Coach’s Corner: Chris Thompson
By: Mike Reid
January 25, 2021
With 15 years and counting in professional football, the best word to describe Chris Thompson is passionate. The new offensive coordinator for the Massachusetts Pirates simply just loves the game of football. Coach Thompson has experience across multiple levels of the professional football world. Including a 2017 National Arena League Coach of the Year award, coaching and front office roles in the XFL (New York Guardians) and AAF (Atlanta Legends), and a coaching internship with the Chicago Bears.
Thompson is excited to be back in the Indoor Football League and at the helm of the Pirates offense. I had the chance to speak with him over the phone as we discussed his stellar coaching resume, how he stayed in the game of football during the pandemic, and who he roots for when he’s not coaching. Here’s our conversation:
Reid: After a few seasons out of indoor/arena football leagues, what excites you most about your first season back in the IFL as the OC of the Pirates?
Thompson: I think you know first and foremost is I’ve spent a lot of years, a long time in the indoor arena game. And having the opportunity to come back with an organization like the Pirates and the personnel that they’re gonna have with Sean and Alejandro is special. The two veteran quarterbacks, as well as all the veteran wide receivers has me the most excited. I’ve always enjoyed all the years of not only being a head coach but also being an offensive coordinator.
Reid: Did you have any sort of connection to the Pirates? How did you become the OC here?
Thompson: Great question. I didn’t have a personal connection, but all my time in Lehigh Valley helped. At that time, Jawad (Yatim) and his family were just kind of evolving and getting started. A year or two under their belt, our relationship started to develop and here we are.
Reid: what is different from a coaching standpoint in indoor football compared to outdoor football?
Thompson: I mean the big thing is the speed. Now that’s the number one thing because everything happens so much faster in the indoor game. Outdoors, you are a lot more spread out and you could do different things on offense and defense. You got more guys on the field, you don’t have multiple guys in motion coming downfield, and are at full speed.
Reid: Have you been able to meet anyone in person yet from the organization or has everything for now been virtual?
Thompson: Everything has been virtual right now. Zoom calls are weekly. I have had a number of conversations with Sean (Brackett) as well as Coach Pass, Coach Orell, and Coach Kizer. I’ve met Jawad previously. Again, everything up to this point has been virtual, but that’ll change here in a couple months when things get going.
Reid: You worked both in the Alliance of American Football and the XFL, but in more as a front office role. What did you enjoy about being in a front office role?
Thompson: Having been around the indoor arena game and wearing multiple hats for as long as I did, in Lehigh Valley and in Albany, you learn the more you can do, the more valuable you become to an organization. That is just not on the field, that’s also off the field. I love both, absolutely, but my passion has always been coaching. Gosh, I love working with athletes and especially quarterbacks. It is a position I played and its a position I’ve coached. I have a high passion for coaching.
Now granite, yes, I had those roles in both the XFL and the AAF, but there were also coaching duties that came into play too. You get the opportunity, you do a good job, and people refer you and then you know that those open up other opportunities. I’m not going to shy away from working in football, period.
Reid: One of the things that really stood out to me was the coaching internship you had with the Chicago Bears back in 2019. What that was like being an assistant coach on a NFL team and what did you take away from that experience?
Thompson: Well, for one, it was an awesome opportunity to be a part of the Bears organization. Coach Matt Nagy and I have known each other for a long time. We still talk to this day and we have a great relationship and friendship. I thank him for that opportunity and the Chicago Bears organization.
Getting to work with the tight ends during that training camp and preseason and being a part of everything – from staff meetings to helping breakdown film and to being a part of preseason game preparations and personnel meetings. I was just trying to be a sponge and take in as much as I could. Hopefully one day in the future I’ll have another opportunity like that.
Reid: I have a quick follow up question on that experience, so I always heard of the “Welcome to the NFL Moment” for a rookie. Was there any moment like that for you as a rookie NFL coach?
Thompson: I think for me it was having to stand up in front of all the team – coaches and staff – and say who I am, where I’m from, all that good stuff. And being in the same room with well respected players and coaches. Khalil Mack, I mean he is everything people see on TV and even more in person. Guys like Chuck Pagano, a well known NFL head coach who has been a 35 year vet. Just again, it was an awesome opportunity and one that I don’t take lightly.
Reid: Most recently you started your own quarterback coaching camp, Chris Thompson’s Elite Skills Coaching. Was that something you always thought of doing?
Thompson: Thanks to the pandemic, I kinda got creative. I’ve got family. I’ve got three kids and my wife is extremely busy with her work. For me it was two fold. One, I wanted to find some way to stay involved in the game that I’m very passionate about, plus the position that I had loved coaching. Two, find creative ways to generate revenue, you know to put food on the table, pay bills and things of that nature. It’s been awesome, it seems like it’s growing every week in the clientele that I have. It’s going well and I’m enjoying it, I’m honestly probably upset at myself for not doing it sooner.
Reid: I also saw you were a color analyst for a few months at a TV station in Pennsylvania. Was that something you have always wanted to get into or was it another creative way to stay in football?
Thompson: Again, being creative, you’ll see Service Electric, which is big and in Lehigh (Pennsylvania) County. They covered Lehigh Valley Steelhawks games and they’re very big in high school football and other high school sports. The GM and director of operations, who I got to know over the years, had reached out. They know I love football and love talking about it. Plus, it also helped grow my footprint, in the Berks County, Lehigh County, and surrounding counties. It was an opportunity that presented itself and I enjoyed it. Kept me pretty busy during that time period, it was almost every weekend that I had either one or multiple games that I was doing. My wife was cracking jokes. She’s like, “What are you the next Tony Romo?”
Reid: Do you always watch football from a coaching lens, or are you a fan of certain teams or players?
Thompson: Actually, I’ve always been kind of a Philly fan, an Eagles fan all my life being so close to Philly sports.
But the connection, working there briefly and the relationship that I’ve built in Chicago and have with Nags. Absolutely the Bears, every time they’re on I’m watching them. I’m also supportive of other teams because of people I know or coaches I know. It’s a small world in the football fraternity.