Chris Jones is from the small town of South Pittsburgh, Tenn., where, he says, there’s a lot of blue collar people who “work extremely hard for their money.”
And that hard work, he said, is what he will bring to the Edmonton Eskimos as the 20th head coach in their history. He also brings a wealth of CFL experience. He’s been a defensive coach since 2002, including stints as an assistant head coach two years in Calgary and most recently as assistant head coach, assistant general manager and defensive co-ordinator for the Toronto Argonauts. Jones has been in the post-season each of his 12 years in the league, won seven division titles and three Grey Cups.
The length of terms of his contract were not revealed.
“Today is about 2014 and beyond,” Eskimo general manager Ed Hervey said in introducing Jones to the media and fans on Wednesday. “I know I have selected the right person to coach this team. We know there is work to do but we are committed to making this thing right and I believe our team is in the right hands of Chris Jones.”
Saying he was “tremendously excited” to have his first head coaching job, Jones told the gathering of about 50 people in the Eskimos dressing room that he remembers growing up in South Pittsburgh “where they make cast iron and all I wanted to do is be a head football coach.
“Now I have a chance to do it with what I feel like is the best organization in this league and I fully expect to put together a great staff, I fully expect to win a ton of games and bring a Grey Cup back here.
“My teams have won a lot of games, Grey Cup championships. It’s been a tremendous, tremendous ride and it’s going to continue in Edmonton.”
One of his first priorities is to secure a coaching staff. He wouldn’t mention any names, he said, because many of the people he’s looking at are employed by other teams and he’s waiting for permission to speak to the individuals.
But, he said, when it comes to finding his staff and upgrading the player roster, “we’re going to hit the ground running. This is not going to be one of those slow procedures. . . it’s going to come rather quickly.”
Jones, who was a guest coach with Edmonton in 1999 when Hervey was a rookie receiver on the team, brings an aggressive style and attitude and said the Eskimos will play that way under his regime. He takes over a team that went 4-14 in 2013, a record that resulted in the firing of head coach Kavis Reed and at times had Hervey publicly criticizing the players.
“Some of the parts are here,” Jones said of the Eskimos. “It’s just a matter of finding some help in other spots. To win you need great players, great coaches and in the next few months we will work on that.”
Hervey, who publicly apologized to members of the media for his attitude towards and treatment of last season, said he wanted a head coach similar to him and he likes the fit between himself and Jones.
“His resume speaks for itself. He has the type of attitude that we need here. The expectation levels are high and when you talk about what is expected I felt there was only one person who could meet those expectations and he’s standing in front of you.
“I made the right football decision, for many reasons. I firmly believe we have the right guy for the job. I believe in Chris Jones. When I look at our club I honestly believe he gives us the best chance of winning.”