston Moss because of his great energy and personality. But Terrell Buckley could resemble Coach Moss in that regard.

Another Florida-based former player, except T-Buck, played at FSU rather than the Rock’s alma mater the U as Winston Moss did.

Terrell Buckley has always had swagger for days as a player and coach.

As a recent example of his unique personality and style. Leading into the XFL’s new logo reveal. Buckley turned his profile all black on his social media feed, simultaneously with the XFL going dark before their rebrand. And then, Buckley posted a video with hip hop music blaring in the background, where he signed his XFL contract and emphatically clapped his hands together and said, “Big Things Coming Soon.”

The XFL’s new leadership group obviously fell in love with Buckley’s personality in the hiring process. The league is banking on his positive traits showing up in the XFL.

Terrell Buckley was one of the better defensive backs in college and the NFL back in his playing days. He’s coached in the college ranks as an assistant, but this is a big leap for him back into the pro game, but this time on the coaching side.

The early word is that Terrell Buckley, an FSU legend, will be heading up an XFL team in Orlando. It’s a good fit, provided XFL 3.0 is in individual markets.

Anthony Becht

There’s another running theme with many of the XFL coaching hires. Not only is the league embracing former players turned recent coaches. But the XFL’s football brain trust is banking on character and leadership to lead the day. That’s precisely what anyone close to Anthony Becht will tell you that he brings to the table.

He might not have the prototypical head coaching resume of other candidates. But Anthony Becht is a beloved figure in the football world. Like his lengthy NFL career showed, Becht is tough, smart, and hard-working.

The smile on his press photo distributed by the league is as genuine as it comes. Anthony Becht is genuinely ecstatic about this dream opportunity. And judging by the responses he has received from his former coaches, teammates, colleagues, and the young athletes he has mentored. They are just as happy as Becht is.

The key in the XFL for Anthony Becht, and the other similar hires like him in the league, will be the support staff they are surrounded by in their transition to being head coaches for the first time.

There’s no questioning Anthony Becht’s character or leadership traits. But who he surrounds himself with as coordinators will be vital to his success.

The Deion Sanders model as a football CEO/frontman can work in theory. Still, Sanders’s success in Jackson State can also be attributed to having great longtime NFL assistants like Dennis Thurman on his staff.

Coaches like Anthony Becht in the XFL will need to lean on their history and bring on board veteran coaches who help support him as a first-time pro head coach.

The dichotomy and diversity of the XFL’s coaches can be one of the league’s strongest traits. Having four minority coaches is a tremendous thing for the league, and it sends a great message about the league’s efforts toward inclusion and giving equal opportunities. But the diversity in coaching styles, the old lions versus the young ones, makes for a better overall league.

Assistants on coaching staffs are often overlooked. But who these coaches like Anthony Becht hire to run their special teams, offense and defense could determine how good the quality of XFL play is in 2023.

Each team’s potential GMs are officially in talks with the XFL now. Don’t be surprised if a couple of the league’s top team personnel directors from 2020 return. But like some of the outside-the-box head coaching hires. There will be a few unique names assuming those roles. That role will also be as important as the head coaches, especially when the XFL’s Summer Showcases start in June.

What’s Next For The XFL?

The most significant unknown right now is the XFL’s broadcast arrangement for their games in 2023, and that will be the league’s most important reveal for all intents and purposes in the coming future.

It’s the biggest piece of the puzzle that has yet to be revealed.

For the last two years, there has been speculation that the XFL was looking to work with multiple partners in the broadcast and streaming world. The ability to create revenue streams to ensure the league’s long-term health will be contingent upon its content distribution package.

Having a major broadcast and cable partner is crucial for the XFL’s viability, visibility, and success. But they will also be looking to add one or maybe more streaming components into the mix. It’s still up in the air, who those partners will be. The hope for many is that the league partners with the network that aired their major coaching announcements. ABC/ESPN.

The XFL is planning to do production in-house and has hired longtime and critically acclaimed ESPN producer Jay Rothman to help lead the charge in that department. With Rothman as the XFL’s senior VP of Broadcasting and with the star power of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Industry insiders feel that the XFL could be producing a behind-the-scenes documentary of the league with Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia featured heavily as the XFL ramps up towards 2023.

The XFL’s broadcasting deal could be the ultimate X- factor and game-changer for the XFL in 2023.

I am a credentialed reporter and writer. Over time, I have covered and followed the NFL, NCAA, and multiple football leagues intensely. Like the USFL, CFL, WLAF, NFL Europe, AAF, UFL, and of course, the XFL. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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