Chris Jones is in over his head

July 3, 2017 - 9:03am

The Saskatchewan Roughriders opened their new stadium to a full house in a 43-40 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Somehow I don’t think they will end the season with a full house.

Watching the Riders flounder in the third quarter of a game they led but then let Winnipeg take charge by not having any idea of how to cover receivers begs the question of whether Chris Jones is a good football coach, or if he was the lucky recipient of talent assembled by others.

Jones is maybe a good example of a guy who sees other people do their job and thinks he can do that, if not better, if he got the opportunity.  So let’s say in Edmonton he got told no a few times by Ed Hervey and thinks he could do better so when the Rider deal came up, he took it thinking that after working all over the CFL, he was talented enough to wear many hats and rebuild the team how he saw fit.

Last year’s tear down of the team was perhaps necessary to get it under the salary cap and operating in a more responsible fashion. Gone were veterans like Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and John Chick and this year the Riders said goodbye to Darian Durant.

Of the four players, Dressler and Chick have torched the Riders with Dressler coming up with two long touchdowns in a stadium his previous feats had not small part in building. While no one could begrudge Dressler burning the Riders, the Riders somehow forgot to play defense and the blame can no longer lie with players new to the scene.

Chris Jones is starting a second year with the team and if they don’t understand how to play basic defense, like maybe lining up against the other teams go to receiver, then maybe the problem is not with the players, but with the coach who bills himself as a defensive genius.

One of the things that gave me pause when Jones took over was he took over everything, from the GM to Head Coach to defensive coordinator. He probably recognized he needed help so John Murphy was hired to find the personnel and Jeremy O’Day handled the administration side.

But even with that help, Jones is is unable to get the defense to play to the best ability of its talents, and his offense is a joke.  Kevin Glenn will not last 18 games with this offense and when the wheels continue to come off this team, the inability to land a young starting quarterback will result in fewer merchandise sales, fewer jersey sales because with the ever changing lineup who dares to pay extra for a name that will get cut or injured in short order, and eventually fewer people in the seats as once the novelty of the new stadium wears off, people will ask what is the point of paying extra to watch a team that is rapidly joining the ranks of the 11 year out of the playoffs Saskatchewan Roughriders?

Jones talked a good game after the game about taking responsibility and needing to coach better, but Jones has had enough time to establish his coaching philosophy and his team is either incapable of understanding what he wants or he has spread himself over so many areas that he has no impact whatsoever on the club.

Here’s one suggestion if he wants to coach better –hire a defensive coordinator. I read an interesting article on coaching interviewing for the NFL and those assistant coaches looking to be head coaches who filled out cards for the offense and/or the defense were judged to be not ready to be head coach. A head coach needs to delegate and set the overall direction of the team. Jones is not ready to give up being a defensive coordinator because he refuses to see what a wounded duck his offense is and leaves it in the hands of his offensive coordinator.

If Jones is such a disciplined defensive genius, then how would he explain the penalties his defense piles on, from offside to unnecessary roughness? His defense seemed as confused as Cory Chamblin’s old defense did when it comes to pass defense by either letting receivers like Dressler run free like antelopes or working them over like some border patrol agents.

Maybe Jones can see a big picture, but looking at the Riders schedule, they could very easily be 2-7, best case heading into the Labour Day game, or perhaps 0-9. When I picked the Riders to be 5-13, I did so after looking over multiple times each of their games from last season and seeing how fine the line was between 5-13 and say 1-17.

For a guy who is billed as a genius, Jones does some stupid things like just rushing three people in the third quarter when Winnipeg roared back. That move combined with how wide open Dressler was begs some serious questions as to what the hell Chris Jones is doing.

Jones likes to talk about how Don Matthews gave him his start and how Matthews did his own thing. Well, Matthews did the same thing in Saskatchewan and decisions made out of arrogance, not intelligence, never got the Riders a Grey Cup under Matthews.

Guess what, they won’t get a Grey Cup with Jones either.

Jones was supposed to show some progress, especially against two teams that are very beatable. One could argue that two wins by four points is not bad, compared to last year’s drubbings in Montreal and let’s say Hamilton, but I could not find the column in the standings to see what moral victories gets us.

Coverage breakdowns cost the Riders two games, and while Tyler Crapigna missed two fields at the end of the Montreal and Winnipeg game, there was enough that happened before then to make the outcome what it was.

So Chris Jones faces a must win game against Hamilton, who like Winnipeg  last week is coming off a bye week. Hamilton looked bad against Toronto, but somehow I have more faith in Kent Austin to maybe address team problems than Jones.

If Hamilton beats Saskatchewan, then the best the Riders can do is 1-8 by Labour Day, and if that happens, then the Riders better ask themselves if they want to continue to pay out Brendan Taman, and then Chris Jones. The Riders could insist Jones find a defensive coordinator and perhaps change his offensive coordinator who has the dumbest offense since the Prairie Offense under Danny Barrett, a lot of short passes going nowhere in particular.

That would require Chris Jones admitting he was wrong, something you never really heard from Don Matthews and something I doubt Chris Jones would feel comfortable in saying. The Riders are on track to land the top pick in the 2018 draft, but the question is whether Jones will be here to see that.

So this week We have BC continuing their eastern road trip with a visit to Montreal after beating Toronto. That was a big win for BC who used pressure to get Toronto off its game while Montreal was involved in a slugfest in a loss against Edmonton.

Even though the game is in Montreal, BC looks like it is getting its act together. The transcontinental trips can take a lot of a football team, but considering BC is in its second stop, that shouldn’t be as bad as you might think. Montreal will hang in there, but BC will gut out a 23-20 win.

Friday we have probably the game of the week with Calgary going to Winnipeg. Calgary finally breaks its string of appearances against Ottawa with some wildly entertaining games. Now Calgary goes to Winnipeg who gave Calgary some problems last season at times due to Stampeder overconfidence. Winnipeg is coming off a double overtime win over Saskatchewan that maybe should have been a tie, but Winnipeg showed character in coming into a new stadium and taking advantage of an overconfident Chris Jones.

This should be a high scoring affair and I am going to score it 38-37 Calgary, just because Winnipeg needs to establish a case for why it should  be seen as a contender for first place. This will be well worth watching.

On Saturday Toronto goes to Ottawa and the sound we heard this past week from Toronto were the wheels falling off the bandwagon for the Argonauts. Toronto impressed in crushing Hamilton, but then BC applied a lot of pressure against Ricky Ray who failed to respond.

So Ottawa, who has revamped its defense and played Calgary pretty well in a loss and a tie, would seem to inspire more confidence, particularly at home. For Toronto this is a crucial game for them to be taken seriously as a contender in the east for the 11,000 or so fans who showed up last time in Toronto. I’m going to go out on a line and pick Toronto 30-28 because if Toronto’s coaching is much improved, they will know how to deal with the pressure teams will be bringing to disrupt them and Ottawa’s defense is still a work in progress.

Finally we have Hamilton at Saskatchewan in the second regular season game at new Mosaic Stadium, The Riders could be 2-0, but are 0-2 and looking to be eliminated from the playoffs perhaps as early as Labour Day. The Riders have a few beatable opponents on paper, but they now have to play those teams and ensure they know what they are doing.

This game will depend on how well Hamilton responds and learns from Winnipeg’s win over the Riders. You would think the Riders would learn but they seemed blinded by buying into a faulty premise that Chris Jones is actually a great GM, Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator. There is an expression – jack of all trades, master of none, that seem to sum up Jones.

Hamilton narrowly lost in Regina last year. Let’s say for the sake of Rider fans, something similar happens this year, say Riders 29-25 over Hamilton.

 

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