Jonathan Hayes, himself an NFL tight end for 12 seasons, returns in 2016 for his 14th year as Bengals tight ends coach. The Bengals have reached the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, one of only four NFL teams to do so. Hayes guided Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham to Pro Bowl seasons in 2011 and 2012, and in 2013, when he had 46 catches despite missing two games, Gresham fell just short of joining Mike Ditka as the only the second NFL TE with 50-plus catches in each of his first four seasons.
Last season, Hayes added Tyler Eifert to his Pro Bowl list, as the third-year pro turned in one of the most productive seasons by a TE in franchise history. Despite missing nearly four full games due to injury, Eifert scored 13 TDs, a Bengals TE record, and he finished just one off the overall NFL lead for TDs. His 13 TDs were the most by any Bengals player since 2001, when HB Corey Dillon had 13. No Bengal has had more in a season since 1995, when WR Carl Pickens had a club-record 17, and had Eifert been healthy for all 16 games, he likely could have challenged that mark. Also last season, Hayes continued as the position coach for second-year pro Ryan Hewitt, whose position designation is H-back, a hybrid role incorporating tight end and fullback duties. Though he does not touch the ball often himself, Hewitt has become a key figure in Cincinnati’s offense. He’s a bruising and effective blocker who has played in 31 games, with 23 starts, and the team sees Pro Bowls in his future.
The 2015 campaign also saw steady progress under Hayes for rookie TE Tyler Kroft, who was credited with six starts and made all 11 of his catches (for 129 yards and a TD) over the final six games. In 2013, both Gresham and Eifert were in the starting base offense, the first Bengals base to feature two tight ends. They combined for 85 catches for 903 yards and six TDs, and with the contribution that season of veteran Alex Smith, the Bengals had 88 catches and 915 yards by TEs. The reception total was the most in Bengals history for the position, topping 84 in 1981, and the yardage total ranked third. Over Hayes’ tenure, his tight ends have contributed to run-blocking efforts that have produced eight 1000-yard rushers, including an 1124-yard season in 2014 by rookie Jeremy Hill. Hill led the NFL in rushing over the season’s last nine games. The tight ends under Hayes also have contributed to pass blocking efforts that twice helped Cincinnati set a club record for fewest sacks allowed. A record of 21 was set in 2005, and that mark was re-written at 17 in ’07.
The Bengals ranked third in the NFL at 23 in 2014, and they were also in the top 10 last year, placing tied for eighth at 32. Prior to joining the Bengals, Hayes spent four years (1999-2002) at the University of Oklahoma as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. He helped the Sooners to a four-year record of 44-9, including a 13-0 mark in 2000 for the NCAA championship. Under Hayes’ tutelage, tight end Trent Smith finished his Oklahoma career in 2002 as the school’s No. 2 all-time receiver, with 148 catches. Also in ’02, Sooners special teams blocked seven kicks and had three punt returns for TDs.
Hayes began his NFL playing career in 1985 with the Kansas City Chiefs, as a second-round draft pick out of Iowa. He played for the Chiefs through 1993, serving as a team captain, and closed his NFL career with three seasons in Pittsburgh (’94-96). He had 153 career receptions for 1718 yards with 13 TDs. He saw action in 184 NFL games with 122 starts, and he played all 16 games in each of his final six seasons. He played in three AFC Championship games and a Super Bowl (for Pittsburgh, vs. Dallas, in SB XXX). At the University of Iowa, he earned first-team All-America honors as a senior TE and was a team captain. He holds a degree from Iowa in general studies. Hayes coached with his older brother, Jay, on the Bengals staff from 2003- 15. Jay, a defensive line coach, has moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 2016. Hayes’ hometown is South Fayette, Pa. He attended South Fayette High School. He and his wife have four children.
Playing and coaching history: 1981-84—Played linebacker and tight end, Iowa. 1985-93—Played tight end, Kansas City Chiefs. 1994-96— Played tight end, Pittsburgh Steelers. 1999-2002—Assistant coach (AC), Oklahoma. 2003-present—AC, Cincinnati Bengals.
Head coach Marvin Lewis, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Jay Hayes marvel at the athletic skills of second-round pick Margus Hunt.