I hope everybody can agree on one thing; great quarterback play matters. Especially in start-up football leagues. In the recent case of the Alliance of American Football, Garrett Gilbert and John Wolford shined, and made their teams extremely fun to watch. And if the XFL wants to succeed, they will have to secure solid quarterbacks with real NFL game experience, not just ones that have been on a few practice squads.
Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck understand this concept, shown by their announcement of the league signing 8 “Tier 1” quarterbacks, to be paid about $250,000 for the season. Their recent signing of former University of Oklahoma star, and Pittsburgh Steelers backup, Landry Jones, has sparked a tremendous amount of discourse and debate among fans. The conversations range from “Who will be the other 7 quarterbacks signed” to “How will they decide which quarterback plays for which team.”
Truly, I would be absolutely shocked if Landry Jones does not suit up for the Dallas Renegades and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. This familiar pairing gave me a lot of food for thought. I started to wonder if all the other XFL head coaches could get Quarterbacks they were familiar with. And through this article, you will see a lot of research come out, and the conclusion was extremely interesting to me for the future of the league. Without anymore introduction, here is my analysis and opinions.St. Louis Battlehawks
Head Coach: Jonathon Hayes
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Meacham
Jonathon Hayes was the Bengals Tight End’s coach and Assistant Head Coach for the Cincinnati Bengals for the last several years. Offensive Coordinator Doug Meacham was most recently the University of Kansas OC before being fired following the 2018 season. It’s hard to predict the type of offense that will be run, but I would assume they will run a Big 12 style air raid, with a bit of West Coast style mixed in. The Battlehawks don’t have very many intriguing options that Hayes would be familiar with, but there is somebody flying under the radar in XFL fan circles.
University of Alabama 2010-2013
Cincinnati Bengals 2014-2017 (5th Round pick)
Buffalo Bills 2018
Oakland Raiders 2018
Houston Texans 2019
AJ McCarron was a superstar at Alabama, winning 2 national titles under Head Coach Nick Saban. Going into the 2015 NFL Draft, McCarron was viewed as a long-term project but someone with a lot of potential. He backed up Andy Dalton for several years, and at one point, Bengal fans even chanted for McCarron to be put in instead of Dalton. Last season, McCarron signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills to complete for starting job, and perhaps be a bridge quarterback to current Bills QB Josh Allen. Unfortunately for McCarron, he suffered a misdiagnosed collarbone injury, forcing him to miss the last few weeks of camp, and ultimately lose the starting quarterback battle.
McCarron was signed by the Houston Texans in the offseason, but I believe he might be cut before the season begins. He probably would get some interest from other teams, but I believe the best option for him may be to play in the XFL. He needs reps, and he would easily be one of the top tier quarterbacks. As well as the fact that he would have the opportunity to play for a familiar coach. It looks like he will make the 53 man roster in Houston, but if he gets waived later in the season, I would fully expect Oliver Luck to pursue him.
Players to keep an eye on: Josh Johnson, Sam Bradford
Head Coach: June Jones
Offensive Coordinator: Chris Miller
June Jones has a very long coaching career, you may recognize him from his famous Hawaiian shirts on the sideline at the University of Hawaii while running an explosive offense with Colt Brennan at the helm. Most recently, he was with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Chris Miller was the quarterbacks coach for the Arizona Cardinals from 2009-2012. I am assuming the XFL will be looking for younger players, so I don’t think Chris Miller would be familiar with an XFL quarterback. However, there are a few extremely intriguing options for the Roughnecks.
Texas A&M University: 2012-2013
Cleveland Browns (1st round): 2014-2015
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 2018
Montreal Alouettes: 2018
Memphis Express: 2019
I have to start by saying I am a little bias when it comes to Johnny Football. He is my favorite college football player of all time, and I want to see him succeed professionally very badly. However, this match seems made to be. Manziel is from the Houston area, and definitely has a large fanbase in that area of Texas. More importantly, June Jones was the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when Manziel was signed, so he clearly is intrigued by Manziel’s talent.
I really hope Manziel to the Roughnecks happens, one can only dream of what he could do in Jones’ high powered offense. Recently, Manziel has expressed interest in playing for the XFL, and it would obviously be a ratings boost for the league. He flashed at times in the Alliance of American Football, playing for the Memphis Express, but other times looked a little lost. But to be fair, he joined the team very late in the failed leagues shortened season. As a Manziel fan, and just pure football fan, I really hope this pairing of June Jones and Johnny Football happens.
Players to keep an eye on: Garrett Gilbert, Brian Hoyer
Head Coach: Pep Hamilton
Offensive Coordinator: Tanner Engstrand
Pep Hamilton comes to DC with a wealth of offensive knowledge. Most recently, he was the Offensive Coordinator under Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan. But previously, he was the Offensive Coordintor with the Indianapolis Colts, as well as the Quarterbacks Coach with the Cleveland Browns. There are plenty of familiar options for Hamilton to build his franchise around, but I tried to pick the most realistic player.
Cody Kessler was a great quarterback in college at USC, and was a third round selection by Cleveland Browns. Pep Hamilton was his quarterbacks coach there, so there would be lots of familiarity between the twp. I think Kessler would be great for the XFL, he is still very young (26), and I think he is a classic case of needing reps. He started 4 games with the Jaguars last season, with pretty abysmal numbers. And this training camp, he was unable to make an NFL roster. I believe if he were to go to the XFL and play for a familiar coach, he might be able to prove to NFL teams that he still has some untapped potential. And perhaps he would enjoy playing as a starter and being one of the faces of the league. The Stoops/Jones pairing has been getting a lot of buzz, but I think a Hamilton/Kessler duo could easily be the best in the league.
Players to keep an eye on: Wilton Speight, Robert Griffin III
New York Guardians
Head Coach: Kevin Gilbride
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Gilbride
Kevin Gilbride hasn’t coached since 2013, so there really aren’t any quarterbacks that he would be familiar with. I think its possible New York could be a landing spot for a Paxton Lynch or Brock Osweiler. With New York being such a huge market, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Guardians got a big name to draw the interest of a big fan-base.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Head Coach: Marc Trestman
Offensive Coordinator: Jaime Elizondo
Tampa Bay is somewhat similar to New York, with Marc Trestman not coaching in America since 2016. He has spent the last few year with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, but I don’t see any of those quarterbacks coming to the XFL. Two draft possibilities are Ryan Mallett and David Fales, who Trestman has previously worked with in the NFL. However, neither of these players would be Tier 1 QB’s.
Like with New York, this could be a landing spot for Paxton Lynch or Brock Osweiler. I also think Tampa Bay might be a great place for EJ Manuel, since he played college football in Tallahassee with Florida State. He is currently retired and working as an analyst for the ACC Network, but if he still desires to play football, the Vipers might be a great landing spot.
Los Angeles Wildcats
Head Coach: Winston Moss
Offensive Coordinator: Norm Chow
I could very easily copy and paste my description for New York here, as there are really no familiar options for them at quarterback. However, Norm Chow has worked for the Los Angeles Chargers in the past, and is good friends with Philip Rivers. Now obviously Rivers will not be coming to the XFL, but the Chargers did just recently cut his backup in Cardale Jones. I think he would be a perfect fit here, and I would be very surprised if there wasn’t mutual interest. There were reports earlier in the week that Norm Chow was at the Chargers practice, and was seen talking to some of the quarterbacks. This is definitely a situation to keep an eye on, we could see a Cardale Jones signing sooner rather than later.
Head Coach: Jim Zorn
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Riley
Jim Zorn doesn’t have any recent experience coaching, so there are no possible quarterbacks he would be familiar with, but Offensive Coordinator Mike Riley might. He was most recently the head coach of the San Antonio Commanders in the Alliance of American Football, where his starting quarterback was Logan Woodside. I don’t think he is quite the quality of the player Oliver Luck is searching for in his tier 1 quarterbacks, but he could be a possible draft candidate, and might be able to compete for the starting job in Seattle. Paxton Lynch has also been rumored here, as he spent training camp in Seattle with the Seahawks. Geno Smith was also a possibility, but he was just recently signed as Russell Wilson’s backup. This will be a situation worth following as XFL signings start to ramp up with NFL cuts being made.