On many levels, Friday's announcement that Jarious Jackson will be the B.C. Lions' new quarterbacks coach makes plenty of sense. Jackson was a valuable backup for the Toronto Argonauts last season, filling in successfully at times when Ricky Ray was injured, but he didn't dazzle, and his offseason release wasn't entirely unexpected. Jackson may still be able to play, but there aren't a lot of quarterbacking jobs in the CFL, and most teams would probably rather develop young talent in the backup role instead of acquiring a guy who's turning 36 in May. He's often been viewed seen as an insightful guy and a solid mentor for younger quarterbacks, though, so a job as a quarterbacks' coach is a logical one, and B.C.'s a reasonable destination considering his past history with the organization; general manager Wally Buono and head coach Mike Benevides both know Jackson well and can anticipate what he'll bring to the table. (It's notable that the Lions didn't have a dedicated quarterbacks coach before this: going to one is a smart move, and Jackson could be a good fit in this role.) However, what's interesting about this move is that the main player Jackson will have to work with, newly-extended starter Travis Lulay, was starting ahead of him just two seasons ago. Will Jackson be able to make the change from former backup to coach?
The roles of backup quarterback and quarterbacks coach carry some similarities, of course, but there are substantial differences as well. Backups, especially veterans like Jackson, are often called upon for advice, mentoring and support, and those are obviously elements of the quarterbacks coach's role as well. However, a coach has more authority and has to tell his players when they're doing something wrong, not just sit there and encourage the way you'd often expect a backup to do. Essentially, Jackson's gone from being Lulay's former backup to being his direct boss. That isn't necessarily the easiest transition to make.
This transition has been done before, though, and Jackson's already showing his smarts by reaching out to those who have done it well. Lowell Ullrich of The Province reports that Jackson's already reached out to Toronto QB coach Jason Maas, who was Ricky Ray's backup (and sometime-rival for the starting job in Edmonton)before becoming his position coach, and it sounds like Jackson learned from Maas' example:
There’s a blueprint for everything in football, and on the way to his first day on the job as quarterbacks coach of the Lions today, Jarious Jackson didn’t have to look far for answers as to how he will relate this season to Travis Lulay.
The first phone call for Jackson was to his former position coach with the Argonauts last year, Jason Maas, whose relationship with Ricky Ray is every bit as strong as that of his own and Lulay.
“He treated Ricky the same as the other quarterbacks but he was there to do whatever it takes for all the quarterbacks,” said Jackson, who won three Grey Cup rings in eight CFL seasons.
“I just talked to Maas this morning to say you’re going to get some phone calls. Me and Travis don’t have the same tenure but we have the same friendship and respect.”
From Cam Cole, it sounds like Jackson will be willing to be hard on Lulay when it's required, too:
“We all have glitches in our game, but I think that’s why I’m here, to try to get Travis to be even better than he already is. He knows I’ll be putting in the time, pushing him,” Jackson said.
“Just being an extra set of eyes and ears, from someone who’s been a peer and played the position, not just someone on the sidelines with x’s and o’s. We’ve played a few years together, won a Grey Cup together.”
If Jackson's able to make that transition and provide the right mix of support and constructive criticism, this could work out very well for him. Plenty of former CFL quarterbacks have gone on to become coaching stars, including John Hufnagel, Scott Milanovich, Mike McCoy, Jeff Tedford, Tom Clements, Dave Dickenson and more, and many of them started as quarterbacks coaches. Jackson has been a solid CFL player as both a starter and a backup, and he has a sizeable amount of experience in several different impressive offensive systems (Jacques Chapdelaine's and Milanovich's in particular), plus he's worked with notable quarterbacks like Ray, Dickenson, Lulay and others. It's not going to be particularly easy for him to adapt, but Jackson may well turn out to be an excellent fit for the job.