Jason Maas was prepared to sit out for the 2020 season, but the allure of coaching for the Riders put him back on the sidelines.
After the Edmonton Eskimos relieved Maas of his head coach duties in November, Saskatchewan’s bench boss Craig Dickenson called the 43-year-old football lifer. Dickenson had let Stephen McAdoo know he wouldn’t be back as the offensive play-caller prior to contacting Maas.
“I informed him of that. I just felt like it was time for a change. I’ve known Mac for a long time. I just felt like a new voice, a new direction was going to be good for our team,” Dickenson said.
“When Jason became available I wanted to move fast because I knew he’d be highly sought after. I knew if we didn’t act quick he might go to somebody else.”
Maas produced a 39-33 win-loss record as Edmonton’s head coach, .542 winning percentage. That’s better than Mike O’Shea’s .519 (56-52), but Maas’ Eskimos never reached the CFL title game and O’Shea’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the Grey Cup champions.
Inside Edmonton’s locker room, the players backed Maas and played hard all the way through his tenure. Maas had one year left on his contract with Edmonton and could’ve collected the money for doing nothing in 2020. However, Maas did not want to pass up the chance to work with two men he liked in Dickenson and Jeremy O’Day.
“I’ve been a part of this league for quite a long time, and Jeremy and Craig both are very well respected around the league from their peers. They do it the right way and they got great people, that’s important to me. Family and football and being around the right people is important — it makes your job much easier,” Maas said.
“I had some preliminary talks with quite a number of different people. As the talks progressed with Craig I started to lean heavily towards here for the opportunity to be a part of an organization, that from afar, you really respect and understand it’s a special place.”
The B.C. Lions wanted to hire Maas as their offensive coordinator and other franchises with an opening would have loved to hire the former CFL quarterback, but Dickenson put the press on to get a deal done. Maas was flown into Regina on Wednesday and had meetings with the Riders’ front office staff Thursday while officially inking his two-year contract through the 2021 season.
“You just want to look at production and he’s been in a number of different places. The offence he’s put out there through the course of his career has always been physical. Moving forward we wanted to have a little more tempo at times on our offence,” Dickenson said.
Ottawa led the league in offensive yards and passing yards during Maas’ only season as a play caller in the nation’s capital. He helped quarterback Henry Burris win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2015 as Smilin’ Hank threw for a career-best 5,693 yards. The Redblacks had four 1000-yard receivers: Chris Williams, Greg Ellingson, Ernest Jackson and Brad Sinopoli.
“The philosophy is basically score as many points as you can and be on the field as long as you can,” Dickenson said. “Philosophy-wise he matched with what I liked as an offence. He’s a proven winner. I watched him from afar and I’ve always respected the work he’s put in.”