It was a sight to see as Bob Stoops returned to the sidelines for the first time in three years.
The difference is, this time Stoops is coaching professional players in the XFL. The league had their debut this past weekend as the Dallas Renegades played at home in Globe Life Park against the St. Louis BattleHawks.
The game was a defensive struggle that was separated by the performances of the quarterbacks. Dallas Renegades quarterback Landry Jones was listed as the third-string quarterback as he returns from his knee injury, so Philip Nelson stepped in as the starter.
Nelson’s performance was average as he completed several passes, but the offense couldn’t score a touchdown. His counterpart, Jordan Ta’amu, displayed his athletic ability as he ran and threw the ball well. Ta’amu led the BattleHawks to a tough fought 15-9 win.
The attention was on Stoops and how he would coach the team after being away from the game for a while. He seemed to handle the game well, as well as the cameras and mics being thrown in his face during the game. The result wasn’t what they wanted, but Stoops felt great about coaching football again.
“It was great, outside of the outcome,” Stoops said to the media after the game. “But the only silver lining there too is that they’re not in our division. So, it doesn’t sting quite as much but it still stings. Being out there throughout this whole process has been great fun. I loved it. It’s great being around the guys and coaching them. They’re great players and coaches that I’m working with. So, it didn’t feel much different being back out there. I hadn’t forgotten. I was excited to be back on the sidelines for sure.”
Stoops was convinced by XFL commissioner Oliver Luck to join the league to be their first head coach and was announced early in 2019 to lead the Dallas team as their head coach and general manager. Many pegged the Renegades as the favorites due to Stoops and his quarterback Landry Jones. The team is filled with speed and talent all around the offense to make them dangerous. That didn’t show Sunday.
Philip Nelson hasn’t been exposed to the offense like Jones had and it was Stoops’ first challenge to get Nelson ready. He seemed ready for parts of the game, but the play calling was questioned for being conservative for the fans’ taste. Dallas runs the air raid offense with the godfather of the air raid Renegades offensive coordinator Hal Mumme.
While it was conservative, it was the first sign of good coaching by Stoops. They knew the capabilities of Nelson and Stoops had a specific plan for him. The result wasn’t there, but they stuck with their game plan and if they can fix a few mistakes, the team is in good shape.
“I came in all in expecting to win. I’m not doing this for any other reason. I want to win, win big. So, I’m disappointed. I thought we would have played better in a lot of different areas regardless of who was in at quarterback. I don’t go there either. Philip [Nelson] does a good job and a lot of some of the inconsistencies aren’t on him. We need to play better.”
The running game was left to be desired by Dallas, but Stoops brought in a playmaker in former Dallas Cowboy Lance Dunbar. Dunbar was their most established runner and receiver with 12 touches. The other running backs including former Carolina Panther Cameron Artis-Payne were inconsistent and never picked up steam in the backfield.
It’s no secret that the offense has weapons and the defense had one of the better performances of the week, but the only way this team rides into the XFL playoffs is trusting Jones and Stoops to lead them. They are winners and have a chance to prove that in Jones’ expected return Sunday against the LA Wildcats.