The AAF is bringing some familiar faces back to the sidelines for its inaugural season
The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is making waves on the American sports scene and they haven't played any games yet. In addition to their business strategy, television deal, and giving former NFL and NCAA stars a second chance, the AAF also has brought in some big-name coaches to run its franchises. Many of these names are familiar to football fans, while a couple are getting their first chances to be head coaches. There are also some high-profile assistant coaches on board.
Together these eight men have a combined 273 years of coaching experience in the NCAA, NFL and other professional leagues. Their names and accomplishments alone bring instant credibility to this upstart league. And on Feb. 9, they’ll be tasked with making the AAF a sustainable success. Here are the AAF’s head coaches (in alphabetical order) for its inaugural season.
AAF Head Coaches
Kevin Coyle, Atlanta Legends
Brad Childress was originally hired as the head coach of the Legends but he resigned before ever coaching a game. But the defensive-minded Coyle brings plenty of experience to the table despite being a first-time head coach. He's worked as a defensive assistant in both college and the pros since 1978. Helping Coyle out on defense will be Jen Welter, who made history in 2015 when she became the NFL’s first female coach while working with the Arizona Cardinals' defense that preseason.
Dennis Erickson, Salt Lake Stallions
The AAF managed to convince the 71-year-old to come out of his brief retirement (last worked as an assistant at the University of Utah in 2016) to run the Stallions. Erickson is practically coaching royalty as he has gone 219-152-1 as a head coach in both college (seven different teams) and the NFL (two). He won two national titles (1989, '91) when he was at the University of Miami and eight Coach of the Year awards. Now he hopes to add an AAF championship to his extensive resume.
Tim Lewis, Birmingham Iron
This former NFL defensive back is the other first-time head coach in the AAF. Lewis played three years in the NFL (1983-86) and then embarked on a coaching career that includes nearly 20 years in both the collegiate and professional ranks. The AAF isn’t a bad place to start building a head coaching resume. After all, every coach got their start somewhere.
Mike Martz, San Diego Fleet
The Fleet are fortunate to have landed one of the best offensive minds in the history of the game. Martz, 57, called the plays for the St. Louis Rams during “Greatest Show on Turf” era from 1999-2005 in which they won Super Bowl XXXIV, three NFC West titles, and made five straight playoff appearances. After the Rams, Martz was the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears before taking a break. Martz most recently has been working with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, one of college football’s annual all-star games.
Rick Neuheisel, Arizona Hotshots
A veteran of both the pro and college ranks, Neuheisel is known for his offensive background, particularly his work with quarterbacks. The 57-year-old is the embodiment of the term “quarterback whisperer” as he’s molded signal-callers such as Kordell Stewart, Marques Tuiasosopo, and the late Steve McNair, among others. Now he'll roam the sidelines for the Hotshots where he’ll look to groom a new generation of quarterbacks.
Mike Riley, San Antonio Commanders
While the Idaho native is widely known for his tenures at Oregon State (2003-14, 2008 Pac-10 Coach of the Year) and Nebraska (2015-17), Riley has 40-plus years of total coaching experience between the collegiate ranks, the NFL, the Canadian Football League (won two Grey Cups), and even the World League of American Football. This time around it’s the Commanders who plan to use Riley’s knowledge and experience to help get their franchise off the ground.
Mike Singletary, Memphis Express
We all know about “Samurai Mike’s” Hall of Fame career as a linebacker (1981-92), but some might not be aware of the coaching resume that he’s built over the last 16 years. His only previous head coaching experience was his brief tenure with the San Francisco 49ers (2008-10, prior to he was the assistant head coach under Mike Nolan from '05-2008) where he compiled an 18-22 record. But in addition to that, Singletary has served as a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens (2003-04), Minnesota Vikings (2011-13), and the Los Angeles Rams (2016). Now the AAF is giving him the chance to be a head coach again, this time with the Express.
Steve Spurrier, Orlando Apollos
At 73 years young, the "Ol' Ball Coach" is giving it another shot on the sidelines. He returns to familiar surroundings where he made his name as both a player and coach. His offenses tend to put quite a few points on the board and he’s developed some quarterbacks himself. With an overall win-loss record of 275-130-2, a national title (1996 at Florida) and plenty of other accomplishments to his credit, Spurrier should find success sooner rather than later with the Apollos.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
Photos courtesy of AAF.