Saskatchewan·Analysis

Riders' credentials will take hit after Chris Jones defection

The man who held four titles will not be easily replaced.

The man who held four titles will not be easily replaced

Just one week after agreeing to a contract extension with the Roughriders, Chris Jones is off to Cleveland. (Glenn Reid/CBC )

We will not get a face-to-face with the Roughriders' president until Friday at the earliest so anything until then — and even after that — is speculation.

Unless Craig Reynolds has a ready-made plan, the Riders' search for a new head coach and whatever other jobs they choose to give him will extend into a new month and dangerously close to the mid-February free agency period.

I've covered many Riders head coaches over the years, from Jack Gotta to Danny Barrett, Ray Jauch to Corey Chamblin, John Gregory and Jim Daley.

None were as impressive as Chris Jones. Ken Miller is a close second.

Yes Don Matthews and Cal Murphy were top notch CFL names, but for them, Regina was either a pit stop or one more kick at the can before retirement.

Their hearts just weren't in it.

Jones really wanted to be here. He reminded me so much of Matthews, whose voice was the only one that mattered.

Jones had a big smile on his face when I told him he reminded me of the Don because Matthews was his mentor and his idol.

He did it his way. If players on his roster weren't capable of doing that, or their voices were just as loud, they were out the door.

Weston Dressler, John Chick, Darian Durant. Fan favourites? You're gone.

It will be interesting to see if Jones can be happy in Cleveland not being the one in charge.

Jones will have to adjust to not being the top person in charge in Cleveland. (Glenn Reid/CBC News)

With Jones and Matthews you never really knew where you stood.

They liked to keep people guessing what their days would be like. Media too.

Jones gave the Roughriders credibility. There was no doubt in my mind the organization would be hoisting the Grey Cup within the next year or two. 

I was surprised they didn't win it in 2018, but not having a quarterback will always be your downfall. Check the names of Grey Cup winning quarterbacks over the last twenty years and you will see what I mean.

Jones's only weakness, in my view, is that he wasn't as hard on, or critical of, his offense as his precious defense.

Zach Collaros — a fragile, mediocre quarterback who lacked accountability for what he was being paid — was Jones's biggest mistake.

Jeremy O'Day is the Saskatchewan Roughriders' new general manager. (CBC)

There have been plenty of names bandied about for who will fill Jones's many shoes, or at least one pair.

Jones held four titles in Saskatchewan. 

Head coach, general manager, vice president of football operations and defensive co-ordinator.

The glaring problem is that the Riders are now shoe-horned.

Thanks to the CFL's new restrictions on the number of people a team can have employed in football operations, which is everyone excluding doctors and therapists, the Riders' staff was already finalized.

With Jones name only counting as one, you can see where I'm going with this.

Reynolds will have to find someone to handle all the roles Jones filled or start letting more people go, people who were already guaranteed employment for 2019.

Jeremy O'Day taking over as general manager would be seamless.

The football operations vice president is a made up job, so they could probably tack that on O'Day as well.

All you have to do now is find a head coach with a defensive resume.

There's Mike Benevides, but he wouldn't be my choice.

The man who coached the opposition to two victories over Saskatchewan in back-to-back Grey Cups is now a possibility to take over the Roughriders. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press/File)

Very few are capable of handling what Jones did here on a daily basis. You are talking an elite class.

John Hufnagel, Wally Buono and Marc Trestman.

For me, all Trestman has proven lately is that he can't win unless Anthony Calvillo or Ricky Ray is his quarterback. Guess what? Those two aren't coming to Saskatchewan. Neither is Mike Reilly now that Chris Jones is no longer here.

Without a hall of fame-calibre quarterback, Trestman was 4 and 14 in 2018 and fired soon thereafter.

I recall an Argo game last year where a TSN camera was covering his pre-game pep talk and I remember the expressions on the players faces.

It was like they had heard that same speech 100 times already. His message was lost. He had lost the room.

Besides, Trestman's name is being thrown out in NFL circles — Denver for one — and the Broncos would be the 12th NFL team he works for.

Craig Dickenson is the only coach currently on the Riders' staff that I could see making the jump to the head job, but I place Dicky on the nice guy list. He is as nice as they come. 

For whatever reason nice guys get eaten alive once they become a head coach. 

We've seen it over and over, especially in Saskatchewan. 

See Bob Dyce, Greg Marshall and Richie Hall, all great coordinators but not-so-great head coaches. 

You can even throw Paul LaPolice in that category, another name on everyone's potential replacement for Jones list.

There is one name out there. Kent Austin anyone?

After wearing out his welcome in Hamilton, Austin has resurfaced at Liberty University in Virginia as their quarterbacks coach and co-coordinator, but he, like Trestman, did not fare well the last time he strolled the sideline as head coach.

This off-season was going to be as difficult as any other. 

No CBA in place, players bolting to the NFL left and right and the emergence of rival football leagues.

The Riders needed this news like a hole in the head.

We've said it a thousand times before. There's never a dull day in Riderville.
 

About the Author

Glenn Reid

Video Journalist

Glenn Reid first moved into the anchor chair at CBC Saskatchewan in 1986 and has been bringing sports to the people of Saskatchewan since then. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Glenn began his broadcast career in radio at Portage La Prairie, Manitoba before moving to Yorkton, and then to Regina.

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