Pop Ivy. Hugh Campbell. Ron Lancaster.
If all goes to plan, you just might see Jaime Elizondo’s name added to that list.
The newly-hired Edmonton Football Team head coach joined guest host Dave Jamieson on The Nielson Show Tuesday and didn’t hold back when asked about the magnitude of being hired by such a historic organization.
“There is a lot of history of Hall of Fame coaches and Hall of Fame players that have stepped on that field,” Elizondo acknowledged. “That is one of the things that is fantastic about the Canadian Football League. The tradition, the pageantry, the history and obviously the longevity of the league. I don’t take those things lightly.”
The Mexican-born, Texas-raised offensive guru made sure to give a hat tip to the trio of coaching greats in his introductory press conference and he is happy to shoulder the burden associated with their historical success.
“I think legacy is an important concept and the legacy of the Edmonton Football Team and its history is awesome,” Elizondo said. “It’s awesome to be a part of it.”
“This is something as a coach that you dream of and you hope for. To just be able to follow in the footsteps of some legendary coaches, I’m excited to get started and hit the ground running.”
The new boss has the offensive chops to compete with some of those past greats. Elizondo held the role of offensive coordinator for the Ottawa Redblacks from 2016-2018, appearing in two Grey Cups in three years and winning one in 2016. In his first season, he guided a Redblacks’ offence that saw four receivers eclipse the 1,000-yard mark — Greg Ellingson, Chris Williams, Ernest Jackson, and Brad Sinopoli.
Current EE Football Team quarterback Trevor Harris spent three seasons under Elizondo’s tutelage in the nation’s capital, setting a single-season career-high for passing yards with 5,116 yards in 2018. That same season, Harris threw for single-game CFL playoff record six touchdowns in a 46-27 win over Hamilton in the East Final.
In total, Harris has accumulated 13,096 passing yards and 68 touchdowns, while completing over 70 percent of his passes with Elizondo calling plays.
“That guy’s not bad is he?” the coach laughed. “I really enjoyed my time and relationship with Trevor and I’m excited to be reunited with him.”
Despite his tremendous success as a coordinator and position coach, Elizondo has struggled to break through in the head coach hiring process. Elizondo was passed over for the Edmonton opening the last time around, as well as for promotion in Ottawa, causing him to flee to Marc Trestman’s XFL staff.
He had almost lost hope in ever being a head coach and seriously considered turning to a career in law this off-season.
“When you get shut out twice, you start to wonder if this is ever going to happen,” Elizondo admitted.
He stuck with it and was rewarded. Close friend Scott Milanovich called him immediately after resigning from his post to take over as QB coach in Indianapolis to give him a heads up and Edmonton GM Brock Sunderland followed swiftly behind. The two have a strong relationship from their time together in Ottawa and Elizondo will feel at home in a team full of former Redblacks.
“This whole process it seemed like a lot of pieces of the puzzle fit, not only with Brock, but [pass game coordinator/receivers coach] Winston [October] and [offensive line coach] John [McDonnell] and [defensive coordinator] Noel [Thorpe],” Elizondo said.
“I have a ton of respect for those guys and had the privilege of working with them before. They are all terrific football coaches but above and beyond that they are awesome men and really great husbands and fathers.”
Edmonton’s 23rd head coach has a long way to go to live up to the reputation of the franchise greats, but Elizondo believes he has the drive and the people to help him get there. Lucky for him, he only needs to coach one game to pass Milanovich on the all-time list.