Four candidates to replace Scott Milanovich as Edmonton’s head coach

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Scott Milanovich resigned as the head coach of the Edmonton Football Team on Monday, ending his tenure before it really began.

The three-time Grey Cup champion spent three seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars (2017-19) before joining Edmonton in December 2019. He never coached a game due to the cancellation of the 2020 CFL season and has presumably left the team to take a job with Marcus Brady and the Indianapolis Colts.

With free agency just two weeks away, Edmonton doesn’t have a lot of time to find its next head coach. Here are four candidates to replace Milanovich as the head coach in the City of Champions.

Jaime Elizondo

The Maryland graduate recently spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator with the Ottawa Redblacks (2016-18). He helped quarterbacks Henry Burris and Trevor Harris perform well with the offence finishing at or above league average in points scored and yards per game in each season.

Elizondo interviewed for head coaching jobs in B.C. and Toronto in December 2018. He would have done the same in Saskatchewan the following month but Ottawa denied the request, a decision that backfired when Elizondo resigned in April to join Marc Trestman in the XFL.

Elizondo had success in the new league while Ottawa’s offence floundered without him. The Redblacks finished a league-worst 3-15 in 2019, scoring just 312 points and finishing at or near the bottom of virtually every offensive statistical category.

The XFL denied Edmonton’s request to interview Elizondo in December 2019 after head coach Jason Maas was fired. The long-time assistant coach remains close with general manager Brock Sunderland and is situated nicely to potentially replace Scott Milanovich.

Chris Jones

The defensive guru served as the head coach in Edmonton for two seasons (2014-15), leading the team to a stellar 26-10 regular season record. He departed for Saskatchewan just one week after winning a Grey Cup and brought most of his coaching staff with him.

Jones spent three seasons in Regina (2016-18) but was unable to replicate his success, going 27-27 in the regular season and winning just one playoff game. His held the titles of vice president of football operations, general manager, and head coach, which some critics felt spread him too thin.

The 53-year-old has spent the past two years with the Cleveland Browns as a defensive assistant. His contract expired at the end of the 2020 NFL season and there were rumours that he would not be back with the Browns after they were eliminated from the playoffs.

We know Jones would welcome a return to Edmonton because he literally tweeted at the team expressing his interest. He brought a Grey Cup to the city in 2015 — could he do it again in 2021?

Mark Kilam

The longtime special teams coordinator of the Calgary Stampeders interviewed with Ottawa and Edmonton for their vacant head coach positions in December 2019 and impressed both clubs.

The native of Lethbridge, Alberta knows how to have success in the CFL, having won three Grey Cups with the league’s model franchise. He’s worked closely alongside John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson, earning the title of assistant head coach in 2019.

Kilam is an intriguing option for Edmonton, who would gain the added benefit of hiring a high-quality assistant away from its provincial rival.

He’s already received a ringing endorsement from retired punter Rob Maver — could Kilam be the next head coach of the Edmonton Football Team?

Noel Thorpe

Continuity is key in professional football. For example, the Saskatchewan Roughriders promoted from within after Chris Jones resigned in January 2019 and things worked out well after special teams coordinator Craig Dickenson assumed the head role.

Edmonton could do the same with defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe taking over from Scott Milanovich. Thorpe has sixteen years of experience as a CFL assistant coach, including six years as an assistant head coach.

The Vancouver native has even worked in Edmonton before, serving as the special teams coordinator under Danny Maciocia and Richie Hall for three seasons (2008-10).

Thorpe is probably a longshot for the job considering Milanovich also planned to serve as Edmonton’s offensive coordinator, but he still deserves consideration for the top job.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.