Roughriders coach/GM Chris Jones leaving to take NFL job in Cleveland
Jones joined Roughriders in December 2015
The Saskatchewan Roughriders suddenly find themselves without a head coach and general manager.
Chris Jones dropped a bombshell Tuesday by resigning to take a coaching job with the NFL's Cleveland Browns.
In a statement, Riders President and CEO Craig Reynolds said the team had accepted Jones's resignation request to pursue an NFL coaching opportunity.
"We are proud of what Chris came in and accomplished through his three seasons as general manager and head coach," said Reynolds.
"His work obviously didn't go unnoticed and we congratulate him on his opportunity in the National Football League and thank him for his contribution to the Saskatchewan Roughriders."
Reynolds said the search for a new head coach and GM will begin immediately.
"We are fortunate to have many quality football leaders and coaches on our staff," he said. "We will evaluate and will look to fill the vacancy quickly."
The move comes one week after Jones signed a one-year extension with the Roughriders, taking him through the 2020 season.
That deal reportedly contained an out clause if Jones landed an NFL job.
Jones signed the extension with the Roughriders after Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported at least two NFL teams had "done extensive research" on the veteran CFL coach.
In an interview with The Canadian Press last week, Jones said he had not spoken with any NFL teams.
"I've got a great job and I'll be honest with you, I've been in this league for 17 years," he said. "I love this league, it's been extremely good to me and my family and I've worked for some great organizations, some great coaches, some great presidents. I respect the league extremely highly."
New Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens does have a connection with Jones. The latter was a graduate assistant with the Alabama Crimson Tide during Kitchens's final year as a quarterback with the NCAA team in 1997.
Jones, a 51-year-old native of South Pittsburgh, Tenn., joined the Roughriders in December 2015, one week after guiding the Edmonton Eskimos to the Grey Cup as head coach.
The Riders steadily improved under Jones, registering five, 10 and 12 regular-season wins in each of his three seasons with the franchise. He was named CFL coach of the year in 2018 after a 12-6 season, but the Roughriders lost the West Division semifinal against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
In the interview last week, Jones was looking ahead to the 2019 Riders season.
"We've been really busy as an organization," Jones said. "We've got some unfinished business and it's time to go to work."
Jones came to the CFL in 2002, taking a job as defensive line coach of the Montreal Alouettes. He moved up to defensive co-ordinator the following year and stayed in that role until taking the same job with the Calgary Stampeders in 2008.
The Toronto Argonauts hired Jones as defensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach in 2012. He stayed there for two years before becoming head coach of the Eskimos in 2014.
Jones has won four Grey Cups as a coach.
The Roughriders will become the fourth CFL team with a new head coach for the 2019 season. Corey Chamblin of the Argos, DeVone Claybrooks of the B.C. Lions and Orlondo Steinauer of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are the others.
The Roughriders did sign assistant vice-president of football operations Jeremy O'Day through 2020 earlier this month. Paul Jones joined the organization as the assistant GM with a two-year deal while director of football administration Mike Davis and football operations co-ordinator Jordan Greenly also both return.