Jonathan Hayes joined Warren Sapp and Gary Payton for the latest edition of Unfiltered brought to you by BetUS, and the longtime NFL tight end and 15-year Bengals assistant coach dished on his experience in the NFL, and as a head coach with the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks.
The topic of discussion? This week’s rumored merger of the XFL and CFL
“The biggest issue is getting the TV contract done,” Hayes said. “If you can’t get it on TV, it’s not going to work. I don’t care how much streaming you do. You’ve got to get it on TV and to a TV audience.”
Recently, Dwayne Johnson and his partners paid $15 million to purchase the XFL out of bankruptcy, and the latest report focused on potential “interleague” games and an XFL-CFL championship game pitting the league champions against one another. That would face significant hurdles, however, according to Hayes.
“The CFL came down to the United States [in the ‘90s] ago and failed,” Hayes recalled. “And even if they decide to merge together and they’re talking about going parallel with each other … and it’s too much disparity between the leagues to make it work. … [American players] don’t know how the nuance of their game works, and vice versa.”
Later, host Dawn Lupul broached the topic of coaching and asked Hayes whether minority initiatives are working in the NFL.
“The changes aren’t going to be made just because we say there needs to be change,” Hayes said. “You have owners who have paid the privilege to be an owner and they assimilate with people with who they’re familiar with. So when you say ‘so and so has to hire someone’ — well you see what happened this past year. No one abided by that. They can dress it up and put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
Payton weighed in with what he thinks is the key to being a strong coach in any sport.
“We’re going to have structure, we’re going to practice, you’re going to know what to do, you’re going to listen and you’re going to work hard,” Payton said. “That’s what I’m going to do with my players. You work hard, you leave it on the floor, you come in here serious every day, I can live with that.”
Hayes then criticized the movement that has seen teams hiring younger head coaches with specialized skills on one side of the ball.
“Ownership is missing is one of the components: being a leader of men,” said Hayes, who also discussed the best advice he received from Marvin Lewis, as well as his son Jaxson’s experience with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
“Can you stand up in front of a team and tell them to run through that brick wall even when they don’t want to?” Hayes continued. “That’s what you’re losing when you’re hiring these young coaches because they have ‘this.’ … It’s a copycat league, and they’re reinventing stuff, but it’s not yours.”
When asked how he and his fellow coaches identified talent ahead of the NFL Draft, Hayes recalled the value of the Senior Bowl in the staff’s draft prep. Cincinnati’s coaches led the North team in the game in 2004, ’09 and ’11.
“After each one of those years [we coached in it] we had a really good draft and had successful years,” Hayes said. “Because you’re with them all week long and you understand how they learn.”
Added Payton: “We need that more in all sports, what you’re bringing to the table, and what you’re saying. Because some of these young kids … they don’t have guys who are coaching and coaching the right way to get them better. They always get what they want.”
The conversation veered into a discussion about Payton’s beloved San Francisco 49ers and the team’s odds of trading for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, recently featured as a guest-host on Jeopardy!, rather than drafting a new QB.
“You’re going to have to give your next two first-round draft picks, not to mention a second and a third,” Hayes said. “The way San Francisco plays, it fits what he does. All the ball fakes, the play fakes, he’s going to be launching balls down the field over people’s heads, because that offense, it fits him.”
As for who should come off the board first among Mac Jones, Trey Lance, or Justin Fields when teams make their first-round picks on April 29 — Sapp made no bones about his feelings on the matter.
“If the Jets go with Jones they should blow up the whole damn stadium,” Sapp said. “I know two teams play there, but if they pass up that boy in Justin Fields they’ve lost their damn minds, because Mac Jones is not that. When you play with Superman, it’s a lot easier to drop off a 5-yard pass…. If you pick this Mac Jones guy, you might want to just fire yourself.”
Hall of Fame Competition
After Hayes departed, Sapp and Payton weighed in on Julian Edelman’s Hall of Fame candidacy — “You can’t be talking to me,” Sapp chided when asked — and broke down some of the toughest competitors they played against. Following some blind comparisons to current and former players.
“You gotta make plays to talk trash, and you ain’t going to make many plays against Alan Faneca,” Sapp said, referring to Faneca’s recent praise of Sapp. “That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame, trust me. That boy likes to block. … But he’s not in the top two of the guards I faced. Randall McDaniel and Larry Allen, look at the stats on them.”
Payton, for his part, zeroed in on former Utah Jazz guard John Stockton.
“I talked trash and I could usually talk a lot of guys out of their game, and then I would back it up,” Payton said. “With him, he wouldn’t listen to anything.
“I’m guarding him and I’m coming off picks — he’s hitting me with picks, he’s back-picking me, he’s throwing dimes to Karl Malone, shooting jump shots all net, getting to the bucket whenever he feels like it,” Payton continued. “I said, ‘I can’t not pay attention to him.’ Everybody else I could probably not pay attention for a little bit, but every single minute you have to pay attention because he’s going to make a difference in the game if I don’t.”
For that and more, including Payton’s latest Fit with The Glove on his son’s 10-day contract with the Warriors and his eventual Bay Area homecoming, check out the full show above.