November 30, 2011
Something is happening here/But you don't know what it is/Do you, Mister Jones?" - Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
In the CFL, it's presumably not Mister Jones who's left in the dark, but just those of us trying to figure out what's going on with him. There were several solid reports (from TSN's Dave Naylor and The Calgary Sun's Ian Busby that Jones would be leaving his role as the Calgary Stampeders' defensive coordinator and assistant player personnel director to head to the Toronto Argonauts as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. That seemed even more clear Wednesday morning when Calgary head coach/general manager John Hufnagel confirmed that Jones had told him he was leaving and made several pointed comments that he was quite upset with the way it went down, as the Argonauts apparently didn't ask for permission to speak to Jones.
However, Toronto potentially threw a wrench in the works Wednesday afternoon with a statement that they didn't ask for permission. They state their reasons as they didn't think Jones (above) was available, and they go on to add that he doesn't currently have a contract with the Argonauts. That all adds up to an on-the-money tweet from The Toronto Star's Chris Zelkovich, who wrote "As many bizarre things that have happened in Argoland the past few years, the Jones situation may be the craziest." So, what exactly is happening here? As another famous old song might say, what it is ain't exactly clear...
First, here are some of Hufnagel's comments (via Wes Gilbertson of The Calgary Sun):
"I know as much as you know," Hufnagel told reporters Wednesday morning. "What I read in the paper, it's not a false statement. Chris informed me yesterday that he'll be moving on to Toronto.
"I'm very surprised. I had no forewarning of it."
The coaching carousel spins every off-season, but moves usually come with at least a bit of forewarning. That's because it's standard practice for a team to ask permission to chat with an already-employed coach.
Apparently, it didn't happen in this case.
"If they had contacted me, I wouldn't be so surprised," Hufnagel said.
And the Argonauts' statement in response, via the Sun's Ian Busby:
Toronto — The Toronto Argonauts Football Club would like to clarify some remarks made to the media earlier today by Calgary Stampeders Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel regarding Defensive Coordinator Chris Jones.
The Toronto Argonauts did not request permission from the Calgary Stampeders to talk to Chris Jones. Chris Jones was under contract to the Stampeders. As such, the Argonauts did not believe him to be available for discussion. He does not have a contract with the Toronto Argonauts.
The Toronto Argonauts have no further comment on this situation.
There's one quite simple explanation here that doesn't presume anyone's lying outright. It involves the Argonauts coming to a verbal agreement with Scott Milanovich as head coach (a hiring that still hasn't been officially confirmed, but is widely believed to be a fait accompli) and Milanovich talking to Jones about coming over as defensive coordinator/assistant head coach (presumably with the tacit approval of current Toronto head coach/general manager Jim Barker, who appears likely to stay on as the club's GM; Barker also has his own somewhat combative history with Hufnagel, so poking him this way doesn't seem out of character). As Milanovich doesn't yet seem to be officially under contract to the Argonauts, his interference with Calgary personnel wouldn't appear to count as Toronto doing it.
That also avoids the thorny problem of if Calgary would grant permission for another team to talk to an under-contract coach in Jones about what's essentially a lateral move, as it isn't another team talking to him, but rather someone who's soon to be in the employ of another team. Thus, it could be quite possible that Jones will resign from his Stamps position and then sign a deal with the Argos. If that's the case, it's all very sneaky (and oddly enough, what it most reminds me of is the Joe Kapp-Jim Young "trade" between the CFL and the NFL, funny considering what Kapp's been in the news for lately), but doesn't seem to be violating any rules. We'll see if that's what's going down or if there's something else happening here.