Fair or not, new Redblacks offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo will spend the 2016 CFL season working his way out of the mammoth shadow cast by the historical production Jason Maas (now head coach of the Eskimos) squeezed out of the Redblacks’ offence.
And to be completely frank, Elizondo won’t have a long honeymoon period with R-Nation simply because the bar has been set so high. Though he’ll be working with the majority of the same tools Maas had at his disposal, the likelihood of the entire starting offensive line staying healthy for 20 games, having four receivers go over 1000 yards AND Burris having another MOP season is low.
Elizondo’s hiring is interesting on a number of fronts. For one thing, GM Marcel Desjardins deserves credit for going with fresh blood and bucking the typical CFL trend of recycling coaches. The easy choice would’ve been someone like Jacques Chapdelaine or George Cortez, but frankly, why go down a road that’s already been traveled too many times?
But while Elizondo boasts an impressive coaching résumé….
2015: Receivers coach, Toronto Argonauts
2012-14: OC/QB coach, Columbia University (NCAA)
2010-11: OC/QB coach, Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
2009: WR coach, Syracuse University (NCAA)
2008: WR/ST assistant, Montreal Alouettes (CFL)
2007: ST/WR assistant, New Orleans Saints (NFL)
2004-2007: WR/ST coach, Hofstra University (NCAA)
2002-2003: TE/ST coach, William & Mary (NCAA)
2001: ST/DB coach, Catholic University (NCAA)
……his results and production have been at best, mediocre.
In his three seasons at Columbia, the Lions went 3-27 and more worryingly, the offence was, well, pitiful. Elizondo’s offences averaged 260.7 yards per game; 191.3 passing yards and 69 rushing yards per game.
That being said, some of those numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, as Columbia is far from being mistaken as a college football powerhouse. The quality of players at Elizondo’s disposal while at Columbia perhaps explains his lack of offensive production, as most football players at a school like Columbia are there to get an Ivy League education, not with plans to be drafted into the NFL/CFL.
As for Elizondo’s most recent stint as an OC in the CFL, in his two seasons heading the Argos attack, Toronto went 15-21 and averaged 317.7 yards of offence per game (215.2 through the air and 123.6 on the ground). Again, a key thing to keep in mind when looking at these numbers is that Elizondo had Cleo Lemon and Steven Jyles as his QBs, not Henry Burris fresh off an MOP season.
Another thing Elizondo has going for him in Ottawa is that there’s no need to come in and re-invent the wheel; if he can simply build off the foundation Maas has already installed, the Redblacks should be okay.
And while there’s no denying that losing Maas was an unexpected blow to the Redblacks’ organization and though he leaves massive shoes to fill, Elizondo isn’t facing an insurmountable task. As much as coaching is important, having the right personnel in place (which, offensively, the Redblacks mostly do) and staying healthy, is just as critical.
As an OC with the Argos, Elizondo’s offence boasted a fearsome running attack but weak passing game. With the Redblacks, he’ll need to strike a better balance and continue to effectively spread the ball around to Ottawa’s deep receiving corps. If he can manage that, the Redblacks should have no problem moving the ball and cutting wood cookies.