Let’s get this out of the way first: June Jones is not coming in to take Kent Austin’s job.
With a long and impressive resume that includes head coaching stints in both U.S. college and the NFL, June Jones was named assistant head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Wednesday. It was, however, Austin’s idea to bring in the 61-year-old Jones, who was on the Toronto Argonauts’ roster as a quarterback in 1982 and was the offensive co-ordinator of the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1986.
Discussions with general manager Eric Tillman – who has a long-standing relationship with Jones – in the wake of the team’s 60-1 loss to the Calgary Stampeders last Saturday led Austin to bring the idea of adding Jones to team owner Bob Young and CEO Scott Mitchell.
“Absolutely at the end of the day it was my decision. I was completely for it and I think it will be really good for the organization. His resume speaks for itself,” Austin said. “He’s really going to be a great fit in getting to know him throughout the week. He’s going to be a great fit culturally and I think the players are going to respond to him.
“It’s no secret to anybody that we’ve struggled offensively.”
Jones’ contract with the Ticats only runs the remainder of the 2017 season while Austin is signed through 2019. Mitchell said Austin’s job isn’t – and has never been – in jeopardy.
“This is June coming in to support Kent, the players and the team. This has nothing to do with Kent Austin’s tenure as general manager and head coach of this team. He’s going to be an integral part of this team for a long time,” Mitchell said. “It’s never been suggested by anybody other than [the media] that Kent’s job was ever even discussed.
“Kent’s done a tremendous job.”
Austin said Jones will join the team in Edmonton on Thursday – the Ticats play the undefeated Eskimos on Friday – and discussions are expected to take place over the weekend as to what Jones’ role will be going forward. Austin said it’s possible that Jones will take over the play calling duties currently being performed by offensive coordinator Stefan Ptaszek.
“Probably not initially but that’s on the table. He’s got a lot to learn, our players what we’re doing offensively, and we’ll go from there,” Austin said. “He needs to feel comfortable with what he thinks the pieces should look like.”
The Ticats have scored just five offensive touchdowns this season and quarterback Zach Collaros is struggling through his worst season as a professional. As a self-described “football junkie,” Collaros said he’s excited about getting to spend time with a coach who’s worked with quarterbacks like Brett Favre, Jim Kelly and Warren Moon.
“I watched him when he was at SMU and Hawaii and it’s a fast-paced offence that puts a lot on the quarterbacks and the receivers and I’m excited about that,” Collaros said. “I don’t think there’s any potential negatives. With his resume and his knowledge of the game it will be an easy transition for him and for us.”
Jones also coached current Calgary Stampeders pivot Bo Levi Mitchell and the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player credits him for an important part of his development.
“I love June and he was a guy that got me out my shell. I was very meticulous and he taught me to be the gunslinger that I am,” said Mitchell, who played for Jones for two seasons starting in 2008. “That offence fits this league really well.
“I think Zach will love it.”
Notes: Ticats head coach Kent Austin doesn’t use replay much so it’s hardly surprising he’s supportive of the rule change that will limit coaches to just one challenge a game. Austin has challenged just two calls this season, both unsuccessfully, and joked about his accuracy rate. “That’s probably good – I don’t get many of them right,” Austin said laughing. That’s actually not true. Austin threw the challenge flag 16 times last season, the second-lowest rate among CFL coaches, but his 56 per cent accuracy rate was the highest in the league. “I understand the rule change and why… we have to look at the fan experience,” Austin said. “We support it and as you look at the rest of the season, it will play out well.”