Luginbill, who was 27 at the time, was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL, a short-lived league that ESPN Films will be highlighting in its new 30 for 30, “This Was the XFL,” airing Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Front Row caught up with Luginbill during this particularly busy week for ESPN’s national recruiting director and college football analyst to reminisce about the XFL.
What are your thoughts on the film?
I am glad to see the acknowledgment that four weeks of training camp and no preseason games make it awfully difficult to put a quality product on the field in Week One. I am glad it was noted that yes, there was good football being played despite how things were presented. Brings back a lot of memories and for me, all of them are fond and cherished despite all the negativity that surrounded the league.
What do you remember most from your time with the XFL?
It was the most fun I ever had as a coach or personnel guy. I remember being in our offensive staff room and our offensive line coach Dave Levy leans over to me and says, “Tommy, this is the best job I have ever had.” I looked at him like he was crazy. He had been on [head coach] John McKay’s staff at USC for 16 years and four national championships and also went on to a long career under [head coach] Don Coryell and others in the NFL. I said, “Coach, how can that be?” He said, “We are coaches in professional football who are in charge of personnel completely. There is no one who can walk in this room wearing a tie and telling us to trade this guy or trade that guy or cut this guy. We get to make those choices and can live with the results either way.”
What bothered you the most when you found out the league was folding?
We had just won the championship and essentially would have most, if not all, of our entire roster back and intact for the following year, but we had a big advantage over the rest of the league come the following year’s draft. There were eight teams in the league, and the league draft order was serpentine, for example, if you drafted in the eighth spot in the first round (which we would because we won the championship), you got the first pick of the second round.
During training camp, it had become pretty clear that many teams felt they had made errors in evaluation and were interested in making some trades. Each time we were contacted, my father Al Luginbill – who was the head coach – would agree to trade, but not for another player. He wanted that team’s pick in the first round of next year’s draft. This occurred three times during camp, and all three teams agreed. Had the league gone into Year Two, Los Angeles would have had four first-round selections and the first pick of the second round. We would have hit the jackpot in player personnel.
Brian D’Ostllio, Matt Labau and Alex Bohen produced the XFL Hall Of Fame video above.
The video below is the ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 trailer for “This Was The XFL.”