Former Edmonton head coach Scott Milanovich admits CFL owners were ‘going to lose too much money’ playing in 2020

Former Edmonton Football Team head coach Scott Milanovich may have left the CFL before stepping foot on the Commonwealth Stadium turf, but he’s more direct about the cause of the league’s canceled 2020 season than anyone still cashing pay cheques north of the border.

In an introductory interview with Colts.com, the new QB coach in Indianapolis touched on the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the real reason he never got a chance to record a win for the Green and Gold.

“Like everybody, it was really awkward for us. It was worse for the Canadian Football League because it’s so driven on ticket revenue and doesn’t have the TV deals they have in the NFL to make it go, so fiscally it just didn’t make sense for us to play,” Milanovich explained.

“The owners were just going to lose too much money.”

Though an accepted fact in CFL circles, few have openly addressed that the canceled 2020 CFL season was an act of financial preservation by the league’s wealthy owners after the federal government declined to foot the bill for a hub city in Winnipeg.

The cost of keeping thousands of players and staff active and paid without the typical revenue associated with butts in seats would have placed significant strain on the finances of ownership and Randy Ambrosie’s ‘philanthropists’ weren’t willing to collectively write the cheque. Instead, the league absorbed a combined $60 to $80 million in losses without playing a down.

Milanovich was disappointed but took advantage of the unexpected time off.

“It gave the coaches an opportunity to really dive deep into studies. I got to watch a lot of NFL film, a lot of college film and try to brush up on some things that I thought we needed to be doing offensively,” he said.

“But it was awkward, first year in 20-some years that I hadn’t been a part of a football season. It was hard from that standpoint for sure.”

Milanovich was hired by the Edmonton Football Team in December 2019 after a three-year stint as the quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite boasting the highest coaching salary in the CFL, he resigned from his post just over a year later and headed back to the NFL to serve under new Indianapolis offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, a longtime CFL colleague.

Brady was a quarterback with the Montreal Alouettes for two seasons (2007-08) under Milanovich before retiring to join the team’s coaching staff. He served alongside Milanovich for three years in Montreal, winning Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010.

Milanovich was hired as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts in 2012 and brought Brady with him to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator. The pair remained in those roles for five seasons until Milanovich departed to become the quarterbacks coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017.

Brady, 41, is now considered a bright, up-and-coming coach in the NFL and Milanovich was excited to work with him again.

“I worked side-by-side with Marcus for almost a decade. Our families are close. We see the game, I think, very similarly,” Milanovich said.

“The opportunity to work for a good organization with a guy I believe in, in [head coach] Frank [Reich], and a guy, Marcus, that I have so much faith in – it was hard to leave to be a head coach and the people that are relying on you there in Edmonton, but it was really a no-brainer to come join this.”

Reich became familiar with both Milanovich and Brady through former Alouettes head coach and close friend Marc Trestman, who once invited him to speak to the team when Milanvich was coaching and Brady was still under center. A relationship grew and now both CFL standouts are in charge of the rehabilitation of quarterback Carson Wentz, with whom Reich won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia.

It’s a monumental task, but Milanovich believes that many of the schematic elements they’ll lean on, from RPOs to getting playmakers in space, come from the CFL.

“I think it’s a benefit,” he said. “We all played down south, we all played 11-man football, but having the ability of seeing the aggressiveness, the creativity that comes from being in Canada and the different rules, I think it helps.”

That’s the type of innovation and excitement that CFL owners normally pay for. Just not last year.

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