Scott Milanovich didn’t have to look long or far for his new defensive co-ordinator.
The Toronto Argonauts head coach needed just one phone call to find a replacement for Chris Jones, who left last month to become the Edmonton Eskimos head coach.
On Thursday, the Argos unveiled Tim Burke, the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach, as their new defensive co-ordinator.
“As soon as Chris left and I knew Tim was available he was the only one I talked to,” Milanovich said during a conference call. “I think Tim and I see eye-to-eye on defensive philosophy in the CFL.
“It was an easy decision for me. It took about 30 seconds on a phone call to Tim and when he said he was available that was the end of it.”
Milanovich and Burke certainly have a history together. They won Grey Cup titles with the Montreal Alouettes in 2009 and ‘10 as the offensive and defensive co-ordinator, respectively.
“Scott and I are real good friends and we bounced a lot of ideas off each other during that time,” Burke said.
Burke came to the CFL in 2005 as a defensive backs coach with the Calgary Stampeders. He joined the Alouettes as the defensive co-ordinator under head coach Marc Trestman from ‘08 to ‘10 before heading to Winnipeg as its defensive co-ordinator in 2011.
After helping Winnipeg reach the Grey Cup in ‘11, Burke was named interim Bombers head coach in August 2012 after Paul LaPolice was fired before becoming the full-time coach after the season.
Burke was fired following the 2013 campaign after Winnipeg posted a league-worst 3-15 record. Overall, Burke compiled a 7-21 head-coaching record.
The Bombers hired former Argos special-teams coach Mike O’Shea as Burke’s successor on Wednesday.
Burke left Winnipeg with time remaining on his contract, but sitting out the 2014 campaign wasn’t an option. Burke said his prior experience as a head coach will help him in Toronto.
“One thing I learned from other coaches who’ve been in this situation is they always thought you become a better assistant after you’ve been a head coach,” Burke said. “You’ve been in the head coach’s chair before so you understand where he’s coming from all the time.
“You always understand there’s a big picture and it’s not just about your defence or your position group. The other thing is I’m much more aware of gametime decisions and seeing how everything works during the game.”
Toronto finished atop the East Division standings with an 11-7 record, thanks in large part to its pass-happy offence under the leadership of all-star quarterback Ricky Ray. Defensively, the Argos were a bend-but-don’t-break unit, finishing third in fewest points allowed (25.4 points per game) despite being ranked last in yards allowed (390 yards) and passing yards (298.2) and second-last in sacks (38).
During his time as a defensive co-ordinator in both Calgary and Toronto, Jones earned a reputation of being unconventional in his schemes and gameplanning. Jones was never afraid to either drop defensive linemen into coverage or bring players from any spot on the field to confuse offences or pressure quarterbacks.
While Burke must still spend time evaluating Toronto’s defensive personnel, he said his defensive approach has some similarities with Jones.
“Chris’s basic philosophy would be to try and play as much man as possible,” Burke said. “In that regard, you have to be able to play man in the CFL to win so that will be the base of our defence.
“Chris is very inventive, I’d say innovative, in what he does defensively. I tend to be more a guy who believes in a base defence that you have to be able to play when it’s a clutch situation. It’s a defence you really believe in and we’re very technique oriented and we’re very fundamentally sound.”
Milanovich must still find a replacement for O’Shea, and is bracing for more possible departures as both Jones and O’Shea look to fill their respective coaching staffs.
“I’m so happy for Chris and Mike, I expected to lose some of these guys even a year ago,” Milanovich said. “I think it’s a credit to our organization that we’re hiring the right people and clearly there are other organizations who want what we have and I think we have to take that as a compliment.”