When the head coaches for each team were announced, many St. Louis sportswriters were less than impressed with the BattleHawks Jonathan Hayes.
There were many who felt the team needed a local legend from the “Greatest Show on Turf” to coach the team in order to have any chance of credibility in St. Louis. After watching this team play this past season, those concerns were quickly wiped away.
In almost every category, the BattleHawks were one of the most dominant teams in the league. That was thanks in large part to Coach Hayes vision for this team.
In an era where it’s rare to have a team that has more rushing attempts than passing, the BattleHawks were a throwback. The BattleHawks were second in the league with 155.8 average rushing yards per game. They were also second in the league with total yards per game at 349.6 yards per game.
That is a testament to his game planning with their starting QB Jordan Ta’amu. Jordan had experience playing at Ole Miss, but he had never played at the professional level.
In drafting the way that he did, Coach Hayes took a lot of burden off of his young quarterback and allowed him to shine in the XFL. With the strong emphasis on running the ball, it made throwing a little easier on Ta’amu since defenses were keying on the run. Having a gifted athlete running the offense always helps a coach look good, but with the team drafted the way it was, Coach Hayes clearly knew what he was doing.
Not to be overlooked, the BattleHawks defense was also one of the tops in the league. They allowed the second-fewest yards per game at 260.2. They also led the league with fewest points against them with 77 and average points against per game at 15.4. With the athleticism the BattleHawks had on both sides of the ball, it’s not surprising that they were considered one of the top teams in the league.
Looking at those stats, it would look like the season was a smashing success, but there were still tough times for this team. In week 2 against the Roughnecks, the BattleHawks were mounting a second half comeback, but a missed penalty led to an interception and sealed the game for the Roughnecks.
In the final game of the season against the DC Defenders, the BattleHawks looked flat and off their game and took their second loss. Coach Hayes took both games as opportunities to look inward at ways to improve the game plan for the next week.
We sadly never got to see what the BattleHawks had in store for week six of the regular season following that tough loss. Hopefully, now that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital have taken ownership of the league, fans of this team will get to see what else Coach Hayes and his staff have in store for an entire season. Nothing has been set in stone and there is no guarantee they will all be back, but then again there was little hope the XFL would be back.
Jonathan Hayes may not have been the most exciting pick at the time, but it was clear after only 5 games that he was the best coach the BattleHawks could have asked for. He bought into the community atmosphere team president Kurt Hunzeker emphasized from day one.
He was a man of few words in the post-game press conferences, but they were direct and meaningful. Even though this past season was cut short, Coach Hayes made his impact on the St. Louis BattleHawks, and fans of this team should hope for a return from Coach Hayes and his staff when the XFL kicks off again.
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