XFL announces all 8 head coaches for the 2023 Season
Although the XFL has said on multiple occasions that they are not positioning themselves to be a feeder league, they have leaned heavily on former well known names in the NFL. Including several former players. They also have a perfect split of experienced former head coaches, and inexperienced players who have coached but have not run their own teams yet.
Starting with my personal favorite name on this list Wade Phillips. @Sonofbum, is one of my favorite coaches because he typically tells the media exactly what he is thinking. He always struck me as a fun coach to play for. On top of that Wade Phillips has had several stints as a head coach at the NFL level, and walks into this job with the XFL as easily the most experienced professional level coach. However the next man on this list is a guy who can rival his years of service, just at the college level.
Bob Stoops is a name that should be familiar to anyone who followed the last launch of the XFL in 2020. He coached the Dallas Renegades in the XFL 2.0, and prior to that was best known for his time coaching the Oklahoma Sooners. He originally coached with the Sooners from 1999-2016, before returning as interim head coach in 2021 following his stint with the XFL.
Jim Haslett is a name that should ring bells for anyone who followed the Saints in the early 2000’s when they had Aaron Brooks. He served as the Saints head coach from 2000-2005, before being fired. He landed as a defensive coordinator with the Rams. He spent three years as the DC, before being named the interim head coach in 2008 to finish the season. Following this stint as the interim head coach he landed with another spring league. The United Football League’s Florida Tuskers where he led them to the championship game. Ultimately after one season he was back in the NFL as a defensive coordinator with Washington. He stayed from 2010-2014 before being let go. He spent one season at the college level with Penn State as a consultant before returning to the NFL as a LB coach with the Bengals, and later the Titans where he was up to present day. Mike Vrabel loses a trusted member of his staff.
Next up is the 4th man on the tenured coaches list. That man is Reggie Barlow, the first name to be leaked in connection to the XFL. Barlow is a former NFL player himself having played from 1996-2003 before getting into coaching. He collected an 83-58 record with his alma matter Alabama State 2007-2014, and later Virginia State from 2014-2021. If you want any idea about the respect he commands as a coach, look at this fact: After retiring in 2003, he got into coaching in 2005. Overseeing quarterbacks a position he didn’t play professionally. He spent just two seasons in that position before being promoted to head coach in 2007 his third year in coaching, and just four seasons removed from his playing career. This is his first opportunity to coach at the professional level but he brings with him 15 years as a head coach at the collegiate level.
On to the former players who have not yet run a team on their own:
Hines Ward is not the biggest name on this list, however in terms of coaching he may be the most established of the four coaches best known for their careers as players. Ward actually received traction as an NFL head coach this past offseason, and had been working with the Jets as a WR coach for two seasons in 2019-2020, before spending last season with Florida Atlantic in the same capacity. With just three years of coaching experience he is far from experienced as a coach, but this is a guy who was always noted for his football IQ, after successfully transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver.
Rod Woodson, another former Steeler. Woodson actually hasn’t coached in the NFL since 2017. After a playing career that began in 1987 when he was selected 10th overall, and spanned until 2003 when he retired with the Raiders, Woodson didn’t get into coaching until 2010. Thanks to the Bill Walsh Coaching Internship program he got his first taste of coaching with the Bengals. Then in 2011 he moved on to coach with the team he retired with a decade earlier. The Raiders, where he served as the cornerbacks coach for the 2011 season. Then he was out of coaching until 2014 where he again returned, this time with rival Denver in the Bill Walsh program once again. He stuck in coaching jumping back with the Raiders in 2015 as their assistant DB coach for two seasons. In 2017 he was promoted to cornerbacks coach, but by 2018 he was back out of coaching. Since then Woodson has stayed close to the game as an analyst on television. It will be interesting to see how well he runs his own team.
Terrell Buckley is a former Super Bowl winner with the Patriots early in the Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck dynasty. He played from 1992-2005 before retiring and joining the coaching ranks. From 2007 to 2011 he held various roles with his Alma Matter Florida State. He spent the next decade coaching cornerbacks on the collegiate level bouncing from Akron, to Louisville, Mississippi State, and finally Ole Miss up until the 2022 season. Now he accepts his first job as a head coach, and heads to the professional football level for the first time as a coach.
Finally last but not least former NFL tight end Anthony Becht. Becht has had a taste of coaching as well, most recently with fellow spring league the Alliance of American Football. He coached the tight ends for the San Diego Fleet in 2019, but hasn’t coached since, and never coached prior to that. The former first round pick of the Jets in 2000, played until 2011 ultimately retiring following a stint with the Kansas City Chiefs. He will be easily the least experienced coach and player on this list actually, so it will be fun to watch how he adapts to the XFL and being a head coach.
Well there you have it. Four experienced former head coaches and four inexperienced former players. Perfect mix of young guys with a future in coaching, and older guys on the tail end of their careers as coaches. The thing about their younger coaches, is they’re all big name players that young guys trying to play football professionally will recognize. If you grew up in the mid to late 2010’s you know every name on this list to some extent. It’s no secret that the XFL is trying to garner name recognition with these hires in the eyes of the players.