Former Stamps’ defensive coordinator Chris Jones is a key story, but he’s not talking

TORONTO—One of the most pivotal figures in Sunday's Grey Cup will be Argonauts' defensive coordinator Chris Jones, who held that same position with the opposing Stampeders until quickly joining Toronto last December (the Argonauts were later fined $5,000 for tampering), and you can expect to find his name in media reports all week. However, it won't be attached to any of his quotes: as TSN's Dave Naylor reported earlier, Jones is refusing to do any interviews this week, which is apparently permissible for assistant coaches. Still, that hasn't stopped media members from asking others about Jones, and that's led to some interesting responses. First, early in Wednesday's coaches' press conference (which made headlines for the famous traditional sex question), Stampeders' head coach general manager John Hufnagel indirectly brought up Jones' departure and his replacement with Rick Campbell in response to a question about how his team had changed over the year, saying it took a whle for his defence to adjust to Campbell's system.

"Because we obtained Rick so late in the offseason—I was very fortunate that Eric Tillman and the Edmonton Eskimos allowed me to talk to Rick—it was a new system," Hufnagel said.

Later in the conference, Hufnagel was directly asked about Jones, whose hiring he blasted at the time for the way it happened before he was consulted, but he tersely declined comment.

"That's yesterday's news," Hufnagel said. "What I said, I said. I'm not changing what I said."

Milanovich was asked about Jones as well during the conference, and he said if he could do it over again, he would go by the book and consult the Stampeders before offering Jones the job.

"I wish it had happened differently," he said.

Milanovich said he's since talked to Hufnagel about the situation. He added that the Jones hire came about when Jones, a long-time friend and colleague, called to congratulate him on landing the Argonauts' coaching job. Milanovich recruited Jones instantly without thinking of the implications.

"Chris calling me to congratulate me turned into more than that," Milanovich said.

Strong emotions over the Jones move still seem to be present, especially on the Calgary side. Beyond the emotions, though, there are very real strategic implications for both sides; Jones has plenty of familiarity with the Stampeders' personnel and their offensive scheme, but Calgary coaches and players also know what Jones likes to run. So far, that matchup has gone the Argos' way; despite a 9-9 record on the year (compared to the Stampeders' 12-6 mark), Toronto won both the games between the clubs, a 39-36 shootout in Toronto in Week Two and a 22-14 clash in Calgary in Week Eight. Stampeders' offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson told Rita Mingo of The Calgary Herald Tuesday that Jones' defence played a key role in those losses:

"He's done a great job against us and we have to definitely try to come up with some new stuff because he defended us well both times we've played them," offered Calgary Stampeders' offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson. "B.C. gave us a lot of looks and problems, but I think Chris has as many looks or more than anybody else. We have to focus on what we do best — I'm not sure what that is yet because we're still watching film — but we're basically trying to come up with plays that we feel will work and whatever look they give us just try to adjust."

In that same story, running back Jon Cornish also praised Jones' ability, but said he won't be ready to face the Stampeders' new wrinkles:

"Chris Jones … he's sort of had our number earlier in the year. He understands who we are; he's been around us for a long time, but I think the real difference now is that he hasn't played against THIS team. I would say we're a fundamentally different Stampeder team than the one he was around."

Meanwhile, Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn said at the team's media lunch Wednesday he expects Jones to make plenty of changes to his own schemes Sunday so the Stamps won't know what to expect.

"Chris is smart," Glenn said. "He's going to say 'I've got a lot of guys over there who know what I do,' so he's going to switch it up."

The tensions between the sides still seem to be there, and Jones' offseason move may be the most important link between them. Thus, comments about the chess match between Jones' Argonauts defence and the Stampeders' offence will be fun to follow all week. It's just unfortunate that the man at the centre of it has decided not to talk.