Call it the curious case of Chris Jones.
On Wednesday, according to one version of the story, Jones left his post as defensive co-ordinator of the Calgary Stampeders to join the Toronto Argonauts. That’s what Calgary general manager and head coach John Hufnagel told reporters, adding he was “not pleased” the Argonauts failed to ask for permission before talking to Jones about a job.
“Chris informed me [Tuesday]that he’d be moving on to Toronto,” Hufnagel said from McMahon Stadium in Calgary. “I’m very surprised, had no forewarning of it. I would have liked to have seen things go differently. … I’m not pleased the way it came down and that’s all I will comment on.”
That seemed to crystallize the matter until the Argonauts issued a statement saying they wanted to “clarify” some of the things Hufnagel had said. Specifically, they insisted they did not ask the Stampeders for permission to talk to Jones because, “Chris Jones was under contract to the Stampeders. As such, the Argonauts did not believe him to be available for discussion. He does not have a contract with the Toronto Argonauts.”
So what in the world of mixed messages is going on?
Jones has left the Stampeders, most definitely. His contract expires at the end of the month and, rather than wait or drag things out, Jones went to Hufnagel Tuesday afternoon and said he was leaving. That he would head to Toronto without some indication there’s a job waiting for him with the Argos seems totally inconceivable.
So, was there tampering involved? Were there verbal agreements made? Did someone jump the gun, say something they shouldn’t have and forgot to follow protocol?
The league office was looking into the situation Wednesday since the Argonauts have yet to confirm Jim Barker has moved upstairs to concentrate on being general manager with Scott Milanovich chosen as the next head coach. Toronto did ask the Montreal Alouettes for permission to talk to Milanovich, who served as their offensive co-ordinator last season.
According to a report out of Montreal on Wednesday, Milanovich is expected to bring Alouettes receivers coach Marcus Brady to the Argonauts as offensive co-ordinator. That’s a lot of coaches coming to Toronto without confirmation from the Argos.
Acquiring Jones will be a significant addition for Toronto. Long known for his defensive strategies and aggressive scheming, Jones is a top-notch scout and served as the assistant director of player personnel and football operations with the Stampeders. He also has a history with Barker. The two were members of the Alouettes’ coaching staff in 2002. Later, as GM in Calgary, Barker delivered Jones to Calgary, where his defence helped produce a Grey Cup championship in 2008.
Hufnagel spoke glowingly Wednesday of Jones’ coaching abilities and said the search would begin soon for a replacement, starting with an interview with Stamps linebackers coach Dave Walkosky.