"We can't do all winners. As a producer, I would never suggest it. I would say it's not a good idea," Jeff told Us Weekly in 2018.
"We have 10 great winners that you'd want to see play again. We don't have 20. We don't have 18... Some of the greats are like, 'No, we're done.'"
During a recent interview withEntertainment Weekly, Jeff explained what made him change his mind given Survivor's upcoming 40th season, dubbed Survivor: Winners At War, will feature an entire cast comprised solely of former champions.
"Here's the history of an all-winners season. For the last maybe 10 years, several people have said, 'I'll never play again because I know I can't win. I've already won. I've already got a great track record,'" Jeff explained to EW.
"So I would just mentally note, 'Oh, there's another one who's out. There's another one who's out.' So any time somebody would bring up an all-winners season, I would say, 'Well, there's a lot of great players who won't play, so we really don't have that good of a group.'"
Jeff admitted, however, CBS was still pushing to bring back winners for an epic battle.
"It came up just last year [in 2019], and I said, 'CBS wants to do it, but I don't think it's a good idea.' That was still how I felt," Jeff shared.
"One day, I go to CBS, I sit with the President of CBS, Kelly Kahl, and he says, 'You know, we let you do your thing, right? For [Season] 40, we'd really like an all-winners season. What do you think?'"
Rob immediately predicted Amber would say, "No way," because of their kids, according to Jeff, but Rob also jumped to conclusions too quickly.
Jeff said Rob promised to speak to Amber about the opportunity, and then about three hours later, texted the Survivorhost and wrote, "She hasn't said, 'Yes,' but she will. We're going to do it."
"You have a husband and wife who met on the show, who got engaged on the show, who got married on CBS, who have both won and said, 'We're going to get the grandparents to watch the kids. We're going to put the biggest target on our back and we're both coming out.' That's epic!" Jeff gushed to EW.
Jeff also said Parvati was a great -- and surprising -- addition to the cast because she had just welcomed a baby before filming began.
"The only person we were certain would say 'yes' is [Sandra Diaz-Twine], because she's never not said 'yes,'" Jeff joked.
As previously announced, Survivor: Winners At War will feature 20 former winners competing for a huge $2 million grand prize.
Survivor: Winners At War premieres with a special two-hour episode Wednesday, February 12 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.