Critical Decisions Face Wally Buono

Wally Buono

Coming off a 7-11 year the Lions had enough challenges entering the off-season without throwing in the coaching shake up that has taken place over the last week. Not only has Wally Buono returned to the sidelines, but he has at least two coaching vacancies to fill on his staff, following the retirements of offensive coordinator George Cortez and special teams coach Chuck McMann.

Thanks to the avalanche the Saskatchewan Roughriders have created, the pool is thinning out quickly.

Reports had the Lions interested in both Jarious Jackson and Paul LaPolice for the vacant offensive coordinator role but Jackson is sticking with Chris Jones and heading to Saskatchewan, while LaPolice returns to Winnipeg to team up with Mike O’Shea.

Another name that had been mentioned is current Calgary Stampeders receivers coach Pete Costanza, was drawing interest from multiple teams. Costanza has done his time, spending eight seasons in Calgary with some impressive results, however that possibility was erased when the Stampeders named their coaching staff earlier this week.

TSN’s Farhan Lalji seems to feel like the Lions will look to Khari Jones once again, who held the title in 2014 before giving way to Cortez last season under the one-year experiment that was Jeff Tedford. It was reported that Jones was drawing some interest from Winnipeg but that no doubt dies with the signing of LaPolice.

That Jones led offence in 2014 didn’t exactly light the league up but he has had another year in the organization and did a good job with the receivers last year who turned things on in the second half. There is also a comfort level with Jones and if Buono feels more stability is needed Jones could get the nod.

Twitter had a few interesting suggestions as well. How about speaking with Steve Burrato? A guy coming off a Vanier Cup title with UBC and someone with a ton of CFL knowledge and experience.

How about going off the board a little and talking to Jeff Garcia? He’s expressed interest in coaching and could see it as an opportunity to eventually become a head coach in the future.

Then there is the chance that Jacques Chapdelaine could be on Buono’s radar once again. The long-time Buono OC is likely going to be looking for work and if Buono can’t find a more desirable option, would he reach out to him? That would be a very hard sell to the Lions faithful, who would likely see that as regression and not progression.

On special teams, there was some thought that Craig Dickenson may join brother Dave in Calgary possibly freeing up Mark Kilam for the Lions vacancy. But Dickenson is also sticking with Jones and heading to the Riders, and it was reported on Tuesday that Kilam had agreed to return to the Stamps.

We also haven’t had confirmation that the remainder of the staff will all be back. Doug Malone did a nice job with the offensive line this season and should return. Mark Washington’s defence struggled early but got much better in the second half of the season. He’s also someone Buono likes and trusts so I don’t see him not being back. Johnny Holland has done a fine job with the linebackers and should be safe. Defensive line coach Robin Ross was brought in by Tedford so it will be interesting to see if Buono goes in a different direction there.

It’s ironic that Wally Buono entered the BC Sports Hall of Fame this week in the builder’s category, and with the Lions facing an important off-season on and off the field, his decisions will be a critical part of building his football team back into contenders.