Well it took a while, but the USFL announced its final two coaches today. With less than a month to go before the draft, I’ve decided to rank the teams according to who the eight team leaders are, and how I think they’ll do. Each coach has had a unique career path with various degrees of success along the way. Some have been out of the game altogether at the pro level, while others are just getting in to it. While I wouldn’t necessarily call any of these hires a splash, I do think several of them, if not all are interesting. The criteria is based on who I believe will be able to assemble the best coaching staffs, as well as identify and develop talent. If coaches will also serve as each team’s GM, it’s important look back and see which guys have experience in multiple categories. Written in no particular order but I will specify my predicted results.
Birmingham Stallions: Skip Holtz
Other than his time in South Florida, Skip has turned every program he’s been a part of in to a winner. The last two seasons at Louisiana Tech haven’t been Earth shaking, but his teams have been consistently decent over the years. He currently has about a dozen players from Tech in the NFL. He’s got a good personality and sounds like a good fit for the city of Birmingham. I can see his son Trey coming with him to join his coaching staff.
Tampa Bay Bandits: Todd Haley
He hasn’t coached pro football in four years and for the past two he’s been on a High School sideline. He had a track record for being a little combative with players during his time in the NFL, and that might point to the reason why he’s been out of the league a while. Haley runs the Erhardt-Perkins offense that will feature mostly 21 and 11 personnel. It wouldn’t surprise me if he lured Russ Grimm out of retirement to help with the offensive line. Another name I’d look out for to join his staff could be Gregg Williams.
New Orleans Breakers: Larry Fedora
His head coaching run has been similar to Holtz’. No experience coaching in the NFL, but he’s been all around the Division I level. He had a decent run at North Carolina that tailed off the final two years there. He also has a nice handful of players currently in the NFL that he brought to UNC, with Mitchell Trubisky being one we could very well see reunite with him. Another reunion I wouldn’t be surprised to see is with his ex defensive coordinator, Gene Chizik.
Pittsburgh Maulers: Kirby Wilson
Pretty nomadic career for Kirby with his longest stint being with the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his last two seasons in the Burgh he shared offensive coaching duties with fellow USFL coach, Todd Haley. He’s primarily been a running backs coach most of his career, although he has spent time as an assistant as a wide receivers coach, and on the defensive side during his time coaching in college. He’s got a lot of energy and can relate in with today’s players, and I believe that’s a big factor in coaching today’s athletes and building staffs. Brett Keisel and Hines Ward are a couple names that stick out to me as guys that could join his staff.
Houston Gamblers: Kevin Sumlin
With 12 years coaching in the state of Texas as part of the Houston Cougars and Texas A&M Aggies, Sumlin brings quite a bit of high level Division I coaching experience to the table. He didn’t exactly light the world on fire at Arizona, but before then boasted a .667 win percentage. He also spent four years on Bob Stoops’ staff at Oklahoma and it’s likely he had a conversation with him in regards to coaching spring football before entertaining the offer from the USFL. I for one think this all but guarantees Johnny Football returns to glory with, wait for it… Josh Gordon.
Philadelphia Stars: Bart Andrus
The guy has coached in just about every level of every league out there. USA, Canada, Europe, College, Pro… you name it. He’s almost made for spring football honestly. Just in the last two years he’s been a part of the XFL, TSL, and coaching high school in Ottawa, so this guy is used to creating a program on the fly and keeping guys ready to play. Finally it looks like he’s found a league that’s willing to give him enough time to build a winner that he can maintain for multiple years, an opportunity he hasn’t been presented with in nearly 15 years. He isn’t flashy, but he’s football through and through.
New Jersey Generals: Mike Riley
He’s been successful everywhere but the NFL it seems. Most notably known for his time at Oregon State, Riley is 7-3 in Bowl games and has two Grey Cups on his resume. After a disappointing stretch at Nebraska he found himself in The Alliance of American Football mixing it up with a decent set of coaches and fairing well. Obviously the AAF crashed and burned but he was able to land a gig in Seattle the following year for the Dragons of the XFL, which was also short lived yet seemed to be in charge of an improving offensive unit before that league’s eventual implosion. Hopefully he can find a sweet spot in the USFL and get back to developing talent on a regular basis as he did in Oregon, on more than one occasion.
Michigan Panthers: Jeff Fisher
Ok so say what you want about Fisher but he was a member of the 85 Bears. Stuck with Buddy Ryan through his stint with the Eagles and then with Houston where he’d eventually take over the franchise through the move to Tennessee and beyond. In between he had a coffee with the LA Rams and 49ers, and eventually he’d be back with the Rams, this time in St. Louis before they made the move to head back to LA. I can’t think of anyone else that has coached on two different LA Rams teams, can you? He’s a defense oriented, run first coach who has seemed to always find some gems that are synonymous with the word, tough. He’s been out of coaching for a bit, but has stayed around the game, therefore I think he will fit right in with what the USFL is trying to build.
Well there it is… your kinda sorta power rankings for the USFL relaunch. Coming way too early, before any coach has even been given the chance to put their staff together, or even sign a single player. This is who we are, it’s what we do. Oh and by the way… It’s A Football World, we’re all just passing through.
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