Jonathan Hayes spent nine of his 12 NFL seasons playing in Missouri as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and has many memories of battles with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Now, 23 years after hanging up his football cleats for good, Hayes, 56, will call St. Louis home as the head coach of the new Xtreme Football League’s St. Louis franchise.
Hayes, a former assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals and the University of Oklahoma, was officially introduced to the St. Louis media on Thursday by XFL commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck during a press conference at the Dome at America’s Center.
Hayes will also serve as the franchise’ general manager.
“My rookie year was in 1985 and I was with the Chiefs. I remember watching the World Series that year when the Royals played the Cardinals and I was just amazed at how competitive and how knowledgeable the fans were. I knew right then that this was a great sports town,’’ Hayes said. “They love their professional sports here. It’s a great football town and it’s a competitive town. I think we can give that to them.’
“We’re going to work hard and put together a team that’s fun and exciting to watch, and that the fans of St. Louis can rally around and support.”
A graduate of the University of Iowa, Hayes spent 12 seasons as a player in the NFL from 1985 to 1996, including a nine-year run with the Kansas City Chiefs and his final three with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before joining the Bengals as an assistant in 2003, he spent four seasons as tight ends and special teams coach at Oklahoma University.
That incarnation of the XFL lasted one season. McMahon has this time promised a product built on a faster pace and simpler rules as opposed to the WWF theatrics he hoped to inject with his previous attempt.
“I think that with the new innovations that the league has in place that it will be a brand of football that fans will really enjoy. It’s impossible for me to say what type of team we will have because we don’t have a roster yet.
“But I will say this and you can quote me now and two years down the line because it won’t change. This team will be aggressive, it will be tough, it will be mentally tough and it will be smart-minded. These are the basic principals that are the foundation of any successful football team.’’
Play will kick off in February 2020, meaning that for the first time since the St. Louis Rams bolted to Los Angeles, pro football will return a little more than nine months from now. The team doesn’t yet have a name, but it has a home and now a head coach.
St. Louis is the only city that doesn’t already have an NFL franchise, having lost the Rams to Los Angeles in 2016. The team will play its home games at the Dome at America’s Center, formerly known as the Edward Jones Dome when the NFL was its tenant. The XFL has stated, however, that it might be interested in playing in a new soccer stadium, should St. Louis be awarded an MLS expansion franchise.
Other franchises for the inaugural XFL season will be located in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington, D.C.
Bigger names have been hired in other XFL markets, including Kevin Gilbride in New York, Bob Stoops in Dallas, and former quarterback Jim Zorn in Seattle. With the introduction of Hayes on Thursday, only the Los Angeles and Houston franchises have yet to announce their coaches.
Hayes added that he is working on finalizing his coaching staff and player development director.
Several rules have been tested by The Spring League, an instructional circuit made of up professional prospects. Among those that may be adopted by the XFL include:
- Any pass behind the line of scrimmage would be treated as a lateral, thus allowing more than one forward pass on a single play.
- Additional extra-point options, such as awarding points by the distance of the attempt.
- No fair catches.
- Touchbacks would be taken to the 35 yard line to encourage kickoffs that remain in play.
- Outside the two-minute warning, the clock will stop only for timeouts and possession changes.