‘He goes to work every day for us’: Elks’ Nyles Morgan still a believer in the ‘wisdom’ of head coach Chris Jones

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It doesn’t take a long look at the barren stands of Commonwealth Stadium to see there aren’t many believers in head coach and general manager Chris Jones left in the Edmonton Elks’ fanbase.

While most in the public are skeptical of a franchise turnaround heading into the third year of his second stint with the organization, locker room leaders like Nyles Morgan feel differently.

“I know for sure that he goes to work every day for us,” the veteran linebacker told 630 CHED’s The Elks This Week. “I see it because I’ll be up there early and he’s up there before me, watching film, doing what he needs to do to prepare the team, prepare the coaches.”

“Even after practice, he’s still there. I’m like the last person there but I always run into Coach Jones as well. Having someone that is giving their all to help something come together for the better, that puts a lot of belief in my mind as a player for my head coach.”

Jones re-joined the Elks in 2022 with high expectations to save the struggling organization. He previously served as head coach in 2014 and 2015, posting an impressive 26-10 record while leading the team to victory in the 103rd Grey Cup — the last title won in the supposed City of Champions.

His second tenure with the team has gone nowhere near as smoothly. The 56-year-old has gone 8-28 over two years while pulling triple duty, managing the sideline, calling the defence, and shopping for the groceries.

Jones’ penchant for constant roster turnover and cut-throat decision-making has been pointed to by many critics as the root of the problem. However, Morgan sees his coach in a very different light.

“I’ve always appreciated the high standard that he’s had for me. He will put things on my plate and we have conversations about the team and sometimes the bigger picture,” he said of their relationship. “I have an immense amount of respect for all that he has taught me about not just football things but in general life things. He has a lot of wisdom for his age and being a head coach for so long.”

With the Elks eyeing a potential ownership shift, the 2024 season is expected to be Jones’ last opportunity to prove he has the team on the right track. Despite that fact, Edmonton has been widely criticized for being too quiet this offseason, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Jones’ unit finished second last in points allowed last season but was also dead last when it came to defending the run and third worst in total yardage allowed. They generated the second-fewest sacks and fewest turnovers; numbers that could get worse with the losses of veterans like Jake Ceresna, A.C. Leonard and Ed Gainey.

Morgan, who registered 107 tackles, four sacks and an interception in 15 games last year, is completely on board with his bosses thinking that little tweaks are all that’s needed to fix the defence.

“We had a lot of guys who it was their first time in the fire and I commend those guys. I remember being that rookie coming out of college and stepping into a level where you’re not just playing checkers, it’s chess,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces going on, especially for our DBs on the back end. I’m excited to see how much they’ve grown from year one to year two because that’s always the biggest jump.”

The Elks will open the team’s 75th anniversary season on Saturday, June 8 by hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders.