Out of the blue, it was reported and soon confirmed on Monday that Edmonton head coach Scott Milanovich would be leaving the team to pursue an NFL coaching job.
Losing a new coach before the team plays a single down is yet another anomaly to come out of the COVID-19 uncertainty surrounding the CFL. It’s undoubtedly a large factor in Milanovich’s choice, seeing as we haven’t seen three-down football in over a year and 2021 is no sure thing, either.
Let’s go through how Edmonton fans and other CFL observers have reacted to the news.
That escalated in a hurry ….. https://t.co/qKKReKQRKL
— Morley Scott (@Morley_Scott) January 25, 2021
Nothing like news right before the pod relaunches! 😬 The good thing, I trust Sunderland to find a good replacement. And that will be even more for us to talk about 😂
— The Turf District Podcast (@TheTurfDistrict) January 25, 2021
The main reaction is surprise. There have been whispers over the last six months that Milanovich might look to the NFL, but nothing concrete — then suddenly he’s gone.
General manager Brock Sunderland acknowledged that he only found out formally on Monday morning and also that it’s part of his job to be prepared for these kinds of sudden changes.
Other than surprise, there is a ton of disappointment. A little bit is in Milanovich, though people seem to generally understand why this is happening. You can’t fault someone for taking a job with incomparably higher security and earning potential.
We don't have a ton of proven QB makers in CFL. Milanovich with TOR was one so CFL is less without him in it.
However, in terms of can he ever jump back to NFL where pay scales are just different. This might have been his last best shot.
Family and future wise can't blame him.
— (Jon)ny Foozball (@jonathanwhudson) January 25, 2021
"It's not ideal. You can't sugar coat it. Milanovich is a real good coach. There's a reason Milanovich is going back to the NFL. He's a really good offensive play caller. They're going to have to find somebody." – @jasongregor #CFL #YEG
— CFL News (@CFL_News) January 25, 2021
Absolute no-brainer for Milanovich if he's got an opportunity with the @Colts & new OC Marcus Brady (or any other). There's literally ZERO assurance that the #cfl can give about anything right now other than, 'we hope to play games.' NOBODY should be catching feelings here. https://t.co/y0EMDbU1RN
— Luc Mullinder (@lucmull95) January 25, 2021
Most of the disappointment stems from the fact that we won’t see what a Milanovich-led Green and Gold team would have looked like. As a replacement for Jason Maas, Milanovich was a home run hiring.
Other candidates were sometimes judged as closer to lateral moves, and whoever Edmonton hires next is unlikely to be better than Milanovich. He was clearly looking forward to working with his former protégé Trevor Harris as well as being in charge of his own team again, but obviously everything has been fluid lately.
Can't mince words in describing what this means to the #EdmFootballTeam Milanovich leaving is simply devastating for the organization. Milanovich was sincere in his excitement about returning to the #CFL It's a shame we didn't get to see his vision play out on the field.
— Dave Campbell (@Dave_CHED) January 25, 2021
— Matthew Iwanyk (@matthewiwanyk) January 25, 2021
Now, what’s next? CFL free agency opens in two weeks. One bit of good news is that Edmonton has done a lot of its re-signings already. But for attracting new players, surely they would like a new head man in place before the frenzy starts.
First is promoting a guy who’s already with the team: defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe. It would be a fairly simple move and he’s a guy who’s been a candidate for multiple head coaching jobs in the past.
One downside is that leaves the team still looking for a new offensive coordinator.
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) January 25, 2021
If they want a HC who can be OC as well, like Milanovich was, then Jaime Elizondo makes the most sense. https://t.co/YUWilsrq0d
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) January 25, 2021
One way to cover that would be to hire former Redblacks’ offensive lead Jamie Elizondo — not likely as co-ordinator, but as head coach. He, like Milanovich, has worked well with Trevor Harris in the past and would be a clean fit in the dual head coach/coordinator role.
Edmonton wanted to interview him last December, but was denied by the XFL. With that league currently out of operation, this would probably make the most sense for both the team and Elizondo.
The third candidate is a lot spicier.
— Coach Chris Jones (@ChrisJonesHC) January 25, 2021
If you’re reading this, you probably remember former Edmonton and Saskatchewan coach Chris Jones. He’s a renowned defensive whiz who left Edmonton in peculiar circumstances after winning the 2015 Grey Cup. Would Edmonton fans welcome him back?
Well, that would be an interesting twist. https://t.co/WA86Rw3hei
— Ryan Batty (@ryan_batty) January 25, 2021
— Trevor Moeller (@Trevor_Moeller) January 25, 2021
Well you might have but you went to Saskatchewan instead… 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/CWR21Sfrks
— JC Abbott (@JC_AbbottCFL) January 25, 2021
I’m once bitten twice shy with him. Don’t want the possible power struggle when he doesn’t have all the day and then bolts again, as he is always want to do
— The Turf District Podcast (@TheTurfDistrict) January 25, 2021
The last time you won one for us, you already were packing your bags for Saskatchewan while the game was still being played. No thanks, dude, we won't make that mistake twice #yeg #cfl #greycup https://t.co/MBajxn4ASv
— Sam Brooks (@samuelgbrooks) January 25, 2021
As you can see, he’s a polarizing figure.
We know Jones is a capable coach but he hasn’t exactly given teams good reason to trust his presence. Along with what kind of boss/employee relationship he would have with Brock Sunderland, the biggest question would be: what happens to Thorpe?
It’s possible that Edmonton could try to copy Hamilton’s structure, where Orlondo Steinauer is in charge with three coordinators, but I think it’s unlikely that Jones and Thorpe could coexist as defensive masterminds.
And similar to promoting Thorpe, hiring Jones would still require the team to find an offensive coordinator. In short, it would take the most effort to make it work.
Coaching cap-wise things are interesting, since by all accounts Milanovich was getting paid a lot. Jones might command close to an equal amount, but anyone else likely gets paid less. It’s possible that allows Edmonton room to add another assistant, though it’s hard to tell whether that would affect who they decide to hire as head coach.
Oh, there is one other option.
— Calvin McCarty (@calvinmccarty31) January 25, 2021
It’s another reset for Edmonton football, almost like 2020 never happened. The good news is there are strong coaching candidates available, but none will generate the same level of excitement as Milanovich.
Hopefully we see whoever it is actually on the field in 2021.