In the football coaching profession, networking is critically important. Taking time out to introduce yourself to a colleague at a high-school coaching clinic could, years down the line, lead to a job in the college or professional ranks.
This fraternity of coaches was at play when each XFL Head Coach and General Manager was assembling his staff. It was likely difficult enough attracting experienced leaders of men to a start-up football league after the Alliance of American Football had flamed out in such spectacular fashion; then take into account trying to put together a staff of assistants after most college and NFL teams had already set theirs for the upcoming year.
In Tampa Bay, Head Coach and GM Marc Trestman drew from many of his stops to hire assistants. He took advantage of his knowledge of the Canadian Football League and shopped there, the next-best place to find assistants after Division I college and the NFL.
Below I’ve taken a deep dive into Trestman and his assistants hired thus far, to see where their paths have crossed. I’ve also attempted to cross-reference their coaching stops with names listed from the XFL Summers Showcases.
While not always the case, familiarity can be helpful when building a team from scratch. Some of the player names that appear across multiple coaching stops would be something to file away for when XFL contracts are handed out and the XFL Draft commences in October.
Head Coach: Marc Trestman: The offensive mad scientist will attempt to outwit fellow outside-the-box offensive minds like June Jones and Kevin Gilbride in the XFL. Trestman’s travels have taken him from the college ranks (University of Miami and North Carolina State) to the NFL (five offensive coordinator jobs and head coach of the Chicago Bears) to the CFL (head coach of Montreal and Toronto).
Much of his staff in Tampa Bay comes from the Great White North. His quarterbacks coach, Josh Neiswander, was a player for him when Trestman was head coach in Montreal. Running backs coach Josh Moore served that same position with Trestman in Toronto and was his assistant head coach with the Bears in 2014.
Offensive line coach Jonathan Himebauch worked under Trestman in both Montreal and Toronto. Offensive assistant Justin Poindexter and linebackers coach Mike Archer both coached with Trestman in Toronto. And offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo was an assistant for Trestman in Montreal in 2008.
Interestingly, all of Trestman’s offensive assistants in Tampa have a connection to him, while only one defensive assistant does. Clearly, he knows offense will be key in the XFL and hired those already familiar with his concepts.
One player connection that has already been made is QB Ryan Mallett, who was in Baltimore when Trestman was offensive coordinator there in 2015 and 2016. While Mallett was a backup, he had the best completion percentage of his career and best passer rating (in a year with more than 16 pass attempts) in 2015.
Trestman also crossed paths with XFL tryout players S Will Hill, S Matt Elam and WR Chuck Jacobs while in Baltimore. As head coach in Chicago, Trestman coached RB Mike Ford, FB Tony Fiammetta, LB Khaseem Greene, DT Will Sutton and WR Rashad Lawrence.
Will Trestman feature a fullback in his XFL offense? While in the NFL, he had access to Fiammetta, more of a blocker, in Chicago. In Baltimore, he had do-it-all Kyle Juszczyk. While NFL offenses are making that position extinct, Trestman has a history of utilizing it in different ways.
Moving north, in Toronto, Trestman was a part of Argonauts teams that featured LB Khalil Bass, S Marcus Ball, LB Terrance Plummer, G Brandon Washington, DE Rakim Cox, WR Dexter McCluster, and QB Greg McGhee.
Offensive Coordinator: Jamie Elizondo: Elizondo started his career as an assistant with Montreal of the CFL in 2008, soon after his playing career ended. He had a couple of short stints in college with Syracuse (WR coach) and Columbia (OC/QB coach). He was last offensive coordinator for the Ottawa Redblacks.
Tampa Bay has yet to announce a wide receivers or tight ends coach. Those positions could be filled internally, with Elizondo a candidate to coach WRs in addition to his coordinator duties. Despite coaching for three different CFL teams, Elizondo’s path has not crossed anyone else on the Tampa Bay staff besides Trestman.
His connection with Summer Showcase players is nearly as sparse: He was a coach in Ottawa when LB Khalil Bass was on the roster in 2017, and when LB Quentin Gause played for them in 2018.
Defensive Coordinator: Jerry Glanville: The man in black returns to pro football in the states for the first time since he was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 1993 (not counting a stint for the Hartford Colonials in the UFL in 2011, where the team folded before he could coach a game).
Glanville began his coaching sojourn at Western Kentucky in 1967. Most recently, he had returned to the game after nine years away, becoming the defensive coordinator of the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2018. Glanville was able to pluck DBs coach William Fields from that same Hamilton staff, bringing him along to Tampa. Special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. was also in Hamilton and is now a part of Trestman’s Tampa staff.
LB Khalil Bass is a name that pops up quite a bit throughout these coaching stops, and while he never played for Glanville, he interestingly attended Portland State after Glanville was head coach there from 2007-2009. Small school…small world.
WR Rashad Lawrence, LB Lucas Wacha, and FB Nikita Whitlock were on Hamilton’s roster in 2018 while Glanville coached there. Because Glanville is on the defensive side, his connection to Wacha, a linebacker, may matter a little more for this exercise than the offensive players. But I thought it was worth noting.
Special Teams Coordinator: Frank Gansz Jr.: Junior followed his father into coaching special teams, as Frank Gansz Sr. worked in the NFL for almost 25 years. Gansz Jr. attended The Citadel and coached at the US Military Academy beginning in 1990. He was special teams coach for the NY/NJ Knights of the World League in 1992-1993, which was the precursor to NFL Europe.
He coached special teams in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders (1998-2000), Kansas City Chiefs (2001-2006), and Baltimore Ravens (2006-2008). He’s also coached elsewhere at the college level with the University of Houston, UCLA, and SMU. Gansz Jr. coached tight ends for five years in Houston, which makes it possible that he could coach tight ends in Tampa in addition to his special teams duties.
Like most others on the staff, Gansz Jr. also coached in the CFL, but only one year, with Hamilton in 2018, where he coached with Fields and Glanville. In addition to those players listed with Glanville in Hamilton, Gansz Jr. coached at SMU while DE Taylor Reed was there, and at UCLA while S Rahim Moore was a player. Perhaps the most useful connection is that he was special teams coach at UCLA while Jeff Locke played. His work with Locke got the punter drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Quarterbacks Coach: Josh Neiswander: Neiswander has the thinnest coaching CV of anyone on Marc Trestman’s first XFL staff. He played quarterback at Angelo State college, then later with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL from 2011-2013. I couldn’t find any record of collegiate or professional coaching experience for Neiswander after his playing career ended.
Neiswander played for Trestman when Trestman was head coach of Montreal in 2011 and while Jonathan Himebauch was the offensive line coach there.
Running Backs Coach: Josh Moore: Another veteran of the CFL coaching ranks, Moore comes to Tampa having last been Toronto’s RBs coach for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He has worn many hats in the coaching game, from college recruiting coordinator, running backs coach, and tight ends coach, to high-school offensive coordinator, to pro assistant to the head coach and RBs coach.
Moore crossed paths with offensive assistant Justin Poindexter and linebackers coach Mike Archer while in Toronto. He was RBs coach for Trestman there, following him from the Chicago Bears, where Moore was the assistant to the head coach in 2014. Moore has many of the players in common with those listed under Trestman from their time together.
Offensive Line Coach: Jonathan Himebauch: This has to be a little strange for Himebauch, who played in the only season of the original XFL back in 2001 for the champion Los Angeles Xtreme. Since then, coach Himebauch has bounced from college to the CFL and earlier this year, to the AAF.
The one constant has been his job as offensive line coach, aside from a high-school stop-over in 2005 as head coach. He coached under Trestman in both Montreal and Toronto, assisting him along with the others previously mentioned.
Himebauch saw a lot of familiar faces at the Summer Showcases. He coached at Wake Forest when FB Nikita Whitlock played there in 2012-2013. While in Edmonton in 2014, he was joined by RB Kendial Lawrence, S Dexter McCoil, and S Robert Sands. Add in the players who also played for Trestman, et. al. in Toronto in ’17-18.
Then you have the AAF alum, many of whom were invited to the Showcases. It’s a long list of San Antonio Commanders, the team for which Himebauch coached. In the interest of brevity, I’ll note specifically the offensive linemen, since those would be whom Himebauch would be most familiar: C Dillon DeBoer, C Brian Folkerts, OT Fred Lauina, OT Andrew McDonald, G Cyril Richardson, and OT Maea Teuhema.
Offensive Assistant: Justin Poindexter: A graduate of Howard University, Poindexter began coaching in 2010 at Gonzaga High-School. He moved on to become a tight ends coach and assistant offensive line coach, a recruiting assistant, a game charter for the Cleveland Browns, and a defensive quality control coach. He too could have a hand in coaching the tight ends. Poindexter was set to become Toronto’s running backs coach this year before being hired by Trestman for the XFL.
While at Howard, QB Greg McGhee played there. They’d meet up again when Poindexter was in Toronto with the Argonauts. He coached at Southern University where DE Aaron Tiller, DT Trae Tiller, WR Willie Quinn, RB Lenard Tillery, and TE Dillon Beard played. Poindexter was a recruiting assistant at Northwestern while DT Jordan Thompson and WR Flynn Nagle plied their craft.
In Cleveland with the Browns, he was familiar with CB Trey Caldwell, WR Rannell Hall, RB Raijon Neal, S Rahim Moore, LB Scooby Wright, TE Connor Hamlett, WR Matt Hazel, CB Najee Murray, and WR Kasen Williams over the course of two seasons.
Defensive Line Coach: Lawrence Hill: Not much is known about Hill. He was a high-school head coach at one time, as well as West Texas A&M defensive line coach. We may have to wait for the Tampa Bay media guide to come out to learn more.
Linebackers Coach: Michael Archer: Archer has spent a lot of his coaching career in the college game. He was a linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for seven years from 1996-2002, when the Steelers had some phenomenal talent at that position like Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Joey Porter, Mike Vrabel, and Jason Gildon.
Archer was brought to the CFL in 2017 to be a part of Marc Trestman’s staff in Toronto. He was promoted to defensive coordinator from linebackers coach for the 2018 season. He has spent a number of years as a defensive coordinator in college, as well as assistant head coach and safeties coach.
In addition to the usual suspects he coached, along with others aforementioned in Toronto, he crossed paths with WR Tobias Palmer while at North Carolina State in 2011 and 2012. He was at Virginia when DT David Dean was there in 2014 and 2015.
Defensive Backs Coach: William Fields: Fields not only coached in the CFL, but he played there as well. He started as a pro scout for the B.C. Lions, then moved into the high-school and college ranks. He came back to B.C. in 2014, then jumped to Montreal, Hamilton, and finally Edmonton. At most of those stops, he was an assistant DBs coach, whereas in Tampa he’ll be leading the room.
In 2015, he was coaching DBs as well as defensive quality control in B.C. when RB Timothy Flanders and QB Greg McGhee were on the roster. When he moved to Montreal in 2016, he worked with CB Khalid Wooten. In Hamilton in 2017, Fields encountered S Will Hill, DE Ryan Mueller, DT Jason Neill, FB Nikita Whitlock, and Wooten again. Whitlock, Wooten, WR Rashad Lawrence, and LB Lucas Wacha were part of the Hamilton roster in 2018 with Fields as assistant DBs/special teams coach.
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Darren Krein: No member of Marc Trestman’s Tampa coaching staff has more NFL coaching experience than Krein. He has been an assistant or head strength and conditioning coach in the league since 1997, save for the year 2000. During that time, he coached RB Marcus Thigpen, LB Josh Kaddu, OT Andrew McDonald and RB Jonas Gray in Miami in 2012, then Thigpen and Kaddu there again in 2013.
Sticking with Miami, WR Matt Hazel and WR L’Damian Washington were roster members in 2014, with Hazel and LB Jeff Luc a part of the team in 2015. Krein moved to Indianapolis where he coached DE Kristjan Sokoli, LB Antonio Morrison, and LB Deiontrez Mount in 2016, then RB Matt Jones, Morrison, RB Christine Michael, and G Isaiah Williams in 2017.
Just because coaches are familiar with players doesn’t mean they’re an automatic fit. But we’ve seen that in building a staff, Marc Trestman prefers an air of familiarity, mixed with new faces. So if names like QB Greg McGhee, FB Nikita Whitlock, LB Khalil Bass, WR Rashad Lawrence or others who pop up frequently in this column end up in Tampa’s camp this fall, you’ll know why – I’ve connected the dots for you.
Greg Parks is a columnist for Pro Wrestling Torch (pwtorch.com). He covers the XFL and the Tampa Bay Vipers for XFLBoard.com. He has written extensively about the XFL. He resides in Naples, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks.