The XFL has planted the seeds for their 2023 season by announcing the head coaches who will lead their eight teams. One of the biggest questions about the league has been answered. But many questions still remain unanswered.
What’s next for the XFL and its eight teams?
One of the most significant mysteries surrounding the league is, What cities will the XFL’s eight head coaches coach?
Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Seattle, Las Vegas, DC, St. Louis, and Orlando are early reported team cities. But until it is officially finalized and announced publicly. Everything is now up in the air. Those eight cities are still the leaders in the clubhouse. But ultimately, the final choice of locations could all come down to the consummation of venue deals.
A full-season hub in Arlington, Texas, has been in consideration, but the XFL has shifted away from that possibility.
The early plan is for the XFL to fully function and operate in Arlington, Texas. With the location acting as year-round league headquarters and the centralized site for testing, minicamps, training camp, and preseason games.
The initial league setup would be for teams to practice in Arlington and then fly out to their stadiums for their games. Whether or not the XFL’s eight franchises will set up permanent residence in their respective markets for the duration of the entire season remains to be seen.
There are a lot of T’s to cross; I’s to dot, schedules to construct/formalize, and ultimately paychecks to sign in the entire process. However, RedBird Capital Partners has already hit the go button.
Who will join the XFL’s eight head coaches?
One of the other critical questions will be who the league’s coaches surround themselves with on each team staff.
The XFL is expected to announce team coordinators and GMs soon. One could argue that it is a bit unorthodox to make those announcements without disclosing the cities these coaches and team executives will be a part of. But the rebirth and rebranding of XFL 3.0 has seen a lot of unique twists and turns since 2020. See the league’s near marriage with the Canadian Football League.
There’s a lot of heavy lifting between now and the start of the XFL 2023 season, a week after the Super Bowl in February.
The XFL’s football ops department has scouted the entire college football landscape leading into the 2022 NFL Draft. The league has an exclusive partnership with NFL Academy in giving pro-ready trained players at the facility automatic opt-in contracts.
Extensive scouting will continue through player combines and showcases in the next few months. Before XFL, teams ultimately draft players in the fall from a talent pool that will also include current NFL players who don’t make their respective 32 team rosters this coming September.
During the summer, the NFL roster and preseason watch will be a vital part of shaping XFL rosters for the 2023 season.
Coaching Staff And GM Hires
It can’t be understated how important the quality of each coaching and support staff is for any football team. But particularly for a new league like the XFL and some of its neophyte head coaches.
Bob Stoops, Wade Phillips, and Jim Haslett have a heads up on their coaching counterparts in the XFL. All three have a wealth of experience and success as head coaches in the pro and college game.
Because Stoops, Phillips, and Haslett have built-in reputations and proven track records, these veterans will have no trouble attracting quality assistant coaches to join them in the XFL.
As evidenced by this, Longtime head coach June Jones let the cat out of the bag recently, before abruptly reversing course and swiping his social media, that he would be returning to the XFL, this time as offensive coordinator with Jim Haslett in Seattle.
The former Houston Roughnecks coach, June Jones, is as good of a hire as any head coach can make in one of these leagues. Jones has had vast experience and success as a play-caller. And he’s also journeyed into the alternative non-NFL world, coaching in the CFL and XFL. So scouting and developing players who just miss the cut in the NFL is something that Jones has a proven track record of accomplishing.
The Jones hiring opens up the possibility of other former XFL and perhaps AAF head coaches joining the league in its run-up to 2023. We could have unique HC/OC/DC pairings across the newly rebranded XFL.
And for a specific group of XFL 2023 head coaches, who they hire to coordinate their offenses, defenses, and special teams, could ultimately determine how successful they are.
XFL Head Coaching Composition
Of the eight head coaches, the XFL announced officially on ESPN, five of them will be leading a pro football team for the first time. In particular, Anthony Becht, Rod Woodson, Hines Ward, and Terrell Buckley stand out, and because all four have never been head coaches on any level.
Reggie Barlow, a former NFL player himself, is coming off a successful run as head coach at Virginia State University. But this is his first foray into the pro game as a head coach.
As it pertains to hiring an entire staff. These former NFL players could lean into their past working experiences and relationships as they embark upon new chapters in their football careers.
The sooner all eight XFL coaching staff and front offices can be formed, the quicker they can hit the ground running on the football side.
As Anthony Becht recently told WDAE Radio in Tampa, XFL head coaches, like himself, are deep into the process of selecting from an extensive group of candidates for their coaching staff. Since they were officially announced so many coaches and executives have reached out to the XFL’s eight head coaches.
With that in mind, let’s connect some dots and look at some potential names who could join each head coach in the XFL.
Bob Stoops potential XFL Staff
Two years ago, Bob Stoops led the charge in Dallas for the Renegades. And since the XFL is back in Arlington, with the location set up as official league headquarters. Bob Stoops is the current XFL head coach with the most comfort level and experience in this domain.
Could ‘Big Game Bob’ run it back with some of his assistant coaches from two years ago in the XFL?
Some of the coaches who could return to Bob Stoops’s staff in Dallas are defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat and longtime winning Division I-AA head coach Mickey Matthews, who coached the Renegades linebackers.
The one name that people will speculate about is the godfather of the Air Raid offense, Hal Mumme.
Stoops and Mumme teamed up in Dallas two years ago but with mixed results at best. Heading towards Week 6 of the 2020 season, Hal Mumme relinquished his play-calling duties to assume a lesser role with the Renegades. However, Hal Mumme added to his cult status in the XFL when he suffered a broken leg during an in-game collision on the sidelines with RB Cameron Artis-Payne. The Air-Raid architect just kept on coaching.
Hal Mumme is coming off a successful 2021 campaign in The Spring League, winning the league’s championship as head coach of the Linemen. His star pupil, quarterback TSL MVP Ryan Willis landed an NFL contract with the Chicago Bears. It was a surprise to some that despite Mumme’s success in TSL, he wasn’t a part of Brian Woods and FOX’s USFL. Will he return to the XFL and work for Bob Stoops again?
Despite the recent shared history between them in Dallas, it’s possible that Bob Stoops could decide to go in a different direction at OC this time in Dallas; the question is, where?
Many of the assistants under Bob Stoops in Dallas have moved on since 2020, landing positions in the college and pro ranks.
Like current Texas Tech special teams coordinator Kenny Perry, who assumed the same role a year ago with SMU, Renegades DC Chris Woods is now linebackers coach at Temple, and OL coach Jeff Jagodzinski is in the USFL with Philadelphia.
Offensive assistants Bobby Blizzard and Ryan Meyers are on the same staff at Norfolk State. Renegades assistant coach Jarrail Jackson, a former standout player for Stoops at Oklahoma, serves as offensive coordinator at Tyler College.
The youngest son of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and hall of fame football coach Steve Spurrier, Scott Spurrier is now a special teams analyst at Arizona University.
Steve Spurrier With Bob Stoops?
The suggestion of the over-qualified Steve Spurrier as Bob Stoops’s offensive coordinator in the XFL seems far-fetched. After all, Steve Spurrier is arguably one of the greatest head coaches in the history of non-NFL pro leagues. Between his success in the original USFL with the Bandits and in the AAF with the Apollos. Very few have the accomplished resume and history that Spurrier does in this universe.
However, it begs the question. Why would Spurrier entertain accepting a non-head coaching role? When you could legitimately argue that he has a better resume than any head coaches currently heading up spring league teams.
Notwithstanding all of that, some aspects could favor this improbable scenario. After all, Steve Spurrier has a close relationship with Bob Stoops. Spurrier pushed the former Sooners coach, Stoops, towards spring pro football when he pondered the opportunity of coaching in the XFL three years ago.
The two successful college head coaches maintain a strong personal relationship off of the field. Steve’s son, Scott, coached on Bob Stoops’s staff with the Renegades.
Admittedly, it’s a pipedream to suggest that Steve Spurrier will form a dream team with Bob Stoops in Dallas. But it’s fun to think of the possibility. Ultimately, it might not be something the league would want to entertain financially. Paying two coaches on one staff premium salaries.
The odds are that Bob Stoops leans towards his OU and college coaching past when forming his new XFL staff. But what if he brought on board one of his greatest coaching allies. Just some fantasy food for thought. However unrealistic it may be.
Another former Spring Pro League head coach that has a close bond with Bob Stoops is former BattleHawks HC Jonathan Hayes. The two have a strong relationship dating back to their years together at Oklahoma. If a Spurrier team-up doesn’t happen, perhaps a Jon Hayes one will.
Who Bob Stoops pairs up within his front office will also be a crucial element. The former Director of Player Personnel for Dallas last time out was Daryl Moose Johnston, who is currently an executive VP for the USFL. No names have leaked out yet for who could be working in tandem this go-round in the XFL with Stoops.
Wade Phillips potential XFL Staff
There are already rumors that Phillips has someone specific in mind to take on offensive coordinator duties, with him, presumably in Houston. And it’s not the type of veteran coach that many would expect, considering the “Son of Bum’s’ vast coaching background and history.
The one name that has been floated around recently as Wade Phillips’s choice for OC in the XFL is former Houston Roughnecks assistant Austin James Smith.
The 33-year-old former Wide receivers coach in the XFL, A.J. Smith, would undoubtedly appear to be an outside-the-box hire for some. However, Smith has been coaching since the age of 19 and has developed a strong reputation over the years as one of the brightest young innovative minds in all of football.
As the creator and owner of VAR Systems, which has been featured on NFL Network and used throughout college and pro football, Smith became the first coach ever to train quarterbacks through the use of a virtual system. The Louisiana-born native has been at the forefront of utilizing technology and analytics as teaching tools.
Austin James Smith, not only has ties to Wade Phillips. But he is also a disciple of the Air-Raid system, and he’s been a top consultant for Hal Mumme’s Air Raid system and training school.
AJ Smith has worked with quarterbacks such as Gardner Minshew, Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Rosen, and many others throughout his coaching career. Smith also has experience coaching with June Jones, Hal Mumme, Noel Mazzone, and John Jenkins.
Wade Phillips’s hire of Austin James Smith goes against type on the surface. Typically, experienced coaches like Phillips are expected to be rigid, old-fashioned, and stuck in their ways. But the defensive-minded Phillips is going against perception by signaling out AJ Smith as a preferred choice to help lead his offense in the XFL. Sources have indicated that had Wade Phillips accepted a head coaching role in the USFL, Smith would have followed him there.
Wade Phillips Defense
Wade Phillips has long been regarded as one of the most respected defensive minds in pro football for four decades. He’s coached some of the greatest pro players ever. Like Reggie White, Bruce Smith, J.J. Watt, and Aaron Donald, etc.
So it stands to reason that Phillips would have a heavy say in his XFL defense. And it would not surprise anyone if he is calling the defensive plays. But there’s a chance that Wade could lean towards bringing on some of his former defensive players from the past to join his coaching staff.
Former NFL Defensive of the year Bryce Paup has been coaching in the college ranks since 2013. He has been the defensive line coach in his home state at Northern Iowa for several years. Whether or not Bryce Paup would entertain coaching pro football remains to be seen, but a reunion with his former coach Wade Phillips can’t be ruled out.
Some of his other former players who have dabbled in the coaching ranks, like Greg Ellis of the Dallas Cowboys, could potentially be in line for a role on Wade’s staff.
Another name to watch out for is longtime NFL defensive assistant Reggie Herring. The well-respected linebackers coach, Herring, has coached under Wade Phillips with the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, and the Houston Texans. Phillips and Herring won a Superbowl together in Denver.
Herring was most recently the Broncos linebacker coach from 2015-to 2021. Considering his resume, having coached nine different pro bowl players, Herring shouldn’t be out of work for too long. But after all these years of coaching on the highest level, the 62-year-old coach has never had an opportunity to be a defensive coordinator on the pro level. Perhaps, Wade Phillips can make that a reality in the XFL.
On the GM side of things, one of the names that I have heard that is considered a potential GM with Wade Phillips in Houston is Marc Lillibridge. The former player/scout/executive/draft expert does have ties to the St.Louis region as the director of football for Lou Fusz Athletic. The former Iowa State walk-on would be an intriguing addition to any XFL team front office.
Jim Haslett’s potential XFL staff
Barring some unforeseen change, June Jones will be Jim Haslett’s offensive coordinator in the XFL. But it remains to be seen who else could join Haslett’s staff.
The former NFL head coach of the year, Jim Haslett, is well-traveled and has a long history of working with many different players and coaches. Not only in the National Football League. But also in alternative non-NFL leagues such as the United Football League over a decade ago. And the World League of American Football decades ago.
Once upon a time, Jim Haslett hired Jay Gruden and a young Sean McVay as his support staff with the undefeated Florida Tuskers in the United Football League, and both went on to become head coaches.
As a former NFL linebacker, Haslett, a defensive-oriented coach by nature, has worked with many quality offensive coaches over the years.
It will be interesting to see who Haslett pegs for his defensive staff in the XFL. Longtime NFL defensive line coach Jacob Burney worked with Haslett for several years in Washington when Jim was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2010 to 2014, and most recently when they were together in Cincinnati on the Bengals defensive staff.
One of the more intriguing candidates for Jim Haslett’s staff would be another former XFL head coach, Winston Moss. The former LA Wildcats leader, Winston Moss, worked on Jim Haslett’s New Orleans Saints staff for six seasons from 2000 to 2005. Moss became the Packers’ assistant head coach when Haslett’s OC in New Orleans got the Green Bay job. Winston could assume a similar AHC role with Haslett in the XFL.
Moss also has a history in Seattle, provided that Haslett’s team ends up there. Winston played for the Seahawks back in the late nineties and started his coaching career with them. The beloved Moss, much like June Jones, was a fan favorite in the XFL back in 2020. So it would be quite a story if two of the XFL’s most successful head coaches returned to the new league on the same staff.
As for a potential director of player personnel or GM, one of the names attached to Haslett’s team has been longtime NFL executive Randy Mueller, who has been no stranger to spring pro football, having worked with Salt Lake in the AAF and Houston in XFL 2020.
Randy Mueller is also no stranger to Jim Haslett. The two were paired up together in New Orleans, when Mueller won NFL executive of the year as Saints GM. And Haslett won AP NFL coach of the year in 2000.
Randy’s brother, Rick was also with the Saints during that time period. And was Haslett’s GM in the United Football League. Rick Mueller currently serves as Coastal Carolina’s director of player personnel.
Jim Haslett’s Seattle team has a chance to be one of the better teams in the XFL. Mainly because of the support staff, he will have to help him.
Rod Woodson’s potential XFL staff
The early word is that after the XFL completes its minicamps, training camp, and preseason in Texas, Rod Woodson’s team will be setting up on the west coast for the season in Las Vegas. However, that hasn’t been finalized yet. Las Vegas is one of those ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ locations for XFL 2023.
Here’s where things start to get a little tricky as it pertains to connecting the dots for who Rod Woodson could hire as assistants in the XFL. Like the Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, some of the coaches don’t have an extensive coaching history to lean on in their quest to fill a new staff.
Although he has coached in the NFL as an assistant with the Bengals, Raiders, and Broncos since 2010. And most recently as defensive coordinator on Marvin Lewis’s staff in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Like some of the XFL’s lead dogs, Rod Woodson doesn’t have a history of hiring his own coaches.
Convincing veteran assistant coaches to take the plunge into a new league is always challenging because of the uncertainties attached to the viability of these entities. As a first-time head coach, Rod Woodson may have more challenges than others have had in putting together a coaching staff. Because of his inexperience in this area.
Rod Woodson could lean on hiring some of the staff members he worked with recently at the NFLPA game, like Vontaze Burfict and Brock Marion. Other like-minded former players who have recently entered the coaching ranks. Or, Woodson could attempt to lure in some of the veteran coaches he worked with on the Raiders from 2015 to 2017.
However, coaches like Ken Norton Jr., Jethro Franklin, and Marcus Robertson are currently on a college football or NFL team staff.
Former NFL head coach Mike Tice is an intriguing name who coached on the Raiders staff during Rod Woodson’s time there. Not only would the veteran Tice help lend credibility and experience to Woodson’s team in the XFL, but he could serve as a great right-hand man as Rod learns on the job.
However, ironically enough, Mike Tice works as an instructor, coach, and mentor at NFL Academy, helping pro players train and stay ready for league opportunities. Not sure how Tice joining Woodson would conflict with his role at NFLA, but no doubt, having an experienced coach like Tice would greatly help a new head coach on the sidelines and off.
Another veteran coach who has ties to Rod Woodson is Chuck Bresnahan. Once upon a time, the longtime defensive coordinator coached Rod Woodson when he played for the Raiders. Bresnahan then hired Rod for his defensive staff when he was Oakland’s defensive coordinator in 2011. If Woodson hired Chuck to work under him, it would make for a strange sequence of role reversal. But Bresnahan has shown that he is willing to work in alternative pro leagues in the past. Most recently, in the Spring League back in 2020 and in the United Football League with Florida and Sacramento.
From a front office perspective, Joey Clinkscales, the longtime NFL talent evaluator and former Los Angeles Wildcats Director of Player Personnel, has emerged as a solid candidate to assume the same role for Rod Woodson’s XFL team. Clinkscales and Woodson have a history together with the Oakland Raiders.
Anthony Becht’s potential XFL staff
Anthony Becht’s experience coaching in the AAF with the San Diego Fleet could help benefit him in his new role as head coach in the XFL, especially if Anthony Becht takes control of the league’s St. Louis franchise. Becht is a former St. Louis Rams player, albeit briefly in 2009.
Interestingly enough, while coaching in the AAF, Becht worked on the same staff as two former prominent St. Louis Rams, Mike Martz and Az-Zahir Hakim.
Az Hakim, who coached wide receivers with the BattleHawks, assumed the same role for the San Diego Fleet. Mike Martz was San Diego’s head coach, while Anthony Becht coached the team’s tight ends.
Convincing Az Hakim to coach his receivers in St.Louis would be an excellent get for Becht. But the probability of Mike Martz accepting a job as offensive coordinator/assistant head coach with Becht in the XFL is not very likely.
But you can’t blame Anthony Becht for shooting his shot and making that call to Martz. It would undoubtedly endear the St. Louis football fan base if Martz accepted the offer.
There are other former San Diego Fleet coaches who Anthony Becht could call upon to join him in the XFL. One of them is his New York Jets teammate, RB LaMont Jordan, who coached the running backs in San Diego. Don’t be surprised if Anthony Becht has some AAF allies join him in the XFL.
But ultimately, If Anthony Becht wants to engender himself to BattleHawks nation. The person he should look to convince to join his staff would be former St. Louis head coach Jonathan Hayes.
Becht and Hayes coached together recently on the same coaching staff in the 2022 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Like Mike Martz, pride could come into play with former BatleHawks head coach Jonathan Hayes. After all, it’s a lot easier to accept an assistant head coaching job or offensive coordinator role with a different team as June Jones has with Seattle. But returning to the team you were formerly head coach of as an assistant would be difficult to swallow.
Just like the other neophyte head coaches in the XFL. Who Anthony Becht hires as his coordinators will be crucial to success. Becht has called plays on the high school level. But having an experienced play-caller with college or pro experience would greatly assist Becht in the XFL.
Anthony Becht has ties to so many different pro teams and organizations that it’s difficult to pinpoint who will join him in his front office. Dave Boller, who was Manager of Football Ops with the Renegades, and GM of the San Diego Fleet, could’ve be in consideration for a similar position on Becht’s team. But he has accepted a player personnel position at Arizona State University. Ironically enough, the school that has Anthony Becht’s former NY Jets head coach Herman Edwards leading the charge.
Reggie Barlow’s potential XFL staff
While some of the other head coaches in the XFL are expected to lean toward coaching relationships in their past, Barlow is the coach who will likely bring on board a collection of coaches who most recently worked for him last season at Virginia State University.
Sources close to the situation indicate that several members of Barlow’s Trojans staff are hoping to join him in the XFL.
Likely, some of the names on Barlow’s coaching staff might not be recognizable to mainstream football fans. The fact is that Reggie Barlow has been coaching in the FCS and Division II since 2005. And he’s developed a lot of connections in that realm since then.
Barlow’s been a head coach for over 140 games on that level. It’s been a long time since the former Jaguars, Raiders, and Bucs receiver has had any connection to NFL teams. He last played in the NFL in 2003.
However, Reggie Barlow, like most former NFL players, still has plenty of contacts within the league. Barlow has also been a part of the minority fellowship program in the NFL for several years now.
Because of the time-lapse between his involvement in the NFL, there are very few coaching or GM names that have been connected to him as of press time. Which adds additional intrigue towards who Reggie Barlow eventually names to his staff.
There’s even uncertainty as to what city Barlow will coach. Although, the early reports have suggested that he will lead the XFL’s San Antonio franchise. But DC has also emerged as a possibility.
Greg Gabriel, DC’s Director of Player Personnel, will not be back with the league. Gabriel and current Houston Texans OC Pep Hamilton did a phenomenal job putting together the Defenders roster three years ago. Barlow will need that type of partnership to help him excel in the XFL.
Hines Ward’s potential XFL staff
Hines Ward also has connections to people in the current XFL who were with him when he began his NFL journey with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late nineties. Like XFL Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Whaley and fellow head coach Jim Haslett. Whaley was Pittsburgh’s Pro Scouting coordinator, and Haslett was the Steelers’ defensive coordinator.
Like Reggie Barlow, Hines Ward has been a part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship program. That pipeline helped Ward gain entry into the NFL with the New York Jets, initially as a coaching intern.
Many NFL legends and smaller school coaches have partaken in the program. And it stands to reason that Hines Ward will look toward those types of entry-level candidates for his staff.
One of Hines Ward’s former teammates, fellow Georgia Bulldog running back Robert Edwards, could be a candidate to join Ward in the XFL. Like many of the XFL’s current crop of coaches, Edwards recently coached in the NFLPA collegiate bowl and has also been a part of the fellowship program.
One of the rumored assistants joining Hines Ward’s staff in the XFL is a former top assistant of the league back in 2020. Jamie Elizondo. The former Tampa Bay Vipers OC was recently the head coach of the Edmonton Elks in the CFL.
Coaches like Hines Ward in the XFL are making connections with many different assistants in the football landscape, who have reached out to pitch themselves as options.
Ward has worked with several different veteran coaches during his playing days. Like Mike Mularkey and Ken Whisenhunt. Whether or not he can convince some of these veteran types to join his coaching staff in the XFL remains to be seen. But the feeling is that Ward’s staff will lean more towards younger coaches.
If that’s the case, the defacto GM role on Ward’s team will be more critical. Perhaps, Hines Ward can get an assist from the league office and Doug Whaley in recruiting someone for the role.
Terrell Buckley’s potential XFL staff
Florida State legend Terrell Buckley has already developed a strong relationship for his recruiting ability as an assistant coach in college since 2007. Will Buckley’s ability to draw in people with his charisma help him recruit coaches to his staff in the XFL.
For whatever reason, despite putting in the time and effort for 14 years coaching defensive backs. Buckley was never given an opportunity to rise to a coordinator position. The natural progression for assistant coaches before they land the head job. The XFL is giving Terrell Buckley his chance to skip over the natural coordinator progression that has eluded him.
Buckley wowed the XFL brass in the interview process, and he sold them on the big picture. Now that Buckley is a head coach of a pro football team. Can he sell others on his grand vision?
The boisterous Buckley is expected to lead the XFL’s Florida franchise. Initial reports have the team playing in Orlando. But just like many aspects of the XFL. Right now, it’s a complete unknown who will be joining ‘T-Buck” on his staff. His experience coaching in college and his ties to the NFL community should help him. Coaching in Florida is always a selling point for assistant coaches, to begin with. And Buckley’s personality might help seal the deal in recruitment. One of Buckley’s strongest suits.
One of the best aspects of coaches like T-Buck in the XFL, is that he is highly motivated to make this opportunity work. Because of how he has been bypassed and overlook. A trait, he will share with the players he coaches in the XFL.
Often, in spring football leagues there are coaches who take on the job, as a side gig in between fishing. Legacy coaches that are just looking to find something extra to do and collect another paycheck.
Coaches like Terrell Buckley are hungry, serious, passionate and fully committed to being the best they can be. That’s precisely what the XFL in 2023 needs.
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