Football coaches are a special breed. For football coaches, once you get a taste of coaching, you can’t stop. That appears to be the case with Mike Riley. This past June, Riley was hired as the head coach of the San Antonio Commanders of the Alliance of American Football. For those who have followed Riley’s coaching career shouldn’t be shocked that he decided to coach again. The son of a football coach, coaching is in Riley’s blood. The Alliance of American Football might be Riley’s last chance as a head coach. If it is, he is looking to go out on top.
San Antonio Commanders Mike Riley Makes another Coaching Stop
The last time that Mike Riley was on the sidelines as a head football coach, it wasn’t pretty. That day, as the head football coach of the University of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers were dominated by the Iowa Hawkeyes 56-14. The loss turned out to be the last for Riley as Nebraska’s head coach.
In three seasons in charge of Nebraska’s storied football program, he finished with a 19-19 record. During that three year period, he led Nebraska to two bowl games. While some universities might be happy with a 19-19 record and making two bowl games, it wasn’t acceptable at Nebraska. Although no doubt disappointing for Riley, his three seasons shouldn’t cloud what Riley has done during his coaching career.
Success at the College Level
Before taking the Nebraska job, Mike Riley did what many coaches couldn’t do: win at Oregon State University.
Not many people even know where Oregon State is located (Corvallis) but Riley knows it quite well. His father, Bud Riley, spent eight seasons as an assistant at Oregon State. That is where Mike grew up and where he made a name for himself as a high school quarterback. His success at Corvallis led to him playing collegiately for the University of Alabama and playing for legendary Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Although Riley might not have stayed in Corvallis to play college football, it did draw him back to be the head coach at Oregon State. After being the offensive coordinator for USC from 1993-1996, Oregon State hired Riley to be their head coach.
Riley had two stints as the Beavers head coach. He was the head coach for the 1997 and 1998 season. After the 1998 season, he left to be the San Diego Chargers head coach (more on that later). He came back to Corvallis before the 2003 season and held that position until 2014. In his 14 seasons in charge of Oregon State, he accumulated a 93-80 overall record. In that span, he led the Beavers to eight bowl games with a bowl record of 6-2. It should be noted, Oregon State hasn’t had a winning record since the 2013 season, when Riley was in charge of the program.
His Stint as the San Diego Chargers Head Coach
When then Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, a Hall of Fame executive, hired Mike Riley as the Chargers next head coach it came as a shock to most. Riley had never been an NFL head coach. Along with his inexperience, Riley was coming off a 5-6 season at Oregon State.
Like with his stint at Nebraska, Riley’s tenure only lasted three seasons. In his three seasons, he had a 14-34 record. In his first season, he led the Chargers to an 8-8 overall record. But that was as close as Riley and the Chargers would get to a winning record.
In 2000, the Chargers suffered through a 1-15 season. That season the Chargers starting quarterback was Ryan Leaf. The issues of Leaf are well documented and unfortunately for Riley, he paid the price because of them. Riley would go on to coach one more season, going 5-11, before he was terminated.
Success North of the Border
Many know Mike Riley for his work at Oregon State and Nebraska, but Canadian Football League fans know him quite well.
From 1987-1990, Riley was the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In his four seasons in charge of the Blue Bombers, he led them to a two Grey Cup victories. During that span, he had a 40-32 regular season record. They made the playoffs in all four seasons Riley was in charge. They had a 6-2 playoff record, with the two Grey Cup victories and two East division titles.
His time in San Diego and Winnipeg aren’t the only times Riley has been in charge of a professional football league. The other is in the city he will be coaching in this February.
Going back to San Antonio
While Corvallis might be home to Riley, it can be argued that San Antonio is his second home.
When he takes the sidelines in the Alamo Dome as the Commanders head coach it won’t be the first time he will be the head coach of a professional team hosted by San Antonio.
In 1991 and 1992 Riley was the head coach of the San Antonio Riders of the then World League of American Football. Just like with the Alliance of American Football, the World League of American Football league was a professional spring football league. In those two seasons in charge of the Riders, Riley led them to an 11-9 record. In his last season, he led the Riders to a 7-3 season.
Hoping his Last Chance is a Successful One
After a career that has spanned four professional football leagues (the Alliance of American Football will be his fourth) and 17 years as a college head football coach, it would appear that Mike Riley’s head coaching career is coming to an end.
Riley won’t be doing it by himself. San Antonio Commanders general manager is former Pro Bowl fullback Daryl Johnston. Riley and Johnston will be working together to bring home a championship for the Commanders fans.
Mike Riley might be coming to an end of a very long head coaching career. But don’t expect Riley to act like this last stint is a semi-retirement position. As he has shown throughout his career, he is a football coach to the core. Commanders fans should expect a team that does it correctly and gives it everything they got. Riley will make sure of that.
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