Life is slowly getting back to normal in Saskatchewan after a week filled with controversy, all started (publicly at least) by a tweet from Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
Chris Jones pushing the limits of what is considered legal in the CFL when he has a new higher profile job is nothing new. We only have to look back a couple of years ago when he joined the Eskimos as their head coach. It was around this time in 2014 when Jones was fined for pre-game violations. You’ll remember, the Eskimos were routinely late to the field three times on the road, culminating with his team not making their way out before the national anthem against the Ottawa Redblacks on August 15th.
Running out of the tunnel on time might not seem like a big deal, if it’s before the anthem, but the pre-game festivities are timed out for a reason, television. It all adds up so TSN’s pre-game content fits before kick-off. We saw similar issues in the 2013 Grey Cup when the Riders players decided to run out of the tunnel as a group rather than one-by-one as is usually the case (teams should run out as a group, but that’s another story for another day). The Riders weren’t fined in that case and it took three times by the Eskimos before the league stepped in the next season. Messing with pre-game timing isn’t quite the same as practicing with illegal players or not meeting ratio requirements, but that was reflected in the penalty handed down in each situation.
Jones even generated a lot of discussion when he wasn’t breaking the rules. When he became a head coach, Jones took some heat for not shaking hands with the opposing head coach after games, something he didn’t start doing until last year.
At the time, similar questions about Jones’ integrity and respect for the league were asked by fans and media across the league, including Saskatchewan. The difference was Jones had lost just one game by late August in 2014, this year, he has just one win. It’s a lot easier to sweep something under the rug in the realm of public opinion when what you’re doing is leading to wins.
The good news for the Riders is after getting busted, Jones seemed to learn his lesson. Eskimos GM Ed Hervey said it wouldn’t happen again. Throughout the rest of 2014 and then the 2015 season Jones changed his image as a head coach. The warts of the past were seemingly forgotten as Jones led the Eskimos to the 2015 Grey Cup, while keeping his team between the lines for the most part along the way. This time, it was Riders president and CEO Craig Reynolds stepping up to speak to the transgressions and promising change. It seems when he has a new role, in this case general manager and VP of football operations, Jones likes to push the limits to see just how far he can go before reeling it back in.
You have to think that history will likely repeat itself in Saskatchewan, at least when it comes to Jones and the rules. Now, he just needs to find a way to get some wins.