The Pittsburgh Steelers have been known for making big moves off the field. One of these moves includes two Steelers alumni in Rod Woodson and Hines Ward being selected as head coaches, not in the NFL, but the XFL. Both men had great careers as players, but neither one has had any head coaching experience. So how successful should we expect Ward and Woodson to be?
The XFL is a name that many of us have heard circulating over the years. The league was initially founded by wrestling executive Vince McMahon back in 1999, with its inaugural season and subsequently only season coming in 2001. In 2018, McMahon decided to give the league another try, keeping the same name, but seeing it as a revival and successor to its predecessor. After only five weeks of play in its inaugural 2020 season, the league’s operations slowly ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it filed for bankruptcy in April of that year. In early August of 2020, Dwayne Johnson purchased the XFL and is currently planning to have the inaugural season for the third installment of the league slated for 2023.
As part of the XFL’s reboot, eight head coaches have already been selected, including Woodson and Ward. The other six candidates have all had many years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional levels, putting both former Pittsburgh players behind the proverbial “eight ball.” That’s not to say that either of them has zero coaching experience as Ward has been an offensive assistant with the New York Jets and a wide receivers coach at Florida Atlantic University. Woodson worked as an assistant cornerback and defensive back coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, and the Oakland Raiders. Even though any experience is good experience, being the leader of a team is never as easy. Gaining the trust of the assistant coaches and the players is something that is earned. Luckily, Woodson and Ward have a long list of lifelines to call to give them some words of encouragement.
Steelers coaches can be used for guidance
Two names that immediately jump to mind are former Steelers head coach and Hall of Famer Bill Cowher, and Pittsburgh’s current head coach Mike Tomlin. Cowher may be a more relatable voice for Woodson and Ward for a few reasons. First, Cowher also played in the NFL during the 1980’s before he made the transition to coaching. Secondly, and probably more importantly, Cowher ended up coaching both Woodson and Ward during his 14-year tenure with the Steelers from 1992-2006. The bonds they forged through their time together should make it easier for Woodson and Ward to accept and understand some of the knowledge and teachings Cowher may instill in them. However, Tomlin is also a great source of inspiration and information. As Steeler Nation already knows, Tomlin has been at the helm for the last 15 years. In those 15 years, he has never had a losing record, which is also an NFL record for most non-losing seasons to begin a head coaching career. Tomlin also has a win percentage of 63% for his career. No matter if they speak to only one or both coaches, each of them is synonymous with winning on the biggest stage and being a good leader.
At the current moment, it’s going to be difficult to accurately determine the level of success for Woodson and Ward as there are still many questions that need to be answered. Which team will each of them be coaching? Who will be a part of their supporting cast as assistant coaches? Most importantly, what will each of their respective rosters look like? All those factors will remain a mystery until 2023, but we can still come to a solid conclusion. As players, Woodson and Ward dealt with large amounts of pressure and stressful situations, and both were leaders in the locker room. Having played for an organization known for its toughness through adversity, and being a pillar of stability, it won’t be surprising to see both coaches racking up wins in the XFL.
How successful do you believe Woodson and Ward will be? Who do you feel will have the better record? Be sure to tell us your thoughts down below.