As the 2023 USFL season continues to draw near, our attention turns to the head coaches who will lead these eight teams. Only one squad can be crowned the champion, and only one head coach will get the credit. So let’s take a look at the head coaches that will lead the eight USFL teams this year.
List of USFL Head Coaches
Birmingham Stallions | Skip Holtz
A famous family name and a lot to live up to. Skip Holtz certainly has done just that, helming four university football programs over the last three decades. He became head coach and general manager of the Birmingham Stallions last year, which was somewhat of a coup for the long-dormant USFL.
He guided the Stallions to a 9-1 regular-season record and a playoff sweep to claim the league’s title. Their only defeat? A 17-15 loss to the 1-7 Houston Bandits after they failed to convert in the fourth quarter when they were second-and-goal from Houston’s 2-yard line.
Houston Gamblers | Curtis Johnson
The first player I ever drafted in a fantasy football league was Marshall Faulk. Years before, Curtis Johnson recruited him to play at San Diego State University. Johnson gained notoriety as the wide receivers coach for a decade at the University of Miami, where he mentored future NFL stars like Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, and Santana Moss while also winning a national title.
Memphis Showboats | Todd Haley
Todd Haley never played college football. But he learned a great deal as a ball boy for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where his father was the director of player personnel. Haley has made a name for himself in the NFL as head coach of the Jamaal Charles-led Kansas City Chiefs. Notably, he was also the offensive coordinator of the Steelers, during which time the team increased its scoring output in all but one successive season.
Michigan Panthers | Mike Nolan
Mike Nolan knows football. He’s been coaching it for more than 40 years, including as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2005 to 2008. He came in to replace Dennis Erickson, whose Niners went 2-14 in 2004.
In that first year with the 49ers, Nolan coached rookies Frank Gore and Alex Smith. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, Smith struggled to acclimate and missed the entire 2008 season with a shoulder injury. The second QB taken in that draft, Aaron Rodgers, went on to become … well, Aaron Rodgers. Nolan’s NFL coaching career could have been very different.
New Jersey Generals | Mike Riley
The dean of the USFL head coaches, at least in terms of age, Mike Riley has seen it all. The former standout high school quarterback landed at the University of Alabama, switching to defensive back under the tutelage of legendary head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Generals mark Riley’s 14th coaching destination since 1975. He coached this team to a 9-1 record last season before losing in the semifinals.
New Orleans Breakers | John DeFilippo
The youngest USFL head coach, John DeFilippo is making his debut atop the coaching hierarchy of a sports team. He spent the last decade primarily as the offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach of various NFL teams. In fact, he’s been a coach for 25% of all 32 NFL teams.
No doubt, his specialty is at quarterback, which he played while at James Madison University. He also achieved deserved notoriety as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach during the season when they won Super Bowl LII.
Philadelphia Stars | Bart Andrus
Bart Andrus jumped into coaching right after wrapping up his collegiate football career. Barely 23 years old when he landed the top job at St. Patrick High School in California, he pivoted to college coaching soon after and then landed with the Tennessee Oilers (the precursor to the NFL’s Titans) while still in his 20s.
MORE: USFL 2023 TV Schedule
For a while last year, it looked like Andrus’ standing as head coach of the Philadelphia Stars might be tenuous. They started 2-3, and a late goal-line stand vs. Tampa Bay likely kept them from falling to 2-4. Their remarkable second-half turnaround led to a trip to the finals, where they came three points shy of upsetting 9-1 Birmingham.
Pittsburgh Maulers | Ray Horton
Ray Horton made a name for himself as a star cornerback and special teams player at the University of Washington. In 1983, he was drafted No. 53 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, as well as No. 25 overall by the USFL’s Los Angeles Express — the first collegiate draft of the newly formed league.
After a successful NFL playing career, Horton switched to coaching, bouncing around the NFL ranks for 15 years before the Pittsburgh Maulers hired him ahead of their 2023 season. This marks his first head coaching job.