XFL Preseason: Meet the Coaches
Knowing the coaching staffs are important to understanding the strategies and schemes each team use. We have broken down each XFL team's staff and what you can expect from them on offense and defense this season.
Succeeding in playing fantasy football also comes down to understanding what each team is trying to do from a coaching standpoint. Every coach has their own style and how they like to run their offense and defense. The XFL rules certainly favor the offense and favor a team that wants to run an up-tempo passing game, but that doesn’t mean it is the only way to succeed. Let’s take a look at the eight coaches, their styles, as well as the styles of their offensive and/or defensive coordinators so we have a bit of an idea of what we might expect from them in the opening weekend of the year.
Head Coach – Bob Stoops. A collegiate legend, Stoops is the winningest coach in the history of the Oklahoma Sooners. And while most coaches have a style or a preferred way of running an offense, Stoops is rare in that he ran the offense based on the personnel that he had. When he had Adrian Peterson on the team, he ran more than he passed. When he had strong quarterback play like with Sam Bradford, the Sooners were a big aerial team. He could play grind it out, or up-tempo, no-huddle offense. To give you a better idea of what kind of offense that Stoops might run, you have to look to his offensive coordinator Hal Mumme. He made several stops in the college ranks, and had his most success at Kentucky, but Mumme loves to air it out. With a quarterback that at least played a little in the NFL in Landry Jones, the Renegades should be a team that at least tries to find success in the passing game.
Defensive Coordinator Chris Woods spent three years coaching the Oklahoma Sooners as a defensive specialist where they won three Big 12 titles, were in the college football playoff twice, and won the Sugar Bowl in 2016.
Head Coach – Pep Hamilton. With stops at Stanford (receivers coach and offensive coordinator) and Michigan (assistant head coach and passing coordinator) in college sandwiched around jobs at Indianapolis and Cleveland in the NFL, Hamilton has a solid football coaching career. He coached with Jim Harbaugh at both Stanford and Michigan, and had Andrew Luck at quarterback at Stanford and with the Colts. Hamilton is no stranger to success on offense. Stanford clearly had success during his time there, and in 2014 the Colts offense he ran compiled the third most yards in the NFL. Hamilton is a player’s coach, a great communicator, and a fantastic offensive mind. His offensive coordinator, Tanner Engstrand, worked with Hamilton at Michigan. Prior to that he was the offensive coordinator at the University of San Diego where he enjoyed great success. He ran a west-coast style of offense with multiple different formations and motion plays. With a quarterback that played at the highest level of college football in Cardale Jones, this offense is set up to have success.
Defensive Coordinator Jeff Fitzgerald has a long career in the NFL as an assistant coach, mostly as a linebackers coach with the Colts, Bengals, Ravens, and Cardinals. In 21 years his teams have gone to the playoffs seven times. There isn’t a lot of accolades along with his career, but he will look to put his stamp on the XFL in 2020.
Head Coach – June Jones. It has been a long football coaching career for June Jones in many different leagues. Jones was a head coach for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, in college at Hawaii and SMU, and in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Jones seems to be a perfect fit for the XFL and its rules. Throughout his career, Jones has been known for one thing and that is airing it out. He ran the run-and-shoot back in the day for the Falcons, and his teams continued to throw it plenty when he moved to the college ranks. Throughout his career in Atlanta, Jones had the Falcons ranked in the top ten in the league in pass offense, yet always towards the bottom in rushing. Especially with the one foot inbounds rule and Jones high flying style of football, his teams should have a great deal of success passing the ball.
Defensive Coordinator Ted Cottrell who enjoyed a lot of success as a defensive coach in the NFL. It may have been 15 years ago, but his Vikings teams were stingy on defense and were fifth in the NFL in takeaways. In 2007, he was defensive coordinator of the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers and they led the NFL in takeaways and passing defense. He was linebackers coach for the Birmingham Iron of the AAF, who allowed 14 or fewer points in five of the eight weeks the league existed.
Los Angeles Wildcats
Head Coach – Winston Moss. There aren’t many defensive guys at the helm in the XFL, but Moss is one of them. He was a linebacker coach for the Packers for a long time before being ousted around the same time as Mike McCarthy. He surely will bring his “tough as nails” approach to the Wildcats defense. His offensive coordinator is Norm Chow who has an incredibly lengthy career grooming quarterbacks. Perhaps you heard of a guy named Steve Young that Chow coached all the way back in 1983. He also coached Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Matt Leinart, all who had amazing success in college. He floundered a little bit later in his career, but there is no questioning Chow’s ability to construct an offense. With Moss as a gritty defensive mind, and Chow on offense, the Wildcats could be one of the more balanced teams.
Defensive Coordinator Pepper Johnson was a dominating linebacker for the New York Giants and then spent over a decade coaching for the New England Patriots. Johnson has a history of being a player’s coach, and his teams are always prepared. He was a coach for three Super Bowl winning teams, and was also involved with the AAF with the Memphis Express. The Express did allow at least 20 points in every game they played, but with Winston Moss and Pepper Johnson as coaches, the Wildcats should be one of the better defensive teams in the XFL.
New York Guardians
Head Coach – Kevin Gilbride. He has been out of football for a few years, but the resume of Gilbride is impressive at times. In the 90s he installed the run and shoot with the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans for you young folks), and the team was wildly successful in scoring points in his tenure there. He also was the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants for both of their recent Super Bowl wins over the New England Patriots, including the game plan to beat an undefeated team. He is no stranger to physical play, but his offensive game plans will surely have a lot of big open passing plays with the more exciting rules of the XFL. His quarterbacks coach, G.A. Mangus, worked with Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and the team broke school records for points, yards, and completion percentage. He was working as an assistant coach at Kutztown University where the offense was also working at levels not seen in the school’s history. New York looks to be well in place to have a solid XFL offense.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Herrmann spent a long time at the University of Michigan with great success early on, including an undefeated season and an award as the top assistant coach in the nation. Towards the end of his tenure, his team was not playing as well, and he also was a linebackers coach for the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts. He was at Bowling Green University, but left there abruptly to take this opportunity. Despite not a storied career of success and championships, Herrmann has been on football sidelines for a very long time.
Head Coach – Jonathan Hayes. A tight end in the NFL, Hayes is most known for being a part of the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff for over 15 years. Starting as tight end coach, Hayes carried various posts along his tenure. The Bengals always enjoyed offensive success while he was coaching, although it never translated to playoff wins. His offensive coordinator is where the excitement is at here, as Doug Meachem holds that post. Meachem is best known for a short tenure at TCU, where the Horned Frogs were one of the most prolific offenses in the country. In 2014, his “Air Frog” offense was second in the nation in scoring at over 46 points a game, and tied for fifth in total offense. He comes with a big personality that has rubbed many the wrong way, but there is no doubting his offensive prowess. Meachem appears to be exactly the type of guy the XFL wants patrolling their sidelines with his high flying offense and character. He wasn’t exactly known for running the ball in the offense, but the quarterback and receivers should benefit from his coaching.
Johnathan Hayes’ brother Jay will be the defensive coordinator for the Battlehawks. Jay also served on the Bengals staff for over a decade, as the defensive line coach. He also held the same position for the Tampa Bay Bucs, but was let go after little results. Many felt that Hayes got the raw deal as Tampa just didn’t have the talent to get the job done, and it wasn’t the coaching to blame. He was on the coaching staff for a number of winning seasons, and the Hayes brother connection will look to lead the Battlehawks to victory. Look for St. Louis to be tough on the defensive line and be able to get after the quarterback.
Head Coach – Jim Zorn. He spent over a decade in the NFL, and although it wasn’t an illustrious career full of accolades, Zorn knows how to call an offense. He coached up Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle to his most successful stretch, and while in Baltimore, Joe Flacco had his best seasons. He was the head coach of the Redskins for a couple of seasons as well, and Zorn’s offense of choice is definitely a version of the west coast. That should play very well with the fast tempo of play and loose passing rules of the XFL. His offensive coordinator is Mike Riley who has been coaching longer than most of you have been alive. He has mostly made his name in the college ranks with Oregon State and Nebraska. His teams have been highly successful, although he doesn’t have a huge track record of putting up gaudy offensive numbers. He was also the head coach of the defunct AAF’s San Antonio Commanders who weren’t exactly the gem of the league when it came to offense.
Zorn’s defensive coordinator will be Clayton Lopez who was a defensive backs coach for many years in the NFL for the Raiders, Rams, and Lions. He was an assistant secondary coach for the Lions team that failed to win a game, and then presided over the secondary of the Rams when they went 1-15 and again 2-14 two years later. He was last seen as coach of the Cayman Islands flag football Association. Not to judge a man completely by his resume, but the Dragons may struggle on defense.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Head Coach – Marc Trestman. He has a long history of coaching at many different levels, and when Marc Trestman has come to town in the past, offense has come with him. In college he helped Bernie Kosar set college records at Miami for number of completions and passing yards in a season. In the NFL he was an offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers in a season that they led the NFL in points, pass attempts and passing yards. He made Jake Plummer look like a decent quarterback as he threw for over 3,700 yards in Trestman’s one season in Arizona. Back then, not every quarterback threw for 4,500 yards like today. His crowning achievement in the NFL was being the offensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders in 2001. If you don’t remember that season, the offense was a juggernaut, Rich Gannon of all people was the NFL MVP as their quarterback, and the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl which they lost. He has also won championships in the Canadian Football League, with his quarterback earning MVP honors. His offensive coordinator, Jaime Elizondo, also comes from the Canadian Football League where he was offensive coordinator of the Ottawa Redblacks where he called the plays and helped them win the Grey Cup in 2016. Their quarterback Aaron Murray had a great career in college at Georgia but struggled in the defunct AAF. Perhaps Trestman’s influence can help him succeed.
Trestman’s defensive coordinator is a man with a history in the NFL and a lot of personality. Jerry Glanville has a historic coaching career as head coach of the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) and Atlanta Falcons. Glanville is famous for leaving tickets for Elvis Presley at the will call window, and for smothering defenses. In his five years of coaching in Houston, the “House of Pain” Oilers defense led the team to the playoffs three times, winning playoff games twice. While they were hard-hitting, they also had a reputation of being a dirty team, which Glanville seemed to relish. He often clashed with opposing head coaches. When he went to Atlanta the team went to their iconic black uniforms. His team ran a high powered offense, but with the likes of Deion Sanders, he also had a very tough defense. Glanville is known for blitzing the quarterback from many different places, leaving the offense guessing. After his stint in the NFL he also coached in the UFL, and in college at Hawaii and Portland State. Glanville is now 78 years old so we will see how his coaching style translates to the game today, but if nothing else he should be entertaining to watch.