It is no secret that DeVone Claybrooks – known to friends and Twitter followers as “Biscuit” – is the leading candidate for the head coaching position in Montreal.
Prior to the Grey Cup , our own Justin Dunk reported that Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed had approached Claybrooks to begin discussions with the Stampeders defensive coordinator. Given recent developments, however, could Claybrooks be looking at a better situation just a little further West?
Wally Buono, the winningest CFL coach of all time, recently stepped down from the general manager post in B.C. as Ed Hervey took up the mantle. Buono stayed on as coach but says he will be relinquishing the post following next season meaning that Hervey will be on the lookout for a new coach at that time.
Taking a minute to compare the two potential opportunities it would seem that waiting another year could benefit Claybrooks.
Hervey, alongside Chris Jones, built a Grey Cup winning team in Edmonton. Hervey recruited, acquired or assembled much of the existing roster there including CFL MOP Mike Reilly and free agent to be backup James Franklin. Franklin appears to be the belle of the ball for this year’s free agency feeding frenzy and one has to believe that Hervey has an in with the QB from the University of Missouri after bringing him into the league in 2014.
Hervey was named GM of the Eskimos and in their first season led them to a record of 4-14 before turning the team around and going 36-18, including a 2015 Grey Cup win, over the next three years before being let go prior to the 2017 season.
By contrast, Reed became GM of the Alouettes this year, assembled the oldest roster in the league and finished with a 3-15 record.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “But surely you have to give Kavis the same opportunity to right the ship! After all, Hervey was just one win better in his first year!” You would be justified in thinking so too. I do offer one other piece of evidence though.
Kavis Reed’s teams lose.
With alarming regularity, Kavis Reed has been on teams that have finished the season below .500. In fact, only three teams that employed Reed have had a winning record over the last 17 seasons. The 2004 Ti-Cats (9-8-1), 2009 Roughriders (10-7-1), and 2011 Eskimos are the only teams that had some success with Reed on the payroll.
Meanwhile, teams Reed has been involved with have gone 103-183-2 since 2001.
This doesn’t even begin to address the problems with Montreal’s roster, old and growing older by the day. An owner that fires coaches at an alarming rate, the new bench boss will be the sixth different coach and seventh coaching change since 2013. Would stepping in here be the best place for Claybrooks to begin his career as a head coach?
The B.C. opportunity may look far more enticing to a coach brought up in the Hufnagel system. Until parting ways with Khalil Carter this offseason, not a single coach had been fired or let go in Calgary since 2007. Hufnagel preaches loyalty ahead of all else and Claybrooks has been brought up in that system. Hervey hired Jones and stayed the course through a rough first season and was rewarded for his patience with a Grey Cup championship.
Hervey committed to retaining Buono for a year despite the Lions not making the playoffs. Loyalty plays. The Lions roster features a young quarterback in Jonathon Jennings that some thought would have a chance at MOP coming into the season. It has the best international linebacker in the CFL in Solomon Elimimian, a player whose talents would fit nicely into Claybrooks scheme.
Stamps fans, of course, will hope that the lure of players, wins, and the familiarity of Calgary will be enough to keep Claybrooks in the fold. They have gotten used to seeing the gregarious coach patrolling the sidelines in his shorts, hat askew as he celebrates each two-and-out as though he was still in uniform. I’m sure the thought of delaying Claybrooks from taking a head coaching job and staying for another shot at Lord Grey’s coveted chalice would warm their hearts.
Claybrooks is under contract with the Stampeders through 2019 so no decision needs to be made yet. As the architect of the leagues stingiest defence, leading the league in both points against and sacks the last two seasons, it is his ticket to write. Any available coaching job search should see his name listed near the top, if not in the No. 1 slot. A player-friendly coach that produces as he has is a coveted asset in this league and he will be well paid by whoever eventually lands him for the top job.