There was never any question that the 2018 edition of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats would be June Jones’ team but the club’s three-day mini-camp, which wrapped up Thursday, revealed just how influential he’s become within the organization.
In addition to running things on the field, Jones says he had language added to the three-year contract extension he signed in December that gives him control over player personnel. With vice-president of football operations Kent Austin now a consultant – he was nowhere to be seen this week – Jones would appear to be the ultimate decision-maker.
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve wanted to be in charge of personnel. In other places, somebody else wanted to pick the the guys and I said ‘well, I want to decide who’s on the team.’ A lot of times, you didn’t get the ability to do that but I had them put it in my contract,” Jones said, before providing an example.
“Management doesn’t like a receiver and they want to replace him, and I like him. Well, you can’t do that, the coach has to make that decision. It doesn’t come up very often but it comes up a lot when you don’t have people upstairs that know. These guys know and they see it the same way I see it.”
The “guys” Jones is referring to include general manager Eric Tillman and assistant general managers Shawn Burke and Drew Allemang as well as assistant head coach Orlondo Steinauer, who has also been involved in personnel meetings since returning to the club in March.
“I would say it’s input by committee and June is the decision-maker. Which is rare and that’s what’s exciting about it,” Steinauer said. “As unorthodox as it may seem from the outside, it feels really natural from the inside. At the end of the day, June is going to make the final decision and that’s “our” decision and everybody is on board with that.”
Steinauer’s role is slowly coming into focus as well. While the 44-year-old has spent the last eight seasons as a defensive coach, his focus was squarely on the offensive side of the football during the on-field sessions this week while new coordinator Jerry Glanville handled the defence.
“The first practice, I felt myself at times peeking down at the defence but for the first time on Thursday, I forgot they were even down there. I’ve been totally entrenched in the offence,” Steinauer said. “It’s Jerry’s deal over there and they are playing hard and fast. But it’s great being on the other side. It’s fun.”
Behind the scenes, Steinauer’s role is more balanced. Instead of thinking of him as an offensive or a defensive coach, his title of assistant head coach – and therefore with responsibilities all over the field – is accurate, says Jones.
“I’m happy that he decided to come. He’s helping Jerry on defence while we’re in the office and he’s learning what we’re doing offensively,” Jones said. “When he gets an opportunity to be a head coach, he’ll take some of what he likes that we do and stuff he’s been around from other people. It just makes you better as a coach when you open up your eyes to the rest of it.”
From a football perspective, Jones said he was happy with what the team was able to accomplish in their three days together. The team brought in 60 players, including veterans – a departure from previous seasons – as Jones looked to change the offensive terminology and Glanville put his stamp on the defence.
“I like what I saw from these kids and we put a lot of stuff in. There were a lot of guys running fast that aren’t real sure what they’re doing,” Jones said. “But we got done what I needed to get done and we’ll build on that.”
The team has until next Tuesday to get down to the league-mandated 75-man roster limit – they are at 78 right now – and are hard at work preparing for next Thursday’s CFL Draft. Then it’s on to training camp, which opens on May 20.
Jones, who spent time in both Oregon and Hawaii during the off-season, says he’s set up shop in Hamilton and made it clear he has lofty expectations for the season, which could extend his stay.
“I’m here for the duration,” he said, with a smile. “Until after the Grey Cup.”
Notes: Receiver Brandon Banks missed a portion of Thursday’s session with a stomach issue and Jones said he could see a difference in the offence. “I see that we’re not as good when Speedy isn’t out there,” he said. “He was OK, he just threw up a couple of times. He was out there helping the guy who was in there know what to do.”… receiver Terrence Toliver, who is still rehabbing the ACL he tore week one last season, posted a couple of videos of his workout regimen to Twitter this week. “They think he will be ready for training camp but they didn’t think he was ready for this,” Jones said…. not much was decided in the battle for the back up quarterback job behind starter Jeremiah Masoli. Vernon Adams took second reps, Bryant Moniz third and Dane Evans fourth but Jones said the spot won’t be decided until after the pre-season. “I always evaluate those guys once they get to game time,” Jones said. “I know that Jeremiah is going to play with the starters and will get some good reps in those first two pre-season games but those other guys will get some real opportunities to show what they can do.”