Farhan Lalji praises Lions for ‘win-win’ entry-level hires, wants more opportunity for Canadian coaches

Screengrab courtesy: TSN

The hiring of two low-level coaching assistants with little prior experience isn’t generally the type of move that makes headlines, but it seems the B.C. Lions have gotten people talking with their latest staffing decisions.

The Leos brought in offensive assistant Trysten Dyce and defensive assistant Claudell Louis on Wednesday, bringing their number of coaches for the 2021 season up to 11. That is the maximum number allowable under the CFL’s football operations cap, a regulation many around the league feared would prompt the elimination of entry-level staffers like Dyce and Louis entirely.

“We were quite worried across the league that the cap was going to have that kind of an impact, because at the time they weren’t just trying to negotiate or litigate on the total amount spent but they also wanted to limit the number of coaches that you can have,” TSN insider Farhan Lalji remarked on The SportsCage following the announcement.

“That just didn’t make sense to me at all, because if a guy wants to take less to coach just so they can get their foot in the door, have at ‘er.”

Lalji, who recently announced he was stepping away from the game after a prolific high school coaching career in B.C., actually gave Louis his coaching start as defensive coordinator of the Royal City Hyacks while he was still a Lions player. He’s thrilled by his hiring, but it is Dyce’s name that stands out to him.

“In Trysten’s case, I love it because I want a way for young Canadian coaches to get an opportunity to coach in his league,” Lalji explained. “So often we get into this trap of just hiring ex-players because there’s a feeling that only a guy who played in this league could possibly understand the rules of the dynamics of this league and quite often young Canadian coaches that are trying to make their way up through U Sports don’t make their way through.”

Dyce is the son of Ottawa Redblacks special teams coordinator Bob Dyce and enters the coaching ranks after a prolific receiving career with the University of Manitoba and CJFL’s Regina Thunder. While he isn’t a household name to CFL fans, Lalji noted how the league would be lesser without a spot for young Canadians.

You’d never have the Canadian Mafia without an entry level spot for Canadian guys,” he said referencing the all-Canadian management team of the Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers which included head coach Mike O’Shea, general manager Kyle Walters and team president Wade Miller.

“Without getting Canadian coaches a chance to ply their trade, we don’t have Mike Benevides. We don’t have Kelly Bates without those opportunities. We don’t have the people that have been able to kind of move up the coaching ladder in Winnipeg. Everybody’s got some, but it’s tougher and tougher to do without those chances to do it.”

Those chances have been reduced by the football operations cap, originally imposed by commissioner Randy Ambrosie in 2019. Teams are limited to coaching staffs of 11 and 14 other football operations individuals, totaling 25. Originally expenditures were capped at just under $2.59 million, but that has since been reduced to closer to $2 million due to the pandemic.

Coaches have long chosen the CFL for the work/life balance not available to them in the NFL or NCAA, but workloads have increased with severe staffing cuts. If that attractive lifestyle is to be preserved, the hiring of a couple young entry-level staffers to grind through the time-consuming busy work needed for success while they get their foot in the door should be encouraged.

“It works for everybody. The young guys trying to make their way in get a chance to do that and it alleviates some pressures off of the position coaches that are not getting two-year deals like they did a few years ago because the ops cap has kind of wrecked that,” insisted.

“I think it’s a win-win for everybody if we’re able to bring in some coaches for entry level positions.”