While the exact identity of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats new defensive coordinator may still be a question mark– word is they have yet to make a final, final decision – the list of obvious names is getting shorter.
Which, in turn, leaves one obvious candidate.
Around the CFL, coaching staffs are rapidly solidifying and there’s an obvious trend: the desire for continuity. While previous seasons have seen teams cycle through coordinators and assistant coaches, this year has seen a number of squads bring back their staffs en masse. That list includes the Grey Cup-champion Ottawa Redblacks, the team they vanquished (Calgary) and the B.C. Lions.
A number of other teams have yet to make official announcements but are expected to stick with the status quo, at least when it comes to defensive coordinators. That includes the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where Richie Hall – who coached with Ticats’ football boss Kent Austin in Saskatchewan – is expected to be retained. Ditto Edmonton, where Mike Benevides (who would have been a nice fit given his Toronto roots) is likely be back.
There’s been turmoil in Montreal where former special teams coordinator Kavis Reed was a surprising pick as general manager but with head coach Jacques Chapedelaine having his interim tag removed and defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe under contract for one more season, that’s another notable name off the board.
Even in Toronto, where there has been plenty of speculation regarding the future of general manager Jim Barker and head coach Scott Milanovich, the longer that situation drags on, the more likely it is that both will return. So, too defensive coordinator Rich Stubler.
Don’t expect former Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach and Ticats defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin to reprise his role in the Black and Gold, either. It’s been reported that Chamblin hasn’t spoken with Austin and “doesn’t expect to.” That could be fallout from the 2013 Grey Cup that saw Austin waiting alone at mid-field looking to offer a conciliatory handshake while Chamblin celebrated on his sideline.
So if the usual suspects aren’t an option, that leaves Austin with two options: bring in a coach currently outside current CFL circles – as he did when he hired Mike Markuson to handle offensive line last year – or do the obvious: fill the job internally with special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold.
While the first scenario can’t be ruled out, Austin has gone on record as saying that he thinks CFL experience is an asset in a defensive coordinator. And while there are plenty of qualified people out there – between Austin and general manager Eric Tillman, they’ll know quite a few – bringing in someone without up-to-date knowledge of the league and its players is always a risk.
Reinebold, meanwhile, makes sense on a lot of levels. He’s spent the last four seasons with the Ticats as special teams coordinator and handled linebackers for a couple of seasons. He has detailed knowledge of the team’s personnel and the system they played under the departed Orlondo Steinauer: the players generally like and respect him.
Just as importantly, he’s worked – and thrived – under Austin and is familiar with the culture of the organization. Reinebold isn’t without his quirks and his last stint as defensive coordinator (in 2012 with Marc Trestman in Montreal) didn’t go particularly well. But, at this point, he would be appear to be the best and most viable option.
There are other subtle signs pointing towards Reinebold. Sources say the entire defensive staff that served under Orlondo Steinauer has been retained for next season: it would be unusual to saddle a new coordinator with an existing staff.
So takes over for Reinebold? One strong possibility would be Chuck Winters, who served as a defensive and special teams assistant last season.
Austin was an early-adopter of continuity: the triumvirate of offensive coordinator Tommy Condell, Steinauer and Reinebold were together for three seasons, while Steinauer and Reinebold were on board for four. By moving Reinebold to defensive coordinator (and promoting Winters) Austin would stay true to one of his guiding principles thus far. And that is yet another reason – perhaps the strongest of all – why it’s likely to happen.