“Football is a results-based business,” is something Jeff Reinebold, the for-now-departed former defensive coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, would often say. And while it may have been standings and the stat sheet that led to his demise – giving up 39 points a game, an 0-6 record – what happens next will go a long way into how the recent rash of changes in Hamilton is ultimately judged.
Should new assistant head coach June Jones get the offence going and new defensive coordinator Phillip Lolley stem the opposition touchdown parade while powering the Ticats to some, you know, actual wins, then their hiring will be seen as a stroke of genius – especially if this winless club somehow manages to make the playoffs.
If not, the Ticats just shuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic and none of it matters, anyway: the season is already lost.
Vice-president of football operations and head coach Kent Austin made Reinebold’s demotion official on Tuesday, announcing the promotion of Lolley from linebackers’ coach. Reinebold has been offered another position within the organization – though it’s unclear as to what, exactly, that would be – and is taking some time to think things over.
“Obviously we want to get better defensively. I have a great deal of respect for Jeff, I have a very strong personal relationship with him, I think he’s an outstanding coach but we needed to get better and make some changes,” Austin said. “It wasn’t easy. Jeff’s a very close friend and colleague. He knows I love him and I hope this didn’t affect our personal relationship. I want Jeff here and he’s been told that. He’s certainly welcome back with open arms.”
One of the criticisms that had been levelled at Reinebold, albeit quietly, was that his preferred defensive system was overly complex for the experience level of the current crew of Ticats, particularly in the secondary. Multiple personnel packages often led to last-minute substitutions and moments of confusion.
That’s unlikely to be an issue with Lolley, a football-lifer from Alabama who sees oversimplification as an art form.
“I’m a very fundamental guy… be aggressive, get lined up, run to the football, hit, tackle. You can draw up all the plays in the world but if you don’t execute them, what good are they?” Lolley asked, rhetorically. “It’s better to run one or two things right than ten or 12 things wrong. That’s my philosophy.”
Meanwhile, over on offence, things were getting more complicated. The addition of Jones means the Ticats now have Austin, the mastermind of the current offensive system, offensive coordinator Stefan Ptaszek (who has called plays at times this season) and Jones, who’s run-and-shoot concepts are being expanded within the current framework.
“It is part of every offence now. I think this is going to end up being a positive situation for everybody. [Kent] asked me to look at what they’re doing and then sit down and see what we can do without making it brand new stuff,” Jones said. “I would anticipate that Kent will continue to call the plays but I’ll certainly have input with him on that.”
Jones was certainly behaving like an offensive coordinator for much of Tuesday’s practice, the first as the Ticats prepare for Saturday’s home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The 64-year-old directing players during the walk through and working with the quarterbacks during the individual sessions – things that used to be the purview of Ptaszek and Austin.
Jones – whose contract runs through next season – says he likes what he sees in quarterback Zach Collaros, who is now trying to learn the run-and-shoot for the first time.
“He’s very confident guy, it’s his system and he can teach it like the back of his hand. There are a lot of things that guys have seen but maybe haven’t done for a long time,” Collaros said. “I think for the receivers being on the field as long as we were, just walking through, it was like a training camp day.”
One thing that Collaros said might help in his transition, ironically enough? Jeff Reinebold.
“I think he could play a role and be very valuable. There’s just something about Reinebold, guys want to play for him, guys want to be around him,” Collaros said. “Meeting him four years ago, I didn’t know who he was but thought he was cool looking with the tattoos and the blonde hair. I sent him a text last night. I hope he stays around, I love Jeff Reinebold.”
Notes: the Ticats made a series of roster moves on Monday. They confirmed the signing of former Eskimos offensive lineman Tony Washington, while also adding defensive back Cariel Brooks, defensive end Mike McAdoo and wide receiver Gerell Robinson. The team also released defensive back Ethan Davis, offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon, receiver Kevin Elliott and quarterback Logan Kilgore… on the injury front, defensive back Emanuel Davis was practicing with the first team and could potentially make his return to the line up this week. Quarterback Everett Golson is set to come off the six-game injured list.
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