Longtime CFL coach Chris Jones has recently left his employ with the Canadian league’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, to take a job with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.
Jones, who is 51, has three championship rings as a defensive coordinator with the Montreal Alouettes (2002), Calgary Stampeders (2008) and Toronto Argonauts (2012).
He also won a championship in his first stint as a head coach, with Edmonton, in 2015. Most recently, he undertook a massive rebuild with the Saskatchewan Roughriders – transitioning the Regina based club from a failed veteran-centric group to a successful young squad.
After signing Jones to a contract extension through the 2020 season, the Saskatchewan brass felt they had locked down their future. However, that all changed when Jones’ longtime friend, and newly appointed Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens, came calling.
Jones, a native of South Pittsburg, Tennessee and Kitchens have a relationship dating back to 1997 – when Kitchens was a quarterback and Jones was a graduate assistant with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Saskatchewan organization, while disappointed, was effusive in its praise for Jones. “We are proud of what Chris came in and accomplished through his three seasons as general manager and head coach,” Riders president and CEO Craig Reynolds said. “His work obviously didn’t go unnoticed and we congratulate him on his opportunity in the National Football League and thank him for his contribution to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.”
NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, on December 31, 2018, tweeted that two NFL teams had done extensive research on Jones. And, while it is unreported whether the Browns were one of those two teams, Jones has suddenly found himself in the NFL – a life long dream.
His title as senior defensive assistant with the Browns – arguably one of the most talented clubs in the NFL – will mean that he will work intimately with the club’s defensive staff; in the areas of game planning and handling in game quality control.
Branded as a ferociously competitive individual, Jones was the highest paid coach in the CFL, when he left the Riders for the Browns.
Jones won a Grey Cup in each of his first three CFL defensive coordinator tenures, before going four for four – coaching the Edmonton Eskimos to a West Division title and Grey Cup Championship in 2015. He was then hired by Saskatchewan – where his teams won 23 games in the 2017 and 2018 seasons; appearing to be on the verge of restoring the club’s reputation as a perennial powerhouse.
Besides his four Grey Cup Championships, Jones was also named CFL Coach of the Year in November.
“Coming from a family that has supported the Saskatchewan Roughriders for close to seven decades, I have seen multiple defensive coordinators and head coaches come and go. None have been as effective, on the defensive side of the ball, as Chris Jones. An extremely straightforward and no-nonsense approach has made Jones less than popular with some people in the province and its media fraternity. However, people within the Roughriders organization and the team’s inner circle has always shown the deepest level of reverence and respect for his football acumen. I believe the Browns got a real winner with this hire. I also believe he will be a tremendous asset in developing young players – and will immediately have an excellent relationship with the defensive players on the roster. I don’t remember a moment where any players on the field were not completely sold out for the cause, violent, playing at high speeds, and with a tremendous chip on their shoulder. He is an alpha type and he runs an alpha type unit. I couldn’t be happier. Don’t let the hard-ass exterior fool you, either. Those who know him well, say he is a class A beauty. After 50 years as a fan, there is no question in my mind that he is the best defensive coordinator I have ever seen, in the CFL.”
Cam From Canada