The departure of offensive coordinator June Jones to the XFL just a few days before the opening of training camp poses a simple and obvious question: Just how screwed are Hamilton Tiger-Cats?
Under normal circumstances, you’d say they were in significant trouble. The Ottawa Redblacks lost Jaime Elizondo in early April and have elected to go with OC by committee, a plan that seems uniquely designed for failure. But it’s what teams do when timing severely limits their choices.
But the Ticats had a Plan B and wasted no time in implementing it, elevating Tommy Condell to offensive coordinator in the same announcement they used to announce Jones’ departure. Given Jones’s nomadic nature and the mild awkwardness of his (possibly) self-imposed demotion as head coach, it made good sense to have options at the ready.
And Condell is hardly an any-port-in-the-storm stop-gap. He held the offensive coordinator title for three seasons under Kent Austin while current head coach Orlondo Steinauer was also on staff as defensive boss. While there were always questions about how much of the offensive success during that period was Austin and how much was Condell, there’s no question the Ticats were better for it when he was on staff. He spent last season working under Marc Trestman before re-joining the Ticats this year: Condell was always Steinauer’s long-term plan.
In addition to his familiarity with Steinauer and the rest of the Ticats’ brass, Condell also knows quarterback Jeremiah Masoli well – the two had an excellent working relationship during Condell’s last stint in Hamilton and kept in touch after Condell left the club. For as much as Masoli excelled under Jones, there is no reason to expect a significant regression under Condell.
While the timing could probably be better, Condell will still have the benefit of a full training camp to make schematic and terminology adjustments if he deems them necessary. And again, it’s unlikely that the 2019 version of the Condell offence will be completely new to Masoli and the other veterans.
And there is certainly a plus side to all this. The Jones situation was always going to be a little bit weird, no matter how much everyone involved said otherwise. It’s not that there’s bad blood – Jones was at his own farewell presser – but this new coaching unit makes everything crystal clear.
But as Jones leaves for his next great football adventure, it’s worth noting what a remarkable job he did in his season-and-a-half at the helm. He took over a broken, dispirited 0-8 team in 2017 and led them back to the East Final in 2018. He changed the culture and unearthed two legitimate superstars in Masoli the starting quarterback and Brandon Banks the receiver. Jones was always friendly, interesting and approachable.
He wasn’t perfect – his in-game decision-making was suspect at times and his role in bringing in his old buddy Art Briles did some serious damage to the brand – but Jones was absolute right guy at the right time for the Ticats.
And his departure seems just about right, too.