Mark Washington is B.C.'s new defensive coordinator.It's an offseason of change for the B.C. Lions, with the team electing to part ways with both offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive coordinator Rich Stubler. They found Stubler's replacement internally, tabbing long-time defensive backs coach Mark Washington for a promotion Thursday, but they've reportedly been passed over by top offensive coordinator choices George Cortez (who currently holds that job in Saskatchewan) and Paul LaPolice (who's elected to stay with TSN). There are still plenty of options out there, though, and it's going to be interesting to see if B.C. elects to follow what they did with Washington by tabbing a first-time coordinator on offence as well, or if they opt for a more experienced hire.
Washington's hire says a lot about the organization's belief in him, particularly in how they elected to make the change from Stubler. Stubler is one of the CFL's most respected defensive minds, and his defence found a tremendous amount of success since B.C. snatched him up from Edmonton in the 2011-2012 offseason. In 2012, the Lions led the league in 18 of 25 defensive categories tracked weekly, including points allowed, touchdowns allowed, first downs allowed, yardage allowed and quarterback sacks. Their defence wasn't quite as dominant this season, but it was still one of the CFL's best units, leading the league in yards allowed per pass and total passing yards allowed and finishing second in total yards allowed, third in first downs allowed and fourth in points allowed. That's not a stat line that motivates you to make a change unless you have a lot of faith in the new guy. However, if the Lions didn't make a change, they may well have lost the 40-year-old Washington (a six-year coaching veteran) to a promotion elsewhere. The 64-year-old Stubler seems anything but done with the CFL himself, though, and he appears set to land on his feet, likely as the defensive coordinator in Winnipeg. It says a lot about B.C.'s faith in Washington that they elected to promote him rather than risking losing him; we'll see if that faith turns out to be justified.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions will have to make a choice between an experienced coordinator and another newbie. Reaching out to Cortez and LaPolice, both men who have been head coaches as well as long-time coordinators, suggests experience was their preference, but with those two turning them down, they may well go in another direction. Lowell Ullrich reports that B.C. has already talked to Saskatchewan quarterbacks coach Khari Jones, who only has minimal experience as a coordinator (one year in Hamilton in 2011). However, Jones was getting some buzz as a head coaching candidate in Winnipeg before the Bombers hired Mike O'Shea, and he may be offered the OC job there as well. Argos' QB coach Jason Maas has also expressed interest. It doesn't seem like the Leos will promote their own QB coach (Jarious Jackson) just yet, but a QB coach from elsewhere might work.
However, if the team would prefer to have an experienced coordinator, there's one very intriguing option still out there: Marcel Bellefeuille. Bellefeuille's another former head coach (in Hamilton) and a guy who's worked as an OC in Montreal, Hamilton and Winnipeg (for the last part of the 2013 season), and he might not be the Bombers' top choice to stick around under new management, which could pave the way for the Lions. Meanwhile, former B.C. OC Chapdelaine is looking for CFL jobs, but also seems interested in going to the CIS ranks, or even the NCAA (with SFU). It's going to be interesting to see where all the dominoes fall, but the Lions have a lot of work to do in the search for an OC. Fortunately for them, they have plenty of options.
*Note: This post initially said Jones hadn't been a coordinator before. Thanks to Daniel for the correction.