The XFL will bring something new and historic to St. Louis’ professional sports scene when it kicks off in February 2020.
It’s something the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Hawks, St. Louis football Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Stars, Spirits of St. Louis nor St. Louis Rams never accomplished.
Our XFL franchise will have a black head coach.
Welcome to St. Louis, Jonathan Hayes.
While this is Hayes’ first head coaching position, he learned from one of the best the NFL had to offer. He worked as tight ends coach for Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals for 16 years and has more than 30 years coaching experience.
He might still be with the Bengals if Lewis was not fired following the 2018 season and his staff released.
During his introductory press conference last month, Hayes made an appeal to football-starved fans in St. Louis.
“This is a great sports town, it really is,” he said.
“People have to realize they take their sports very seriously here. They want a competitive team. They want football here. It’s a great football town and I think we can offer (great football) to them.”
The Alliance of American Football had the advantage of launching a year before the revamped XFL returns to the field, and many people (including me) thought it was a hurdle the XFL would never overcome.
But the AAF sank into bankruptcy after just four weeks, leaving the playing field open for the XFL.
Hayes said, “we’re here to stay” and told media members how longevity could be accomplished.
“(The AAF) didn’t have enough support staff in the correct places,” he explained.
“They were overpaying people who did not do a lot. The good thing for us is that we have football people in place (who) understand all the inner workings of the team.”
Hayes certainly knows those inner workings very well.
A standout tight end at Iowa, Hayes was drafted in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He played for the Chiefs for nine seasons before completing his career with a two-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
During his 184-game career, he recorded 153 receptions for 1,718 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was also a skilled blocker, which helped both the Chiefs and Steelers’ superb running attacks.
He played in three AFC Championship games (one with the Chiefs and Joe Montana) and two with Pittsburgh. He played in the Steelers’ Super Bowl XXX loss against the Dallas Cowboys.
Before his NFL coaching career began, Hayes found national success as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Oklahoma with head coach Bob Stoops for four seasons. The 2000 Oklahoma team went 13-0 and won the national championship.
Hayes and Stoops will face each other as head coaches for the first time in 2020. Stoops has been named head coach of the XFL Dallas franchise.
Oliver Luck, former Stanford athletic director and father of NFL quarterback Andrew Luck, said all XFL franchises plan to be part of their respective region’s fabric – especially in beleaguered St. Louis.
“We want to be actively involved in the community. That’s something we want to do across the board. But it’s even more special here because look what happened with the previous two professional football franchises,” he said, referring to the Cardinals who left for Arizona and the Rams who returned to L.A.
“We have to show people we care. We have to show people we are putting roots down.”
The XFL’s eight teams will play in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Seattle, Washington D.C., Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. The schedule will include a 10-game regular season and a four-team playoff.
More diverse than NFL
St. Louis is not alone in having a black XFL coach.
Of the seven franchises which have named coaches, three have black men at the helm.
Pep Hamilton, a former Howard quarterback in the early 1990s with more than 18 years of coaching experience in college and the NFL, is the XFL’s Washington D.C. franchise coach. He served as Michigan’s passing coordinator for the past two seasons under Jim Harbaugh before leaving that position in January.
He still resides in the Washington area, and knows Luck from his days as an assistant coach at Stanford (2010-12).
He had NFL coaching stints with the Baltimore Ravens (2002), New York Jets (2003-2005), San Francisco 49ers (2006), Chicago Bears (2007-2009), Colts (2013-2015) and Cleveland Browns (2016).
“When Oliver was announced as the CEO and commissioner of the XFL, it immediately became intriguing for me and my family,” Hamilton told the Washington Post.
“I’ve always approached the game the same way. I have the utmost respect for preparation. Over the last 20 years I’ve gained a lot of experience from the coaches I’ve been around and that I’ve worked for.
“To have an opportunity to come back to the place that I consider to be my home and be a part of the construction of a professional football franchise is something I’m excited about.”
On Tuesday, Winston Moss was named head coach of the XFL’s Los Angeles franchise.
A second-round pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987, he played 10 years as a linebacker with the Bucs, Los Angeles Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.
He was an assistant coach with the Seahawks and New Orleans Saints before joining the Green Bay Packers, where he was a linebacker coach for 13 seasons. He was dismissed in December after the team let go head coach Mike McCarthy.
Moss won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2011 and contributed to the University of Miami’s first football national championship in 1983. He is a member of the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.
The XFL interviews and selects head coaches, not the individual franchises. Houston is the lone franchise without a named head coach.
The Reid Roundup
Tiger Woods visited President Trump at the White House on Monday and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He called it “an unbelievable experience … Speaking of Trump, his buddy Vince McMahon owns the league. Look for Trump to attend games to back his boy – and as campaign stops … The XFL signed television deals with FOX and ESPN (Disney) this week. ESPN probably signed on to keep Trump off their back the next time racial sports controversy rears its head … My daughter and I went to the Red Sox at White Sox game on Cinco de Mayo. It was a fantastic day of diversity, one that St. Louis wishes it could achieve … White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson was named AL Player of the Month in April and has quickly become a city of Chicago star. He still enters the batters box with the tune “All I know is Trap” playing … By the time you read this, the Boston Celtics could have been eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks and superstar center/forward/guard Giannis Antetokounmpo … If the Celtics go out in five games, by losing Thursday, my guess is Jayson Tatum wears another uniform next season … If the Golden State Warriors lose the second round series to the Houston Rockets, the biggest loser will be NBA television ratings … Charles Barkley predicts that the Bucks will be NBA champions this year…Former USC quarterback Matt Fink will join head coach Lovie Smith at Illinois as a graduate transfer next season … Stephen Jones, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president, called extending workhorse running back Ezekiel Elliott’s contract “a top priority,” but added “there hasn’t really been a timetable put on this.” Talk has started that Elliott should hold out … One of Arizona’s former assistant coaches, who is on trial in a federal corruption case, was recorded saying that head coach Sean Miller paid former player Deandre Ayton $10,000 per month.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.