November 29, 2011
It's only a few days into the CFL offseason, but the Toronto Argonauts are already making plenty of headlines. Only days after a convoluted series of events ended with a reputable report that Montreal offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich would soon be announced as the team's new head coach (and before that's even been confirmed by the Argonauts), TSN's Dave Naylor is reporting that they're expected to bring Calgary defensive coordinator Chris Jones on board as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. That would be interesting on several levels; Jones has been with the Stampeders for four seasons and would likely be a notable loss for them, he has experience with both Milanovich and current Toronto head coach/GM Jim Barker, and he'd also be a very high-profile addition to the Argonauts' staff.
The word out of Calgary from the Calgary Sun's Ian Busby is that the Jones move is going to happen. That's interesting, too, as this isn't really a promotion (as Jones was the Stampeders' assistant player personnel director as well as their defensive coordinator) and the Stampeders were expecting him to be around this off-season and run their December free-agent camps. He also just signed a contract extension with them in 2010. It could be that Jones (seen above) thinks there's more opportunity in Toronto (although the 38-year-old Milanovich would seem much more likely to be around as head coach for the long-term future than 60-year-old Calgary head coach/GM John Hufnagel), or that he wants to get some different experience on his resume, but it could also be that the Argonauts are offering him a salary boost. The team hasn't done well on the attendance front lately, but owner David Braley does have deep pockets, and the 2012 season will be incredibly important for them with the hosting of the 100th Grey Cup. If there's ever a time to spend in an attempt to bolster the team's on-field fortunes, that would be now.
Jones has been in the CFL for 10 years and has led some great defences over that time, including the 2008 Calgary edition that allowed a league-low 420 points and was a crucial part of their 22-14 Grey Cup victory over the high-powered Montreal Alouettes. He had some great years with them, too, entering the league in 2002 with Montreal and taking over as their defensive coordinator in 2003. He's also worked south of the border at Alabama, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin, and he's been rumoured as a head-coaching candidate for quite some time. Jones is held in quite high regard by many knowledgeable CFL types, so he might be able to bring the Argonauts' defence back to the 2010 model that allowed a league-low 442 points (24.6 per game) rather than the 2011 version that gave up a league-high 498 (27.7 per game).
Toronto does have plenty of promising personnel on the defensive side of the ball, including 2011 league all-star defensive back Byron Parker and 2011 division all-stars defensive back Lin-J Shell and defensive tackle Kevin Huntley. They also have some other impressive talent, including defensive end Ricky Foley, safety Willie Pile, linebacker Jason Pottinger and defensive end Ronald Flemons. All that talent didn't really help much in 2011, though, as the Argonauts' defence was horrible in the early part of the season, leading to the firing of defensive coordinator Chip Garber, and it didn't get a lot better under midseason replacement Orlando Steinauer. We'll have to see if Jones will in fact make the move, and if he can right the ship in Toronto.