Could Woodson and Ward Target Former Steelers for Coaching Staffs?

The XFL hired two head coaches with direct ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers. By extension that makes both men members of the Bill Cowher and Dick LeBeau Coaching tree. The thing is, they are far from the only members of this coaching tree, and there are even some not currently employed.

Recognizable Names Available

Chad Brown

One of the first names I want to highlight is former Steelers Linebacker and current 104.3 Talk-show host Chad Brown. Chad Brown played alongside Rod Woodson for four seasons to start his career. After being selected in round 2 of the 1993 draft he would play out his rookie contract with the Steelers leaving in 1996, ironically the same season Woodson left for San Francisco. Brown would ultimately return to the Steelers later on and play alongside Hines Ward who wasn’t drafted until the 1999 season. Brown spent just one season with the Steelers this time around in 2006.

Brown is no stranger to the coaching world despite his current duties as a radio host. The 2006 season would mark the second to last season of Brown’s career. He has talked several times over about participating in training camps as a coach with the Titans when former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was still there. He has been out of the realm of coaching for a couple seasons but so was Woodson. So that should be no big thing holding him back.

The 15 year NFL veteran would simply be the latest former player to jump into the coaching ranks full time in 2023 with the XFL.

Joey Porter

Another former linebacker on this list. Porter is likely one of the more experienced former players when it comes to coaching. After retiring in 2011 he spent just one season away from Football. The Former Colorado State Rams would go on to return to his alma matter in 2013 as a defensive assistant. He spent just one season in this role before returning to where he spent the majority of his pro career.

Prior to his stint in college as a coach he actually spent three days in jail due to writing a bad check for $70,000 in Casino Chips he was given. Less than four months later it was announced that his Florida Mansion was facing foreclosure. Shortly after this it was announced that he would return to CSU as a defensive assistant and finish out his degree.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Porter in 2014 as a defensive assistant a position he again held for just one season. The long time NFL veteran would move up to outside linebackers coach following that initial season. He would hold the outside linebackers coach role for the next 3 seasons. That was until an incident involving Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals. He would receive a $10,000 fine for stepping on the field of play during an injury timeout.

Burfict had allegedly laid a dirty, and devastating hit on Antonio Brown that did not please the Firey former linebacker. He would immediately start jawing with players including Adam Pacman Jones who would push Porter and help setup a short field goal that led to a Steelers win. Porter’s actions led to the creation of a new rule.

Chan Gailey

Rod Woodson currently has not announced an offensive coordinator. How about longtime NFL assistant and coordinator Chan Gailey? Gailey was a WR coach and later offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh for four season which all corresponded with Rod Woodson’s time there.

Gailey is a well-known, and respected offensive mind who was the coordinator of the Miami Dolphins in 2020 under Brian Flores. He could also serve as defacto assistant head coach given that he had multiple stints in the role.

Gailey has over 40 years of coaching experience under his belt, and there is a chance he isn’t willing to come back. He may just make an exception for a former player in Rod Woodson. It would also allow Woodson to focus on the side of the ball he knows best, defense.

I for one thing Gailey would be a perfect OC candidate for Woodson. He could also bring in someone he liked as a future candidate, and have them learn under Gailey in the short term. Gailey is obviously no spring chicken having originally retired back in 2016 before his one season retire followed by a resignation in Miami. Would he even entertain the job?

Mike Mularkey

Another potential offensive coordinator candidate for Rod Woodson. The former head coach and offensive mind is best known for his most recent run as a head coach with the Tennessee Titans where he precluded the hiring of Mike Vrabel in 2018. He would move on to spend one season in Atlanta after that in 2019 but has been out of football since.

Mularkey has 35 years in the coaching ranks whether as a position coach, coordinator or head coach. While he may never have coached the most prolific of offenses, he does know how to do one thing that would endear him to Spring Football.

That’s running the ball. He has been a huge proponent of the run game, and using a second tight end in his offensive scheme to help build a strong run game for his team. The former tight end believes in big bodied tight ends that can block, which would bring an old school mindset to a modern league.

If there is one thing that became clear through 10 weeks of the USFL season, it’s that a run game is crucial when building a team from scratch in the first season of a new league. I expect Mularkey has already fielded calls from both Woodson and Ward, although Ward has filled his OC spot, a TE coach role isn’t out of the question, he also has brief experience on the offensive line as a coach as well.

David Culley

David Culley was a surprise hire by the Houston Texans in 2021 to become the successor to long time head coach Bill O’Brien. After an ugly season as a rookie head coach that was tasked with piloting a team that had lost DeShaun Watson, he was fired after just one season.

However, this should not be held against him. He was a long time wide receiver coach, and assistant head coach in the NFL for a reason. More importantly he is a member of two very prominent coaching trees. Andy Reid, and Bill Cowher.

David Culley spent three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, narrowly missing an overlap with Hines Ward, and spending just one season with Rod Woodson in 1996. Culley would stay in Pittsburgh until the 1999 Season when Andy Reid was hired by the Eagles.

Reid liked what he saw in Culley and hired him to run wide receiver room. He held this position all the way up to the 2012 season. He added senior offensive assistant duties in 2011. He would ultimately move on after the 2012 season.

Following Andy Reid to Kansas City where he again took up residency as the wide receivers coach, this time adding assistant head coach duties to his titles. He would spend the next 4 seasons with Reid in KC. He would move on after the 2016 season.

Moving on from KC Culley ultimately landed with a former Andy Reid assistant in Sean McDermott. McDermott took over the Buffalo Bills and brought Culley in as his quarterbacks coach. He would spend the 2017-2018 seasons in Buffalo before landing yet another job with a former Reid assistant.

This time it was with John Harbaugh in Baltimore the team he would coach with up until being hired by the Houston Texans. During his time in Baltimore he would earn many titles. He was named the assistant head coach, wide receivers coach, and passing game coordinator. He would spend just two seasons in this role before jetting off to Houston as the head coach.

Since being let go by the Texans he has not been hired anywhere. I could see Woodson tapping Culley as his offensive coordinator or wide receivers coach/assistant head coach. He could also serve a dual role and coach both quarterbacks and wide receivers given his background.

Ken Whisenhunt

Former Arizona Cardinals head coach was fired by the Chargers in 2019 and has not been heard from since in the coaching world. He was a longtime offensive coordinator with multiple franchises. Including spending  2004-2006 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he also spent 2001-2003 coaching tight ends in Pittsburgh meaning he spent the last 6 seasons of Hines Ward’s career with him.

Ward retired in 2006, and in 2006 Whisenhunt was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as their new head coach. He helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl, and during his stint in Arizona helped lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl berth against none other than his former team.

Ultimately he lost by 4 points to his former employer, and the team that had passed him over for their head coaching position in favor of Mike Tomlin a young hot-shot coach that had just bested Whisenhunt in the Super Bowl. Just three losing seasons later and Whisenhunt was fired.

He would go on to spend a season with the Chargers as their offensive coordinator before again latching on as the head coach with the Titans for the next two seasons. After two poor seasons with the Titans he was again hired to run the offense for the Chargers a position he held for three more seasons.

Since 2019 he has been out of coaching but he could be an option to coach wide receivers and tight ends with the San Antonio or Las Vegas franchises under Woodson or Ward.

Tip of the Coaching Iceberg

This is just a small sample of former coaches or players they spent time with in Pittsburgh, this isn’t even tapping the vast knowledge of players or coaches these guys have from their time as coaches respectively. It also doesn’t consider other players or coaches they have come to know over the years in the NFL. We do know one thing for sure, the XFL is leaning heavily on former NFL guys to fill out their coaching ranks. I am certain we will see one of if not more than one of these guys hired by an XFL franchise in 2023.

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