Sean Pendergast

Former Texans DC Wade Phillips Named Head Coach in 2023 XFL

Wade Phillips is back in coaching, once again, as he signs on with the XFL.
Wade Phillips is back in coaching, once again, as he signs on with the XFL. Photo by Marco Torres
As we strive to return to normalcy in what feels like the aftermath of COVID — no more variants, please! — we are reminded that the coronavirus robbed us of many things, and in Houston, it robbed us of the only undefeated professional football team we will probably be seeing in Houston for a long, long time. Indeed, just as COVID was shutting down the world in March, the XFL's Houston Roughnecks were dominating their league with a sparking 5-0 record.

COVID forced the league to close up shop for the season, and then owner Vince McMahon, best known for being CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, declared the league bankrupt and closed it seemingly for good. However, shortly after the bankruptcy declaration, the XFL was purchased by one of McMahon's former WWE employees, Hollywood megastar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, along with other investors.

Since then, Johnson has been adamant about how progressive and forward thinking the league will be when it relaunches in 2023, including an agreement with the NFL for the XFL to serve as sort of a "football petri dish" for ideas, concepts, and rules innovations. Now, with the spring of 2023 under a year away, the XFL is making more concrete announcements about the on field product, and on Wednesday morning, they revealed exactly who would be coaching the eight teams come 2023:

The XFL is excited to announce that it has selected eight highly qualified and well-respected head coaches for its 2023 season. The head coaches include leaders across collegiate and professional football, including Reggie Barlow, Anthony Becht, Terrell Buckley, Jim Haslett, Wade Phillips, Bob Stoops, Hines Ward and Rod Woodson. This group not only shares the XFL’s passion for sport and innovation, but brings the football pedigree, leadership experience and visionary outlook needed to play an active role in the building of the league and development of the players.

“Our head coaches are a diverse group of leaders, champions and hall of famers with experience competing and coaching at the highest level in football. Not only will they be mentors to our players, but they are also ambassadors of the XFL as we work together to build tomorrow’s league,” said Dany Garcia, Co-Owner and Chairwoman of the XFL. “What is most exciting about our talented coaches is that they all share our vision for the XFL and are committed to advancing the game of football for players and making it into a must-watch program for fans. The XFL is anchored in the belief of opportunity, and, just like our players, these football legends will drive the future of the game.”

“This is yet another huge moment for the XFL. I have experienced first-hand the positive influence and impact that coaches can have on a player’s life, and with our group of smart, accomplished and motivating head coaches, I expect nothing less. Not only will these coaches be mentors to our players, but they will be a big part of the cities in which we will operate. Stay tuned,” said Dwayne Johnson.
The press release was accompanied by this reveal on ESPN, courtesy fo Mike Greenberg:
Of the eight head coaches named, there are two that probably resonate with Houston Texans fans, each for entirely different reasons than the other. First, of course, there is Wade Phillips, who is essentially a descendent of Houston football royalty. The son of the late Bum Phillips, Wade is best known for being the architect of one of the greatest defensive turnarounds in recent NFL history, as he coordinated the Texans defenses from 2011 through 2013.

On Phillips' watch, the Texans went from last in defense in 2010 to a top vie unit in 2011. Here is Phillips' full bio, from the XFL website:
Wade Phillips was previously at the Los Angeles Rams, where he spent three seasons as the Defensive Coordinator. Over his 40-year career, he has coached at the college and pro-level with Oklahoma State, University of Kansas, the Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Los Angeles Rams.
As for which team each of the eight coaches will oversee, that has yet to be announced, but assuming that Houston is getting one of the eight franchises in the new iteration of the XFL (and it's been widely speculated that we will), it would stand to reason that Phillips would be its head coach. June Jones was the head coach of the Roughnecks, and he is not one of the coaches named in Wednesday's press release.

The other head coach that Texan fans recognize (for coaching reasons, not playing reasons) is Hines Ward. Back when the Texans were conducting their coaching search that ended with Lovie Smith taking over the Texans' reins. Ward was one of the candidates that was interviewed. Ward had no head coaching experience at the time, so this will be a chance to prove, on some level, he can handle those duties.

The biographies of all eight XFL head coaches can be found in the announcement on the XFL's website.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast