It’s wonderful the Alouettes appear primed to finally get it right. A franchise that has lacked stability in the front office realizes what it has in head coach Khari Jones, and expects him to return next season, according to president Patrick Boivin.
Jones is a rock star in Montreal and can do no wrong after leading the Als to a winning record and a playoff berth under extenuating circumstances. In short, he’s the best coach this franchise has had since Marc Trestman and, before that, Don Matthews.
Boivin can say it’s a foregone conclusion and only a matter of days before Jones puts pen to paper and signs a contract extension. And Jones made it clear during Friday morning’s news conference — one that was mysteriously delayed 24 hours after the Impact Thursday announced Thierry Henry as its new coach, although no news came from the Als’ gathering — he sees potential and building blocks in a team that went 10-8 but lost last weekend’s semifinal playoff game.
But Boivin better not waffle. And, when he resigns Jones — assuming that occurs — he better hire the right general manager, one that can work with Jones in harmony. That might be why Boivin has enlisted the services of Wally Buono, now retired but the former B.C. Lions GM and head coach, in an advisory role. Buono’s a football guy. Boivin isn’t. The two of them should realize Jones holds all the cards in this scenario.
Two teams — the Lions and Ottawa Redblacks — are seeking head coaches. Two others, Edmonton and Winnipeg, could be in the market as well, depending on the results of Sunday’s division finals.
Jones lives in Surrey, B.C., not far from the Lions’ practice facility. The Redblacks, according to a source, would love to speak to Jones but can’t — at least until after the Nov. 24 Grey Cup, or Dec. 31, when his Montreal contract expires. Jones, a former quarterback, spent much of his playing career in Winnipeg and undoubtedly would be high on president Wade Miller’s shopping list should Mike O’Shea, whose contract’s expiring, leave the organization.
And don’t forget Toronto, where the status of head coach Corey Chamblin has yet to be determined following the Argonauts’ second consecutive terrible season.
Jones received an increase in salary — but likely not nearly enough — when the Als fired Mike Sherman following training camp and made Jones, their offensive co-ordinator, interim head coach. It was only one season, but Jones proved himself. And his players made it clear they don’t want to play for anyone else.
It’ll cost Boivin and the new ownership group at least $300,000-$350,000 for Jones to re-sign, since he’ll potentially be leaving money on the table should he do so before hitting the open market, where there would be a feeding frenzy for his services.
Boivin made it clear Jones will be involved, in some capacity, in the hiring of a new GM. But were the Als to name him vice-president of football operations — as Hamilton did years before with Kent Austin — Jones would have total authority in that decision, as well as a loud voice in player personnel matters.
“We want to have that collaborative nature, title or otherwise,” Boivin said. “If a GM and coach don’t see eye-to-eye, it doesn’t matter what kind of authority you have versus the other guy. Things are going to split apart. It’s more important to find an alignment … that collaboration … moreso than dictating in black and white who has authority on what. It can go sideways in both cases.”
There are two obvious GM candidates that jump to mind — Eric Tillman and Brendan Taman.
Tillman has been a GM with B.C., Toronto, the Ottawa Renegades, Saskatchewan, Edmonton and, most recently, the Tiger-Cats. As a GM, he won three Grey Cups and was instrumental in building the Hamilton team that went 15-3 this season. Tillman has a vast network of American contacts and can find players under rocks — the lifeblood of any successful franchise.
Taman was the Roughriders’ GM from 2010-15, but has an extensive Canadian Football League background dating back to 1987, when he was Saskatchewan’s player personnel assistant. He also was the Blue Bombers’ GM from 2004-08. Taman has no ego and would be able to work collectively with both Tillman and Jones, especially since the trio share the same agent.
If either Tillman and/or Taman are hired, the transition would be seamless.
Another potential candidate who deserves strong consideration is St-Léonard’s Danny Maciocia, a former Eskimos GM and head coach who has the Université de Montréal Carabins playing in Saturday’s national semifinal, at Acadia. Maciocia led the Carabins to the Vanier Cup in 2014 and, at age 52, would likely welcome one more challenge in his career.
The Carabins upset Université Laval last weekend in Ste-Foy. Another road victory in the Maritimes would undoubtedly raise his stock and bargaining power.