XFL Houston 2023 Coaching Staff and Director of Player Personnel Allocation

A few weeks ago, the XFL officially announced the hiring of staff for the league’s eight head coaches and their teams. While some are familiar faces of 2020, others are getting their first taste of a big opportunity. For the city of Houston, the XFL proved to be a breath of fresh air when it arrived a few years ago.

The Roughnecks went undefeated in five games before the pandemic and were a big hit in the spring football world. While many fans wish it had lasted longer, they’ll just have to wait a few months before a franchise returns to town. It’s still unclear whether or not the Roughnecks name will be retained, but what matters right now is who will control operations and make key decisions towards another dominant race.

With the Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator and Director of Player Personnel now in place, let’s dig deeper into their backgrounds and stories.

Head Coach: Wade Phillips

Photo Credit: Laundress Report

Phillips is a familiar face in the Houston area, and even more familiar to any football fan over the past 40 or 50 years. Having attended the University of Houston, Phillips began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UH. He rose through the ranks and eventually landed his first defensive coordinator gig (at the professional level) with the New Orleans Saints in 1981. He first became a head coach in 1993, after being promoted to defensive coordinator. role with the Denver Broncos.

For the rest of his career, he bounced between positions for several NFL teams. Perhaps his most successful season came in 2015, when he returned to the Broncos as defensive coordinator. The team won Super Bowl 50, thanks to a strong performance from linebacker Von Miller. Phillips was named the AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year for his efforts, a well-deserved honor after all his years in football.

Most recently, Phillips served as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams from 2017-19, also helping guide that team to a Super Bowl appearance. Overall, the XFL was successful in hiring Phillips, as he will be immediately recognized by most fans and players. Plus, he’s a great representation of Houston as a whole, having spent most of his early years in and around the city. From a strictly coaching standpoint, Phillips brings a lot of valuable knowledge and experience to the XFL, and it’s not outrageous to say he’s the best coach in the league (with a lot to prove, though). sure).

Offensive Coordinator: AJ Smith

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For those who have followed the XFL in 2020, Smith should be a household name. He was a receivers coach for the Roughnecks and is now back in Houston with an expanded role. The move from position coach to coordinator is quite significant, but Smith is more than ready. The Roughnecks’ receiving core was one of the brightest points on the entire team and always had to be on their ‘A’ game in June Jones’ run-and-shoot system.

Although Smith has served as an offensive coordinator in the past, this will only be the second time he has done so at the professional level. Considering he’s only 33, this feat becomes even more impressive, but that doesn’t mean he lacks experience. In his early years, Smith played quarterback in high school, breaking Louisiana and Mississippi records for passing yards in a championship game. At one point, he was mentored by current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson.

After his first go-around with the Roughnecks, Smith was an offensive coordinator in the Spring League, helping head coach Jerry Glanville and the Conquerors to a No. 1 overall offensive rating and highest QBR among all passers in the league. His most recent job was as offensive coordinator at Tyler Junior College, where he led the team to another No. 1 offensive ranking, this time nationally.

General quarterback Booty recorded an SWC record 8 touchdown passes in a single game and recently committed to Oklahoma. Smith had a great resume before his first stint in the XFL and has only improved since. Now, he will occupy the same position as the coach he played under (June Jones), a unique part of the growing history of the XFL. Smith’s offense should be fun and fast, with a lot of similarities to the 2020 team. This might be the part fans really connect with, and it couldn’t happen soon enough for some.

Defensive Coordinator: Brian Stewart

Photo credit: 247 Sports

Stewart has a long history as a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, doing so in college and in the NFL. Stewart and Wade Phillips have a history together, being on the same staff with the Chargers and Cowboys. Simply put, Stewart already knows what Phillips wants and the two should work well together.

While the previous XFL team in Houston focused more on offense, the second iteration might be more defensive with someone like Stewart in command of the unit. Stewart’s best coaching successes came during his time at Syracuse and Maryland (first stint), with Phillips’ influence sandwiched between the two.

Most recently, Stewart was the defensive coordinator at Maryland, where he previously spent three seasons (2012-2014) in the same position. While he may not have the same recognition as other defensive coordinators in the league (Jay Hayes and Gregg Williams – I’m looking at you), this hire is just as important as any because of the previous connection with Phillips. One-on-ones in practice between defensive backs and wide receivers should be a real treat, and hopefully that translates well into in-game action.

Director of Player Personnel: Marc Lillibridge

Photo Credit: Cyclone Fanatical

Lillibridge has been in the scouting departments for NFL, NFL Europe, CFL, XFL (1.0) and AFL teams. He was the former assistant manager of personnel for the Green Bay Packers, a position he held for more than four years. Later in his career, Lillibridge began a transition into the media, becoming a writer at Bleacher Report and a radio host for ESPN.

Most recently, he coached linebackers and long snappers at Washington University in St. Louis, assisting the special teams unit. Lillibridge was a football player himself at Iowa State and has since made an impact in almost every corner of the game. It’s clear that this is not just Lillibridge’s passion, but something that he really understands.

Given their wide variety of backgrounds, Lillibridge is expected to play a pivotal role when it comes to finding talented players and managing the overall roster. He rounds out a team full of incredibly smart individuals, all of whom should help put Houston back where they were just over two years ago.