With the 2023 USFL season just days away, head coaches and players are vying to be the team that hoists the USFL Championship Trophy come July. The field of head coaches leading their teams into battle for the title, however, bears many differences from last season.
Of the eight head coaches taking the field this USFL season, four will be making their debut. The Michigan Panthers, Pittsburgh Maulers, New Orleans Breakers and Houston Gamblers have new head coaches for the 2023 season, all of which possess a wealth of NFL coaching experience.
See below to get acquainted with each of the USFL’s head coaches for the 2023 season.
RELATED: 2023 USFL Opening Schedule – How to watch this weekend’s spring football games
Who are the new coaches in the 2023 NFL season?
There are four new head coaches in the USFL this season – Mike Nolan (Michigan Panthers), Ray Horton (Pittsburgh Maulers), John DeFilippo (New Orleans Breakers), and Curtis Johnson (Houston Gamblers).
USFL North Division Head Coaches
Mike Nolan – Michigan Panthers
Mike Nolan joins the Michigan Panthers for the 2023 season as just the third USFL coach to have head coaching experience in the NFL. Nolan led the charge in the San Francisco from 2005-2008, compiling an 18-37 record in his time in the Bay.
Regardless of his years as a head coach, Nolan spent the bulk of his NFL time as a defensive coordinator. The 63-year-old received the opportunity to coach some of the greatest defensive players the league has ever seen, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis.
Nolan’s most recent stint as a defensive coordinator came with the Cowboys in 2020. Now, he joins the pack of USFL head coaches with hopes of reviving the Panthers from their 2-8 season in 2022.
RELATED: Panthers’ RB Reggie Corbin talks faith, fortitude and football
Mike Riley – New Jersey Generals
Mike Riley and his New Jersey Generals will be seeking redemption in the 2023 season after a thrilling 9-1 campaign last year was demolished by a stunning playoff loss to the Philadelphia Stars.
The effort made in the regular season, however, rose above the crop of USFL head coaches. His performance was enough to earn Riley the 2022 USFL Coach of the Year honors, speaking to the excellence that the coach has displayed throughout his career.
Riley joined the Generals with many years of head coaching experience, including a tenure with the San Diego Chargers. Riley was the San Diego Chargers head coach from 1999-2001, in which he compiled a 14-34 record. In addition to his NFL days, Riley also led teams at Oregon State (1997-98, 2003-14) and Nebraska (2015-17).
RELATED: Generals’ Darius Victor talks leadership role and life changes
In Riley’s time at Nebraska, he led the Cornhuskers to their highest ranking in the College Football playoff poll (10th) and to the program’s highest AP ranking (No. 7) in six seasons.
With an abundance of coaching savvy in his back pocket, Riley will now look to drive his group to back-to-back USFL Championships.
Ray Horton – Pittsburgh Maulers
The new guy running the show for the Pittsburgh Maulers not only has sufficient experience, but the Super Bowl rings to back it up. Before entering the coaching realm, Ray Horton had a 10-year career in the NFL as a defensive back. He was a member of the 1993 Dallas Cowboys group that steamrolled the Buffalo Bills in a 52-17 triumph to claim his first Super Bowl ring.
His other rings would come on the sidelines in his time as the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary coach (2004-10). The Steel City claimed victories in Super Bowl XL and XLIII, under the leadership of head coaches Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin.
Since his stint with the Steelers, Horton saw time as a defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans. He last worked for the Washington Commanders as a defensive backs coach in 2019.
13 years after leaving Pittsburgh, however, Horton now returns, looking to bring more championship football to the Steel City.
RELATED: USFL players, coaches believe ‘we’re all here for a reason’
Bart Andrus – Philadelphia Stars
Bart Andrus is entering his second year with the Philadelphia Stars. Before Andrus was the leading man in Philly, however, he ventured on a coaching path that included high school, college and professional football achievements.
Andrus initially began his coaching career in 1981 at St. Patrick High School in California. He received his first college coaching opportunity at Humboldt State, taking over as the program’s offensive coordinator in 1986. This position ultimately lead to other OC stints at Montana State and Southern Utah, setting him up for his first go at NFL coaching.
Andrus was hired by the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach, staying on with the team through 1999. It was in that 1999 season when the Oilers made the official transition to become the Titans.
RELATED: 2023 USFL rule changes: forward fumbles, emergency QBs and more
After his time in the league, Andrus took his coaching talents to an international scale, becoming the offensive coordinator and an eventual head coach for NFL Europe. He spent eight years as the head coach for the Amsterdam Admirals, notching two winning seasons before eventually joining the group of USFL head coaches.
Now, Andrus embarks on his second season in Philadelphia, as the Stars attempt to rebound from a 2022 USFL Championship downfall.
USFL South Division Head Coaches
John DeFilippo – New Orleans Breakers
A 22-year coaching career across college football and the NFL has brought John DeFilippo to the USFL, where he will take over for a New Orleans team that had a strong 2022 campaign with a 6-4 record.
DeFilippo’s track record boasts a large number of Pro Bowl quarterbacks trained, as the coach worked with names such as Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins, Carson Palmer and Derek Carr over the span of his career. DeFilippo was also a quarterbacks coach for two seasons in Philadelphia (2016-17), training Nick Foles as he drove his team to a Super Bowl LII victory.
Now, Breakers fans are hoping DeFilippo can have the same effect on their team, who clinched a playoff spot in 2022 before falling to the defending champion Birmingham Stallions in the South Division Championship.
Curtis Johnson – Houston Gamblers
Beginning his career as a high school wide receiver coach at Lewiston High School in Idaho, Curtis Johnson’s coaching career of over 40 years has been quite the journey.
After moving on from high school ball to the college ranks at the University of Idaho, Johnson would eventually find a long-term role at San Diego State as the wide receivers coach. It was here that Johnson developed the reputation of a trustworthy recruiter, taking on the recruitment of future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk.
It was also in the Golden State where Johnson crossed paths with Sean Payton, who was the quarterbacks coach for the Aztecs at the time. The relationship would pay dividends in the future, as Johnson received his first NFL coaching position under Payton’s staff in New Orleans. Johnson stayed with the Saints from 2006-11, receiving a Super Bowl ring in 2009 after New Orleans overpowered the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17.
Johnson moved on from the Big Easy to take over as the head coach of Tulane in 2012. In his four seasons running the show, the Louisiana native compiled a 15-33 record, including one bowl appearance in 2013. Johnson rejoined the Saints in 2017, staying on the staff until 2021.
RELATED: 2023 USFL Season Schedule: Dates, times, locations, new teams, playoff format, and more
Skip Holtz – Birmingham Stallions
Skip Holtz, son of famed football player and analyst Lou Holtz, spent many seasons on the sidelines before landing with the Birmingham Stallions in 2021.
Holtz’s childhood was practically engulfed in football, and he was hooked to the game from an early age. He spent his college years with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, contributing mostly on special teams. This college football experience, however, was just the beginning for Holtz.
After his time with the Irish, Holtz went on to hold numerous assistant coaching roles in college football. He worked for the South Carolina Gamecocks, his alma mater Notre Dame, Colorado State and Florida State, where he had the privilege of learning under Bobby Bowden.
When the time came to take on head coaching responsibilities, Holtz served with dedication for the UConn Huskies, East Carolina Pirates and South Florida Bulls. He then shifted to take on the head coaching role for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, where he remained from 2013-2021. Holtz boasted a 61-41 record with the Bulldogs before departing for a USFL head coach role.
The success, however, did not settle as he approached professional ranks. Holtz led his Birmingham Stallions to a remarkable 9-1 record last season, taking home the 2021 USFL Championship.
Now, as Holtz’s group enters 2023 seeking to defend that title, they will do so with many prominent players making a return. The team will have notable names in quarterback J’Mar Smith, running back Bo Scarborough and linebacker Brandon Aubrey back on the roster this spring, setting the Stallions up for another stellar campaign.
RELATED: 2023 USFL Draft order – Complete list of every pick from Round 1 through Round 10
Todd Haley – Memphis Showboats
An extensive NFL coaching career led Todd Haley to a position as the head coach of the newest team in the USFL, the Memphis Showboats. Haley coached the now-former Tampa Bay Bandits in the 2022 season.
One of just three USFL head coaches to possess NFL head coaching experience, Haley’s time as the head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs proved to be a wild ride for the Atlanta native. The Chiefs lost their first five games under Haley’s direction in 2009.
The following season, however, the team would rebound, winning its first three games and going on to take the AFC West title for the first time since 2009.
Since his days in Kansas City, Haley has served as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2012-2017) and Cleveland Browns (2018).
While his resume displays an abundance of knowledge in the game, Haley is one of the few coaches who never played football past the youth level.
What is the 2023 USFL opening weekend schedule?
Saturday, April 15
Philadelphia at Memphis – 4:30 p.m. (FOX)
New Jersey at Birmingham – 7:30 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, April 16
Michigan at Houston – 12 p.m. (NBC and Peacock)
Pittsburgh at New Orleans – 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
How can I watch 2023 USFL games on Peacock?
Sign up here to watch all of our LIVE sports, sports shows, documentaries, classic matches, and more. You’ll also get tons of new & hit movies and TV shows, including Peacock Originals and current hits from NBC and Bravo. There’s always something new to discover.
What devices does Peacock support?
You can enjoy Peacock on a variety of devices. View the full list of supported devices here.