Not one week after signing an extension through the 2020 Season, Chris Jones has fled for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. His job title? Senior Defensive Specialist. Jones inherited a 3-15 team in 2016 when he was hired and improved to 5-13, 10-8 and 12-6 in the subsequent seasons. Appearances in the East Final and West Semi-Final were made in the latter two seasons. There’s no denying Jones’ ability to find defensive talent for his roster and build elite defences. And while there will be lots of talk on the ethics of Jones’ decision, the focus now shifts to who will replace the Vice-President of Football Operations/Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator. Here are some of the names that have been floating around since the breaking news.
The obvious first choice that many fans thought of was Marc Trestman. The recently fired Toronto Argonauts coach never filled any of the vacancies that were left in B.C. or Hamilton. There are rumours of a return to the NFL, however, that shouldn’t stop the Riders from giving him a call. One issue with this choice is the newly and highly debated coaching salary cap. As mentioned, Chris Jones occupied two titles on the sidelines, head coach and defensive coordinator. Marc Trestman’s expertise lies on the offensive side of the ball. The Riders would have to find a budget-friendly defensive coordinator if Trestman takes the reigns.
Craig Dickenson is a familiar face on the Riders sideline, he was the special teams coordinator from 2011-2012 with brief stints in Winnipeg and Edmonton before returning to Saskatchewan in 2016. The positive here is the continuity for the players as he would be a respected voice in the locker room. However, the issue the Riders would run into would be filling the offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator roles. Ideally, Saskatchewan would want a Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator type on the sidelines.
— Matthew Scianitti (@TSNScianitti) January 15, 2019
Mike Benevides brings with him a long resume of coaching from his time as a defensive coordinator in B.C. and Edmonton to his Head Coaching experience in B.C. from 2012-2014. Benevides posted a 33-21 record in that span leading the Lions the West Final his first season before bowing out in the West and East Semi-Finals the next two seasons. By no means a popular choice, he may have the credentials the Roughriders are looking for at the position right now. A coach with experience and knowledge on the defensive side of the ball that can save them from a headache the new coaching salary cap has caused many teams in the CFL.
Finally, another familiar face that has floated around the Twittersphere is Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive coordinator, Paul LaPolice. LaPolice served as the offensive coordinator for Saskatchewan in 2008 & 2009.
Other names #Riders could look at if they go outside the organization: @PaulLaPolice is a former coach there (see headset slam?) & owns a home in Regina. Mike Benevides could also be a potential DC. Current DB coach Jason Shivers may be ready though. https://t.co/yLQprRkbYh
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) January 15, 2019
The Last Word
Needless to say, the next couple of weeks or even months will be very interesting. The successor to Jones will have their work cut out for them as the Riders are currently without a starting quarterback, holes at the receiver position and missing defensive pieces that are trying their hand at the American game. As for Jones, while his CFL resume is impressive, his legacy in Regina is that of unmet expectations and unfulfilled promises.
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