Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ hiring of Khari Jones is mutually beneficial

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

When Khari Jones was fired by the Montreal Alouettes earlier this month, it was a matter of when, not if, we would see the former Most Outstanding Player hired by another Canadian Football League franchise.

On Monday, the speculation was put to rest as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hired Jones as a football operations consultant. He is not yet taking over offensive coordinator duties from the embattled Tommy Condell, nor is he replacing Orlondo Steinauer as the team’s head coach.

Instead, Jones’ vague title and role will allow him to serve at the team’s leisure, helping out in multiple areas instead of just focusing on one, although I imagine he will spend a good amount of time with the offence.

I was skeptical that Jones would take another job so soon after his unceremonious departure from the Alouettes, but Montreal’s loss is Hamilton’s gain. Adding someone the calibre of Jones to the staff, something Steinauer called a “no-brainer,” can only produce positive results, for both Jones himself and the team as a whole.

For Jones, it allows him to quickly get back into the game and to do so in a somewhat pressure-free environment. If the Ticats continue to struggle, Jones will be very low on the pecking order of people to blame. If the team begins to turn things around, critics will point to his hiring as the nexus point of the team’s transformation.

Unlike other fired head coaches, Jones does not need to be rehabilitated or work his way back up the ranks. If any head coaching or offensive coordinator jobs become available this off-season, Jones will be at or near the top of the list to fill the vacancy. That would be true if he came to Hamilton or sat at home for the remainder of the season.

Choosing to accept this position shows Jones does not want to rest on his laurels and a motivated man eager to show his former employer they made a mistake is almost always a good one to have on your staff.

It is also possible that Jones’ role could involve learning some front office skills, and given the wealth of talent the team has in that area — lest we forget that former Edmonton Elks and B.C. Lions general manager Ed Hervey is currently the team’s assistant general manager — Jones could learn quite a bit. Those skills would come in handy when he inevitably gets another head coaching gig down the road.

For the club, it allows them to bring in an experienced coach who can bring a fresh set of eyes to a team that has had its fair share of hiccups over the season’s first six weeks.

The Ticats feel stagnant, especially offensively, and bringing in someone who can give a different perspective could help unlock the full potential of what should be a very potent attack.

The organization also gets someone who will be able to tell them how he and his former team had planned to attack them, both offensively and defensively. In Montreal, Jones would have spent a significant amount of time looking at how to take advantage of not just the Ticats but the two other teams in the division. His breadth of knowledge from his years with a rival could prove invaluable.

Jones will also be able to fill the Ticats in on things in Montreal, such as what he perceived to be their strengths and weaknesses. Given that the Ticats clash with the Als twice over the next month, that information could prove to be the difference in what is turning into a tight race for what is likely to be just two playoff spots available to East Division teams this season.

While I think bringing in individuals for the sole purpose of getting inside information on an opponent is overblown, that usually only applies to players. Rarely does a former head coach become available at this time of year and the ones that do are rarely those who you’d want to hire.

The difference here is that most observers believed Jones was a dead man walking before the season started and that his ouster in Montreal was not due to any type of lacklustre performance. Jones was not hired by general manager Danny Maciocia and the belief was that the second the Als hit a snag, Maciocia would replace Jones with himself.

That is exactly what happened when Jones was fired on July 6 and replaced by — you guessed it — Danny Maciocia.

Jones’ run in Montreal was the best the team had seen since Marc Trestman left town following the 2012 season. The Alouettes won double-digit games for the first since 2012 in Jones’ first year at the helm in 2019 and made the playoffs in both years under Jones’ stewardship after having not made the post-season the previous four seasons.

Montreal’s last playoff game before Jones was named head coach was a 40-24 loss to the Ticats in the 2014 East Final.

The Als didn’t play brilliantly to start the 2022 season but Jones had them in a tie for first place with the Toronto Argonauts despite Montreal’s 1-3 mark. That record was also slightly deceiving as the Alouettes had a three-point loss against the Calgary Stampeders to open the season and a one-point loss to the Argos after kicker David Côté missed a chip-shot field goal that would have won them that game.

With any luck, Montreal could have, and maybe should have, been at least 2-2 if not 3-1 and instead of firing Jones, the Als would have been looking at ways to retain him.

Instead, Jones gets sacked and now comes back to Hamilton, the place where his coaching career began back in 2009, with the chance to add to his résumé and make himself an even more desirable candidate for any openings that become available this upcoming winter.

Perhaps this could be the beginning of a longer partnership that sees Jones stick around in Hamilton in a different capacity in 2023 and beyond. Maybe this is just a one-year dalliance where Jones leaves for a bigger job elsewhere following the season.

Regardless of how long this union lasts, the two sides coming together at this point helps both parties and makes for one of the most mutually beneficial in-season pacts we have seen in the CFL in some time.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.