Already on the hook for the salaries of Corey Chamblin and Brendan Taman, the Saskatchewan Roughriders — for better or worse — are stuck with Chris Jones.
Maybe it’s a marriage that can be saved. Maybe not.
But even the CFL’s richest franchise can’t throw away another $1.2 million to get rid of Jones, following the $1.5 million paid out following last year’s firings of Chamblin, the team’s former coach, and former general manager Brendan Taman.
So the Riders and Jones — their first-year vice-president of football operations, general manager, head coach and defensive co-ordinator — have to work things out because he has 2 1/2 years remaining on his deal.
Counselling isn’t going to help. Victories will.
The Roughriders are a league-worst 1-7 after getting shellacked 53-7 by the home-town Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday. The defence — Jones’ baby — is on pace to set a CFL record for points allowed while the team is in the middle of another touchdown drought (90 minutes and counting) and has scored only 35 points in Saskatchewan’s last four games.
Jones was hired after winning the Grey Cup last year with the Edmonton Eskimos, his fourth CFL employer in 14 seasons, with whom he spent two full seasons.
He brought along from Edmonton virtually his entire coaching staff, hired so-called personnel guru John Murphy away from the Calgary Stampeders, and decided the roster of a 3-15 team needed a complete gutting. He cut so deeply that only five of Saturday’s starters were on last year’s roster and basically only two — quarterback Darian Durant and receiver Rob Bagg — who a casual fan could identify in a team picture.
Although the stated goal of president/CEO Craig Reynolds this season was to “make the playoffs,’’ it was evident from the outset that 2016 was going to be an extended training camp as the community-owned franchise prepared for next year, when the Riders move into a new stadium.
All the ticket-buyers really wanted was a competitive team, an improvement from last season, and some optimism heading into 2017.
Instead they’re trying to find somebody to cheer for on a roster that has had 200-plus roster transactions since training camp. The team has been fined for having players practising illegally and for not honouring an opponent’s logo, plus it had $26,000 stricken from its salary cap limitations, a serious concern for the franchise that has most often exceeded the CFL’s spending restrictions.
Despite the team’s embarrassing on-field and off-field performances, there is one sliver of hope. Of Saskatchewan’s next four games, two are against Edmonton and two are against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the teams they are chasing in the CFL playoff hunt. Although it would be mind-boggling, a four-game sweep would vault the Riders into playoff contention and end any notion of an ugly, expensive break-up.