Alouettes unconcerned by former head coach Khari Jones’ presence on Ticats

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

When the Hamilton Tiger-Cats travel to Montreal on Sunday to take on the Alouettes in the East Semi-Final, they’ll be looking to make it eight years since the CFL’s bilingual franchise was last able to advance past the first round of the playoffs.

Few would derive more satisfaction from that outcome than football operations consultant Khari Jones, the man in charge of the Alouettes during their past two Semi-Final losses.

The former Als head coach was unceremoniously fired by Montreal four weeks into the 2022 season, a move that many saw as an unjustified attempt by general manager Danny Maciocia to seize control of his hometown team’s bench. Jones quickly landed on his feet with the rival Ticats and helped to turn the struggling team around late in the year, bringing him face-to-face with his old employer in an elimination game.

That tantalizing revenge storyline is certain to attract attention heading into the matchup but Jones’ former charges in Montreal are unsure it will have any real impact, including quarterback Trevor Harris.

“Maybe. I guess you never know until after the game,” Harris told the media this week. “If he is able to give them some sort of insight into what our coaches are thinking and has a crystal ball over there, maybe it’s helpful. But it’s always, I think, one of the more overblown things in football is knowing somebody’s offensive signals and certain formations.”

Jones had controlled the Alouettes’ offence since 2018, unexpectedly taking over as head coach one year later and leading the team to an 18-18 record with two straight playoff appearances.

Legendary quarterback Anthony Calvillo is now calling the plays, however many of the principles remain the same by virtue of the in-season switch. That doesn’t concern Harris much at all.

“My buddy [former CFL quarterback] Danny O’Brien used to joke because he knew our formation signals when we were in Ottawa,” the 36-year-old veteran recalled. “He’s like, ‘Dude, what am I going to say? Hey, they’re getting into bunch! What’s that going to tell them?”

“There are obviously some things he’ll be able to tell them, things that we like to do, but at the same time, they have access to all our film and we have access to all their film. We know that we’re going to give them different looks, they’re going to give us different looks and it’s going to be tuned up so it’s going to be who can handle the pressure and if that moment gets too big for somebody.”

Interim head coach Danny Maciocia was even more dismissive of that dynamic when speaking to reporters in French on Wednesday.

“He’s been there for a while now. We’ve already played them three times with him there,” Maciocia deflected.

“If it was Khari Jones at quarterback versus Danny Maciocia at quarterback for the Alouettes, I can say that we would be in some trouble. The good news is that we will both be on the sideline watching our players compete and it will be them that makes the difference.”

While the freshly hired Jones earned a victory with Hamilton in the first of those matchups, Montreal has claimed the subsequent two meetings, most recently a 23-16 decision on September 23. That was also the last time that the Ticats lost a game, having rattled off four straight wins to end the year and secure an unlikely playoff berth.

Should Hamilton pull the upset on Sunday and extend Montreal’s first-round losing streak, it will be difficult to argue that Maciocia’s brash coaching change paid dividends. That is a story that will hang over the organization regardless of what impact Jones actually has on the outcome.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.