The XFL canceled its' inaugural season last month after five games as part of a nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, pledging to return next year. However on Friday, the league suspended operations indefinitely, and laid off nearly all of its staff, a decision that affected first-time head coach Jonathan Hayes.
"Over 300 people on the call from the entire company, they just said we're going to terminate everyone and we'll let you know about your benefits and that was basically it," Hayes said.
Hayes served as Bengals' tight ends coach for 15 seasons under Marvin Lewis. The XFL hired him to be the head coach and general manager of the St. Louis Battlehawks.
"When you have such good people around you that allow me to really get two coach a lot more football than I thought I would get to coach," Hayes said.
Hayes enjoyed coaching a team that led the XFL in attendance per game, in a city without professional football in four years.
"I'm appreciative of how hard they've worked, their commitment to the city, and I'm grateful to how St Louis embraced us," Hayes said.
After a 3-2 start, Hayes is disappointed not to be able to see the process through, but his efforts weren't in vain.
"The XFL named me Coach of the Year," Hayes said. "I don't know why, but that's a testament to my assistants, really to the players and everyone else."
As he turns the page on this chapter, Hayes is eager to spend more time with his wife and kids, and looks forward to what's next in his football journey.
"If opportunities come, we'll definitely look at them and see if it's something that can afford me a chance to continue to be a part of something special," Hayes said. The XFL proved temporary once again, but the memories will stick with Hayes for a lifetime.