I’m just about the biggest football fan on the planet, and because the game is always on my mind, I tend to drift off into these quantum realms of football that nobody ever talks about. Today’s topic? Spring Chickens!!!
Today I will attempt to throw poop on the wall to see if it’ll stick. Or more accurately I will make strong suggestions as to whom I think would make for great pairings in the world of spring football in both the XFL and USFL. I tend to also funnel the CFL into the spring football category, however they’re already in business so I’ll get back to them another day.
I watch a lot of games. On a daily basis I enjoy googling about this player and that coach. Where are they from? What do their parents do? Do they have hobbies? Do they like Hall and Oates? I have learned that finding real time box scores for division II and III is kinda like work. JUCO and NAIA is even harder. Never mind finding live games for the levels mentioned. Essentially you need to subscribe to hundreds of YouTube channels and Facebook pages in order to come close to reaching the far ends of that galaxy. Why do I do all this? I’m looking for those diamonds in the rough. I’m waiting to see that play that I’ve never seen before. I also like reminding myself that football isn’t just played at the NFL level, the level many only choose to watch.
Now that we have two pro spring leagues firing up in back to back years… again. Let’s take a moment to pontificate on who should all be involved. Yesterday the USFL announced some hires and last week the XFL did the same. That’s definately a positive on both fronts. If you follow these things like stink on shit, as I do, you remember the phenomenon of craving the next announcement from the AAF(Alliance of American Football) and XFL(2020). What are the team names? What are their logos? What cities are they going to be in? What players and coaches are they going to get? What are the rules going to be? Are they going to work with the NFL?
Well I can’t answer that, but I can put together some decent fits and speculate what I believe would work out just fine for not only both leagues, but the state of the game in general. So enough talk… show me.
The Birmingham Stallions
Head coach: Mike Riley
Let’s go with the fact that he played for Alabama and that he has a winning record in every league he’s coached in outside of the NFL. He’s a two time Grey Cup winner and most recently went 5-3 as coach of the San Antonio Commanders. He simply loves coaching.
Quarterback: Liam Welch
The kid dropping all the big bombs on Florida last week one to keep an eye out for. He’s got five games this season where he’s thrown for over 350 yards and one game where he threw for a ridiculous 582. He grew up not far away in Augusta, GA. Currently 6th in the FCS in passing.
The San Antonio Gunslingers
Head coach: Rick Neuheisel
His professional playing career started off with the… wait for it… San Antonio Gunslingers. He boasts about a 66% win percentage throughout his career and had the Arizona Hotshots balling in 2019 before Tom fucking Dundon closed the doors. He’s currently an analyst on Saturdays talking college ball.
Quarterback: Logan Woodside
Fans will remember him from the AAF and likely recall him being on of the better quarterbacks in the league. He’s currently the backup to Ryan Tannehill on the Tennessee Titans, but if the price is right, he’d likely bolt to be a starter again. If he stays in the NFL he’ll bounce around the league on veteran minimum deals.
The Jacksonville Bulls
Head coach: Sam Mills III
Son of legendary and should be Hall of Famer Sam Mills. His Father played for the Philadelphia and Baltimore Stars of the USFL all three seasons they were in existence. He would join his father on the Carolina Panther’s coaching staff in 2005 and has remained under Ron Rivera his entire coaching career.
Quarterback: Kyle Allen
Gets to reunite with Sam Mills III in a new town with an understanding of and shared philosophy. Kyle was drafted in Carolina and came to Washington with Mills in 2020. He cam move around and throw it out of the stadium. He’s also young enough to have a lengthy career and become a name recognized league wide.
The Tampa Bay Bandits
Head coach: Steve Spurrier
Ahh yes. The Ol’ ball coach. Another tale comes full circle. Born in Florida. Won a Heisman Trophy and a National Championship at Florida. His first gig in professional coaching was with none other than the Tampa Bay Bandits. From Bandit ball to the Fun n Gun he’s still got it. He’s also still in the neighborhood.
Quarterback: Bailey Zappe
The Western Kentucky product is a touchdown machine. Red shirt senior who transferred from Houston Baptist. He’s currently obliterating stat sheets as he currently sits at 4,170 yards and 42 touchdowns. He’s perfect for Steve Spurrier‘s receiver heavy offense. WKU went from 112th to 7th in scoring this year.
The Memphis Showboats
Head coach: Jeff Fisher
The stache is currently down the road at Tennessee State serving as an advisor to Eddie George. I’d like to think he still wouldn’t mind coaching if the right circumstance came about. We poke fun at his uncanny ability to go .500, but if you look at his body of work you’ll see that he’s actually good at finding talent.
Quarterback: Johnny Manziel
If the FCF can get him to play surely the USFL can. They’d also continue their streak of collecting Heisman Trophy winners. I think the XFL dropped the ball by not signing him. I think he can still play, that is if he still wants to. Some can’t stand the guy but he’s got a skill set and a big personality. Also Fisher can deal with him.
The New Orleans Breakers
Head coach: Ed Orgeron
Stay home in the town you love and loves you. His time at LSU has come to a close, but if this league should make a move to attract a few names, this guy needs to be on that list. The 2020 Tigers that won the Natty will go down as one of the greatest college football teams ever, and rightfully so. Pay the man, Shirley.
Quarterback: Cole Kelley
6’7″ 260 pounds of elbow grease. The Southeastern Louisiana quarterback is a native of Lafayette is 7-2 on the year with 3,997 yards and 35 touchdowns. Two weeks ago he threw for a measly 647 against Incarnate Word. He won the Walter Payton award last season witch is the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy.
The Oklahoma Outlaws
Head coach: Bob Stoops
Another great coach that’s back on TV Saturdays as a result of a previous failed spring league. He came out of retirement because he like the idea of being a GM as well as a coach, and because Dallas wasn’t far from home. His home is still Oklahoma where he produced a winner year in and year out for Sooner fans.
Quarterback: Landry Jones
Back again with his two time head coach for round three. Played well in his short time with the Renegades but got a late start with an early injury. Probably not a name you want to sell for the long haul, but he can run the system and have you competitive immediately. Give him Jeff Badet while you’re at it.
The Orlando Renegades
Head coach: Tim Lewis
Football runs through his veins. He had the Birmingham Iron off to a 5-3 start before Charlie Ebersol ran out of options. He joined the Battlehawks staff in 2020 and helped put together one of the better defenses in the XFL. He’s got a great demeanor and guys like playing for him. He’s also available.
Quarterback: Garrett Gilbert
The Apollo returns to Orlando. If he can pick up where he left offit would be great for the league and the potential interstate rivalry. In the few snaps he got in Dallas last year I though he looked better than Dalton but what do I know. He deserves a chance to be appreciated and that’s what these spring leagues are for.
The New York Guardians
Head coach: Todd Bowles
His time as the head coach of the Jets was sabotaged by inept management. For whatever reason he’s overlooked every year as a head coaching candidate, although his name always seems to come up. I believe the XFL would appreciate his talents and there’s likely many New Yorkers that would welcome him back.
Quarterback: Gardner Minshew
Is the Big Apple big enough for this guy? You could have a reality TV show of him searching the city for the best slice of pizza alone. The potential salon endorsement deal he could fetch is outrageous. He would easily be the most popular quarterback in New York City. Make it happen.
Head coach: Byron Leftwich
Another Buccaneers coordinator makes the jump after being snubbed. Still young in his coaching career as well as on the rise. It would be a great career move to come home to DC where there isn’t a person alive that doesn’t love him and where showcase his leadership abilities at the pro level. Cut the check.
Quarterback: Taulia Tagovailoa
Not a far drive at all from College Park, MD to Audi field. He still has a year to go for the University of Maryland, but he’d already be a household name if he sticks around. It would also give Leftwich a shiny new toy to mold in his image.
St. Louis Battlehawks
Head coach: Jonathan Hayes
The most rabid fanbase in the league gets to put the band back together. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Every part of the Battlehawks organization seemed to be working just fine. I think if Dwayne Johnson were to make the call coach Hayes would probably take the job in a heart beat. No brainer.
Quarterback: Jordan Ta’amu
Seems like he’s been on every practice squad in the NFL already. Like these other guys, the NFL isn’t his calling. Much like Jonathan Hayes the people of St. Louis would lose their shit to see the Kahuna back in the Gateway to the West. I’m pretty sure he already misses the pizza and making appearances on the XFLSTL show.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Head coach: Deion Sanders
Hot commodity this one is. He’s likely to get a big offer from a Power 5 program, so this one might be out of the question, however if you wanted some immediate star power this would get it for you. Probably would attract the best young players in the league instantly as well as help them “build their brand”… it’s a thing.
Quarterback: Shedeur Sanders
Don’t let the apple fall far from the tree. He’s 8-1 with almost 2,700 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, and only five interceptions… as a freshman. The sky is the limit here and if he stays at Jackson State he’ll probably break HBCU records. If his dad takes another gig he’ll likely transfer and follow him accordingly.
Head coach: June Jones
The Run and Shoot returns to put the highest octane offense in the league back on field. He’s already expressed interest to return to the league once their affairs are in order and hopefully we find out soon that it’s been put into motion. They looked like the cream up until that carriage turned into a pumpkin.
Quarterback: P.J. Walker
He’s mobil. He’s got a cannon. He’s a name fans are familiar with. I think he would prefer to be a big fish in a smaller pond than be a small one in a big pond.He’s the type of player the league needs. A guy that gives you highlights every week for SportsCenter. A full career from him and he’s probably their first Hall of Famer.
Head coach: Doug Belk
Who? You’re welcome. Defensive coordinator at the University of Houston with one year left on his contract after this season. They currently sit at 6th in the nation in overall defense which is unreal considering they hover around 70th in recruiting each year. Make the couple hour drive north and build a winner for Big D.
Quarterback: Clayton Tune
Speaking of one year left in Houston… Clayton is a Junior not likely to leave early for the draft. How sweet would it be to see both him and his defensive coordinator leave for the same pro team right up the road. He’s thrown for 2,448 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Cougars, who are currently 24th in the nation.
Los Angeles Wildcats
Head coach: Winston Moss
Another familiar face climbs back on the saddle. They started off slow but caught fire once their QB1 returned from injury. It’s also a plus to have a couple defensive minded coaches in the league to balance things out. Southern California can always use a coach with a little fire and that’s something he never lacks.
Quarterback: Tyler Huntley
Just not quite good enough to be a starter in the NFL, but the mini me version of Lamar Jackson is just what LA needs. A defensive minded coach with an elusive young quarterback is a recipe for a great foundation in today’s game. His stats from Utah are pretty bonkers and he’s got some fine highlights.
Head coach: Jim Zorn
He’s Seattle royalty. Great quarterback coach and evaluator of talent. There’s been a few quarterbacks that had their best production working with him. Like all other recent spring ball coaches he’s on the shelf since the shut down. It’s nuts guys like him are out of work, but hopefully the league brings him back.
Quarterback: Brandon Silvers
He seems to be synonymous with spring football. He’d be a fine football player if he could get with a team that is in a league that sticks around, giving him the opportunity to fully develop. Having already spent half a season with Zorn would help achieve that. One doesn’t need a rocket to run the West Coast offense.
I chose the particular cities I chose for the USFL because I just think they would be better off staying in that SEC territory. Football is huge in the south and there’s thousands of players to scout without having to travel too far to do so. I’m not saying they won’t scout everywhere, because naturally their database won’t dependent on certain zip codes, but it helps keep traveling costs down for the teams. Obviously many of you may say, “Dude, you can’t have four teams in Florida let alone two in Tampa Bay.”, and that’s just fine and dandy. For now I chose to keep it simple using teams where they were when they were in operation.
Another factor is going to be money. I’ve written before about what I think pay scales should look like, but I’ll say each team needs to have one player making around a million bucks. Everyone else should be around 125K with a handful(about 6 at the most) of guys making around a half million. As for coaches, I think that should be where the league needs to open their pockets. So many coaches have been screwed by spring leagues and they need to be taken care of. I’d even go as far as to say they should get a stake in ownership during their time there, assuming they league lasts more than a year…
It’s A Football World, we’re all just passing through.
PS: Sorry Deshaun Watson didn’t crack a roster, but hey… made ya look!!!
Feature photo: ESPN