With the 2019 NFL season officially in the rearview mirror and still weeks away from the Combine, the start of the XFL season includes some names familiar to Browns and Buckeyes fans alike.
While the jury’s still out on what XFL redux will look like when the league returns this weekend, football to fill a Cleveland Browns void can’t be all bad, can it? Okay, it actually can, but with Oliver Luck at the helm, I’m keeping an open mind.
From where we sit, two key factors will dictate just how enjoyable the XFL will be, seeing recognizable names and the quality of football being played. With these former Browns and Buckeyes either playing or coaching in the new league, we’re good to go for week one:
Pepper Johnson: As a former Brown and Buckeye, the LA Wildcats‘ Defensive Coordinator/LB Coach is two treats in one.
Marc Trestman: Not only was the Tampa Bay Vipers Head Coach once the Offensive Coordinator of the Browns, but he interviewed for the same role again following Kyle Shanahan’s PowerPoint-induced resignation.
Cardale Jones, DC Defenders: Ah, the memories of Browns fans’ ‘Fail for Cardale’ battle cry during the 2015 season. Yup, Browns’ fans wanted the team to intentionally tank so that Cardale would be within their reach atop the draft. Instead, the Browns traded out of their pick at #2 and selected, gulp, Corey Coleman at 15 while Cardale was finally drafted by Buffalo with a compensatory pick at the end of the 4th Round, one player after the Browns took Seth DeValve.
Scooby Wright, DC Defenders: Who can forget a fully-clothed Wright jumping into a pool to celebrate being drafted by the Browns in the 7th Round of the 2016 NFL Draft? The self-proclaimed ‘steal’ had a short stay in Berea before making stops with the Cardinals and Patriots, as well as the Arizona Hotshots of the defunct AAF.
E.J. Bibbs, New York Guardians: Despite then-coach Mike Pettine stating that Bibbs “has proven he has an NFL skillset”, the undrafted free agent played in just seven games with the Browns.
Blake Jackson, Houston Roughnecks: The wide receiver made an impression with the Browns before being waived with an injury settlement during training camp last August.
Rannell Hall, Tampa Bay Vipers: Another WR who turned heads and earned a spot on the Browns’ practice squad, even catching a preseason touchdown pass from Cody Kessler.
Gabe Wright, Houston Roughnecks: The former Auburn defensive tackle actually made three trips to the Browns active roster during the 2016 season before finally being waived for good the following spring.
Between these former Browns and still others that will suit up when the XFL debuts on ABC, Fox, and ESPN this weekend, hearing familiar names should soften the blow of relative NFL quiet between now and the start of the 2020 league year on March 18.