Steinauer’s title bump more than just optics

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced their coaching staff on Friday and among the new additions (most of which we’ve already reported) there was a title bump for defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer, who now has “assistant head coach” stencilled on his office door.

The promotion does not include a contract extension (Steinauer’s deal expires after this season) but it’s still a good move for an organization that would like to hang on to one of the CFL’s top young coaches – if they can.

A full explanation requires some context.

After the 2013 season – the first under vice president of football operations and head coach Kent Austin – Steinauer was signed to a three-year contract extensions that, in addition to making him among the best-paid assistant coaches in the league, provided Steinauer with an unusual amount of job security. Assistant coaches in the CFL, including coordinators, often exist on one-year deals, their financial well-being and family stability constantly in flux.

The tradeoff was a provision which limited his ability to pursue other opportunities – including head coaching jobs. Generally speaking, coaches are allowed to seek employment elsewhere as long as it’s a step up from their current role, even if they’re under contract. That became an issue the last two off-seasons when Steinauer’s name was among the contenders for various head coaching vacancies.

Nonetheless, Steinauer is poised to fulfill the terms of his three-year deal, which expires after this season. The promotion, and likely pay bump, is a recognition of that commitment as well as a nod to the generally excellent job he’s done thus far.

It could also lay the groundwork for another extension, one that would enable Steinauer to remain in Hamilton – his family is rooted in the region and, by all accounts, he likes coaching here – while also being able to pursue head coaching opportunities if and when they become available. For as much as the existing deal had benefits for both sides, there’s little doubt that Steinauer needs and wants the opportunity to become a head guy. More than that, he deserves it.

In the meantime, if he can remain with the Ticats, that’s a win-win.

Steinauer is not, however, likely to be the heir apparent to Austin. Barring something unforeseen, the 52-year-old Austin will be coaching for the foreseeable future: he enjoys it far too much to give it up (not to mention the fact he appears to be pretty good at it.)

No, Steinauer will likely need to go elsewhere to take a head coaching gig that feels, at this point, to be something of an inevitability. But until that day comes, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in Hamilton, both happy and with an eye on the future.

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