If you want, you can blame Justin Dunk.
It was my 3DownNation compadre who asked the fateful question of Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones that seems to have – for now, at least – scuttled any potential trade involving quarterback Vernon Adams. The query, which came after Jones said that Adams was about to be dealt after not appearing at practice on Thursday, was simple enough “can you say what two teams?”
The appropriate answer to that question, from a football operations standpoint anyway, is: “No.”
Jones’ answer: “It’s Winnipeg and Montreal… excuse me, it’s Edmonton and Montreal.”
Now, a few years ago, that answer isn’t great but it isn’t catastrophic. Before Twitter, YouTube and blogs like this one – and I didn’t even have a dedicated work cell phone when I started covering the Ticats in 2009 – Jones’ response isn’t ideal but it would have taken time to filter out, maybe the next day if they’re lucky. There’s time to make the trade or clean up the mess or maybe even both.
Instead, it took roughly 10 seconds from the time he said it for his words to hit Twitter. We had a post up less than three minutes later. News doesn’t travel fast these days – there really isn’t any travel time at all.
Word soon filtered back to front office types in Montreal and Edmonton and they were, I’m sure, less than pleased to see their names attached to a deal that was not yet consummated. Trade talks laid bare can have all kinds of detrimental impacts on a locker room as players start to wonder about their standing on the team. Hardly surprising, then, that there were public comments issued from Edmonton and Montreal: not outright denials but a distancing from whatever deal might be on the table.
It is easy to lay this at Jones’ feet and we should probably take a moment to do just that – in as nice a way as possible. One of the most enjoyable things about covering June is his inclination to answer questions honestly, to avoid the usual obfuscation and misdirection that many coaches engage in. It’s one of the things the players like about him, too. That honesty, however, can sometimes get him into trouble, as can his inclination towards hyperbole, like when he says Johnny Manziel will be the best player to ever play in the CFL game. It’s not malicious, it’s just an entertaining quirk in his personality.
But the whole episode also highlights one of the potential pitfalls in the team’s unique football operations structure. Jones is the head coach with, we are led to believe, final say over the roster. But Eric Tillman is the general manager and was likely the guy running the phones on the Adams deal. Unless it was assistant general manager Shawn Burke, who handles much of the contract stuff. We’ve been led to believe that assistant head coach Orlondo Steinauer has a role in personnel as well. So does assistant general manager and director of Canadian scouting Drew Allemang.
So yeah, lots of cooks. And they seem to have made the decision that Jones will speak to all matters relating to both the coaching and personnel side, which is fine, though there are times when it’s fair to wonder if he can actually be up to speed on absolutely everything that’s going on – and whether he’s the right guy to be answering every question.
The Adams situation is kind of embarrassing but certainly not catastrophic. With three pre-season games still to be played, there’s still plenty to sort out on the quarterback front for a number of teams and there’s always a demand for athletic potential, which is what Adams represents. News that Adams is available may spark interest from other clubs – hey Winnipeg how’s your QB situation going? – and more suitors could increase his trade value. The Ticats may stumble ass-backwards into a better deal.
Not that it really matters. The Ticats sent a 2019 fourth round pick to the Calgary Stampeders and dropped six spots (from 28 to 34) in this year’s draft to acquire Charleston Hughes who was then flipped to Saskatchewan for Adams. All that to say the investment in Adams has been minimal, even if he’s cut – and it’s part of the price to get Manziel.
Even Dunk might agree with that.