Jim Zorn, Bob Stoops and their coaching peers have something on the line this season
The 2020 XFL season kicks off this weekend and thus the two years of anticipation will finally be over. We'll finally get to see how this relaunched version of the XFL will differ from the 2001 version that was a harsh failure. One reason why this new XFL has generated so much hype is because of the eight men who were hired to coach its member franchises. Part of the league's success will depend on how these coaches fare over the next 10 weeks. Here is what each head coach will need to prove as the season progresses.
Note: Coaches are listed in alphabetical order.
Kevin Gilbride needs to show that there is no rust after a six-year absence
Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck lured the two-time Super Bowl winner out of retirement to coach the New York Guardians. After much success as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the New York Giants (2006-13), Gilbride walked away from the game in 2014. And now he's tasked with not only making the XFL's second New York team a success, but he must also bring winning football back to The Big Apple. The game has changed since Gilbride last roamed the sidelines, and he must show that he can adapt to those changes in order to be successful again.
Pep Hamilton must become more than just a great offensive mind
Hamilton's 20-plus year resume as an offensive assistant and play-caller speaks for itself. But he'll be making his head coaching debut with the DC Defenders, and that will require a lot more of his attention. Hamilton is now in charge of an entire team, which means he'll have to game plan for both sides of the ball, have the final say on all game calls, and make the tough decisions. What helps Hamilton in this regard is that he's worked for some of the top coaches in the game in Jim Harbaugh, Chuck Pagano, David Shaw, Lovie Smith, and Herm Edwards. So he had a diverse pool of knowledge to pull from, which should ease his transition.
Jonathan Hayes needs to resurrect the St. Louis fanbase
Coaching the St. Louis BattleHawks just might be the toughest job in the XFL. Hayes' first priority will be to not only bring winning football back to The Gateway to the West, but he must also renew faith in a bitter fanbase that has been deserted by the NFL twice (Rams and Cardinals). Hayes knows that this is possible because he worked under Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2018. And during that time, the Bengals made seven playoff appearances after a 16-year postseason drought and renewed one of the most passionate fanbases in the process. Now Hayes must put that blueprint to use.
June Jones needs to have success on both sides of the ball
As coach of the Houston Roughnecks, Jones will no doubt produce a team that can score points. But it's the defense that will be a concern, as his recent teams haven't done so well when it comes to making stops. During his last two seasons at SMU (2013, '14), Jones' teams gave up 30 or more points in 11 of 22 games. In his most recent coaching stop with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL (2017-18), his team surrendered 745 total points in 30 games, getting worse as the season went on, and finished with a .500. With the 2020 XFL being full of offensive talent, Jones' return to Texas can be a triumphant one if his team can make some plays on defense.
Winston Moss must outcoach his opponents
The head coach of the Los Angeles Wildcats is the only defensive-minded head coach out of this group. He'll be challenged by some of the game's brightest offensive minds on a weekly basis, which could put him in some potential chess matches late in games. Defense is still an important part of this game. But with constant evolution of offenses, Moss will need his defensive unit to consistently adapt and adjust in order to keep up.
Bob Stoops has to prove that he can win at the pro level
After posting a 190-48 record with 12 conference championships at Oklahoma from 1999-2016, Stoops opted to retire from coaching. But somehow, the Dallas Renegades were able to convince Stoops to come out of retirement and give the professional ranks a try. As the most recognizable name among these eight coaches, Stoops will have the most pressure on him to produce results. If he can translate his collegiate success over to the XFL, then the Renegades will have a chance to win it all.
Marc Trestman hopes to find success as a head coach in an American-based league
That's the burning question that's being asked when it comes to the Tampa Bay Vipers. Trestman has been coaching since 1981 (NFL, CFL, NCAA), but this is the fourth head coaching job he's ever had and just the second head coaching position in a U.S.-based league. Trestman won three Grey Cups in the Canadian Football League (2009, 2010, 2017) with both the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts, but his run with the Chicago Bears (2013-14) is one that fans would like to forget. His outstanding resume as a play-caller and quarterback whisperer just couldn't get through to a Bears team that at the time was full of egos and bad attitudes.
Trestman posted a 13-19 record with the Bears, lost the locker room in the process, and was ousted after just two seasons. Trestman didn't really seem to fit in Chicago. But the XFL is giving him another chance to prove that he can succeed on this side of the Canadian border.
Jim Zorn needs to continue Seattle's winning tradition
Seahawks fans have been spoiled in the 21st century. The team has made 13 playoff appearances since 2003 (including five straight from 2012-16, and back-to-back in 2018 and '19), they've won 12 total championships during that stretch (Super Bowl XLVIII, three NFC Championships, eight NFC West crowns), and they haven't had a losing season since 2011. That will be a tough act to follow for Jim Zorn, as his Seattle Dragons will be the Seahawks' roommates at CenturyLink Field. History, however, will be on Zorn's side since he was the first starting quarterback in Seahawks history (1976-84) and guided them to their first set of playoff appearances (1983, '84). The fans in Seattle won't settle for anything less than success.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of XFL.com)