There's a new supreme overlord in Riderville and his name his Chris Jones.
News leaked out late Sunday night that the deal was done and the Riders had managed to rain on Edmonton's grey Cup Parade but wooing their Grey Cup winning head coach to Saskatchewan. Having once lost our own head coach right after a Cup win you'd think I'd be more sympathetic to Eskimos fans... but I'm not. Suck it Edmonton. Suck it long and suck hard. I'm sure you can dry your tears with Grey Cup merch... poor you.
As I said on Friday, in one hire, Jones addresses a lot of areas of need for the Riders. He fill our GM spot. He fills our head coaching spot. And in terms leading a defensive rebuild there are few people more qualified than Jones. People across the prairies are busy retracting/conveniently forgetting all the bad things they said about Jones over the past few years. Overnight the view of him will go from arrogant, disrespectful asshole to misunderstood football genius who probably volunteers at soup kitchens and cuddles stray puppies in his spare time. That opinion will last until Jones' first losing streak at which point people will launch into the "I told you he was bad" chorus. This is life in Rider Nation. You can't hope to change it, only pray you don't get sucked in. Symptoms of getting sucked in include, your opinion of someone alternating from saint to lowest form of earthy life based purely on the result of the last Rider game, an unexplained uncontrollable love for the back-up QB and the strange urges to yell things like "Give Szarka the ball!". (How was that for a tangent?)
The good news doesn't end with the hiring of Jones (though that is good enough news on its own). Word is Jeremy O'Day will stay on as Assistant GM. In order for Jones to succeed in the dual role, its imperative that he had a strong Assistant GM and O'Day certainly can be that guy. No doubt O'Day is disappointed and may be looking elsehwere for an opportunity at GM nest season but for now retaining him is a big deal. Jones/O'Day have the potential to be the kind of front office pair that Hufnagel and Murphy are.
The other good news is that it sounds like Chris Jones will bring a good chunk of his staff with him. I'm really hoping that means Offensive Coordinator Steve McAdoo is coming here. When Jones first made him OC in Edmonton after some years spent in Toronto as a OL coach I remember thinking that was an underwhelming choice but turns out Jones knows a bit better than me (you're shocked I know). I have been extremely impressed with his offense and play calling. It's a bit innovative and more importantly its effective. Edmonton has had the #2 and #3 offenses in McAdoo's two years.
In many people's narrow view of things, the hard part is done and now we just sit back and wait for the Grey Cups to just start rolling in. Right? The truth is that while Jones is a very important first step in the Riders' return to competitiveness, by himself he is not a miracle cure. He takes over a roster that is aging, overpaid, lacking depth, and lacking Canadians. He will need perform well both as a GM and a coach. Our roster needs to be rebuilt, our Canadian depth needs to be replenished... hell he needs to figure out how we are going to start 7 Canadians next year. While I'm guessing some of his players follow him in free agency will still don't have a roster of defensive play makers like he built in Edmonton.
My goal is not to dampen the party, I'm actually very happy about the hire. I just want to emphasize that it takes more than one hire to win a championship and we have a long road to go. I believe Jones can be the leader we need to get us there. As a kid who grew up watching a lot pf pro wrestling, I secretly hope Chris Jones shows up to Monday's press conference with the Grey Cup and throws it in the trash Alundra Blayze style.