Coaching A Strength of the XFL Reboot

Some familiar names will be on XFL sidelines

The Rock knows wrestling. He also knows a little something about football.

Dwayne Johnson, who played college football at Miami before embarking on his wrestling career, has resurrected the XFL as a spring league. It’s essentially a feeder league for the NFL, giving young players a chance to get on tape and be seen. The original XFL in 2001 served that purpose, sending Tommy Maddox, Mike Furrey, Paris Lenon and Rod Smart on to successful careers in the NFL.

For the XFL’s second go-round, Johnson has recruited coaches capable of identifying and developing talent. Bob Stoops won a national title at Oklahoma. He’s the coach of the Arlington Renegades. Wade Phillips isa a former NFL head coach with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys who won a Super Bowl ring as a defensive coordinator of the Broncos. He’s the coach of the Houston Roughnecks. Rod Woodson was a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back. He’s the coach of the Vegas Vipers.

But let’s focus on one team – the Seattle Sea Dragons. Their director of player personnel is a former NFL Executive of the Year, Randy Mueller. Their head coach is a former NFL Coach of the Year, Jim Haslett. Their offensive coordinator is another former NFL head coach, June Jones, and their defensive coordinator is a former Big Ten Coach of the Year, Ron Zook.

Randy Mueller served as an NFL general manager with both the New Orleans Saints (200-01) and Miami Dolphins (2005-07), winning NFL Executive of the Year honors in 2000. He knows what a player looks like.

Jim Haslett photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Haslett was a second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1979 who went on to become the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He spent nine seasons in the NFL, then went into coaching in 1988 with the Bills. He spent the 1990 decade as an NFL assistant before becoming the head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2000. He spent six seasons there, winning NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2000.

Jones spent five seasons as a backup quarterback with Atlanta in the late 1970s and went on to become head coach of the Falcons in 1984-85. He also served as a head coach in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as well as in college with Hawaii and SMU. He won bowl games at both schools and remains the all-time winningest coach in Hawaii history.

Zook served as a special-teams coordinator (Green Bay) and defensive coordinator (New Orleans) in the NFL as well as a head coach in college at both Florida and Illinois. At Florida, Zook teams handed Georgia its only loss in 2002 and LSU its only loss in 2003. At Illinois, he was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2007 when he took the Illini to its last Rose Bowl.

Football has been very good to Haslett, Jones, Zook and Mueller. The XFL gives them the chance to pay football back, to pay it forward.

“This was an opportunity to work with good football coaches and to help players fulfill their dreams,” Haslett said. “The timing of the league for the players to play and hopefully have a chance to go back to the NFL was perfect.”

The XFL opens its season this weekend with two games on Saturday and two on Sunday. The Seattle Sea Dragons play Sunday at the DC Defenders.

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