Elks hire Chris Jones as head coach, GM
Jones won Grey Cup during previous stint as Edmonton's head coach in 2015
Chris Jones made it clear, over and over again, on Tuesday as he was introduced as the new coach and general manager of the Edmonton Elks — he intends to not only rebuild the football team, but entrench himself as one of the CFL's greats.
He said he wants his name to be mentioned alongside the likes of Wally Buono, the CFL's all-time winningest coach, and John Hufnagel, who ranks no. 9 on the all-time coaching wins list.
"This is where I try to build a legacy," Jones told the media Tuesday as he stood in the Elks' locker room, surrounded by plaques bearing the names of some of the all-time greats in CFL history. "Four years from now, I don't have a crystal ball, but I can tell you we're going to work as hard as anybody. We're going to be organized, we're going to play fast and have fun doing it."
Jones, who coached the Edmonton franchise to a Grey Cup win in 2015, was introduced after the team's board of governors unanimously voted Monday night to hire him as the GM and coach. It's a four-year deal.
It was Buono who was tasked by the board to create a short-list of coaching candidates. Jones said he's talked to Buono for more than 10 hours — all totalled — during the hiring process, and that he takes down nuggets of wisdom from the CFL's winningest coach and saves them on his phone.
"Now it's time to do like Wally and Huf and settle down and let's do it for a long period of time, and have fun doing it." said Jones.
But, before he can address history, Jones needs to fix a team that has a lot of question marks, maybe none more glaring than at the quarterback position.
Last season, the Elks made a late-season trade to acquire veteran Nick Arbuckle, but then-GM Brock Sunderland and coach Jaime Elizondo opted to not play him at all down the stretch. They claimed he just didn't have time to get used to the offensive scheme. So, Taylor Cornelius and Dakota Prukop got the snaps as the Elks sputtered to the gate with a 3-11 record. And, for the first time ever, the team went through a CFL season without a home victory.
"Every team has got to have a great quarterback, certainly we're no different," Jones said, but warned it would take at least a couple of months before the coaching staff can finish evaluating the position. So, the radio talk-show hosts will have a lot of 'what ifs' to discuss when it comes to Edmonton football over the next couple of months.
Plans to rebuild, work with community
He promised he would not only work to rebuild the Elks, but to meet with high-school coaches and build the sport in the community. As for maybe going back to the NFL one day?
"I've been to Disney World, and I'm glad I am right here."
He received an enthusiastic welcome from Ian Murray, the chair of the Elks' board of governors.
"This is the first proactive step to turning around the problems we've had," Murray said.