The biggest challenge June Jones faces as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ new head coach is repairing the club’s battered psyche.
Jones took over as coach Wednesday when Kent Austin relinquished those duties after four-plus seasons on the sidelines. The Ticats (0-8) are off until Sept. 4 when they host arch-rival Toronto Argonauts to begin a stretch of four games in 18 days.
Jones joined the Ticats on Aug. 2 as an assistant head coach following their embarrassing 60-1 road loss to the Calgary Stampeders. Hamilton has lost to Edmonton (33-28), Winnipeg (39-12) and Ottawa (37-18) since.
“I did not envision this (becoming head coach),” Jones told reporters Friday during a news conference at Tim Hortons Field. “But this is kind of why I do what I do.
“I’m kind of motivated by the situation Hamilton is in right now . . . I’m excited for this city to try and get it turned around for everybody.”
Jones will call plays for a Hamilton offence averaging a league-low 15.8 points per game. Jones plans to make some tweaks with the Ticats but said his most pressing task is rebuilding the club’s fragile psyche.
“I think that’s what affects winning more than anything else,” Jones said. “You could run the wishbone and if everybody believes in the wishbone, guess what, you can win up here with it.
“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it and how you execute.”
Jones is a proponent of the run-and-shoot offence. It’s what he ran as a quarterback at Portland State under head coach Darel (Mouse) Davis and then in ’82 with the Argos when Davis was their head coach.
Jones plans to incorporate some elements of the run-and-shoot into Hamilton’s offence but more to tweak things than overhaul them.
“If you asked that question 40 years ago it’s totally a drastic communist way to play the game, but now it’s part of every offence,” Jones said. “We’ll try to take it a little step further, maybe add some reads for the kids that are run-and-shoot type things.
“But really it’s going to have to be a part of what we’re doing right now.”
Jones also plans to simplify matters offensively.
“Do less things better, get the kids to hang their hat on something,” he said. “And you only do that by repetitive action . . . that means you do things over and over and over and over until unconsciously you can do it faster and quicker than the other guy.
“I don’t see that happening on the field right now.”
Jones hasn’t settled on a starting quarterback but expects to by next week. Incumbent Zach Collaros, a CFL MVP candidate in 2015 before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has dropped 12 straight starts, one short of the league record.
Hamilton has also lost its last nine games at Tim Hortons Field.
“You have to be able to win your home games and steal a few on the road to be able to make the playoffs or Grey Cup,” Jones said. “It (making playoffs) is going to be a hard road . . . but I’ve seen stranger things happen up here.
“Is it possible? Yeah, it’s possible.”
Jones said he sees plenty of positives in Collaros, backup Jeremiah Masoli and third-stringer Everett Goldston, the former Notre Dame star. And while change within a winless club is inevitable, Jones plans to be up front and honest with Ticats players.
“I tell my players like it is,” he said. “As long as you’re honest with them they respect you.
“The CFL is a little different than both college and the NFL because so many players are in and out all the time on practice squads, on different tryout things. With the NFL cuts coming obviously that’s a big time where more players are coming in . . . but competition makes everybody better.”
Jones said he’s Hamilton’s interim head coach but wants to earn a shot at returning in 2018.
“I’m kind of intrigued by some of the things that are potentially coming down the tube here,” he said. “I’ve got 10 games for them to evaluate me for next season.
“For me, I’m going to make it fun for the last 10 games and try to get some wins.”