Wednesday, November 25, 2015
COACHES KICKOFF GREY CUP WEEK
The two will make their Grey Cup head coaching debuts Sunday when the Ottawa Redblacks meet the Edmonton Eskimos at Investors Group Field. On Wednesday at the annual Grey Cup coaches news conference, Campbell and Jones said they've told their players to enjoy this week but not lose sight of why they're here.
"If you win the Grey Cup, you're a Grey Cup champion forever and you'll remember it forever so that's where you want to focus to be,'' said Campbell, in his second season at Ottawa's head coach. "We're not going to discourage our guys from interacting with fans and enjoying the process but it's got to be about football.''
Jones's message was much more direct.
"You assume when you're young that a lot of things are going to happen over and over and over,'' the Tennessee native said with a noticeable southern drawl. "There's no guarantee that you'll ever be back.
"We flew in on a plane and that plane's going out so if you act the wrong way (you'll be on that flight out of Winnipeg).''
It's no accident Edmonton and Ottawa are in the CFL title game. Both teams finished atop their respective divisions under their second-year head coaches.
After winning just two games in its inaugural season, the Redblacks topped the East Division with a 12-6 season and put an Ottawa-based team into the Grey Cup for the first time since '81 with a thrilling 35-28 conference final win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday. Edmonton finished tied with Calgary for the CFL's best record at 14-4 but got first by winning the season series with the Stampeders, then dispatched the defending league champion 45-31 in the West conference finale.
Appropriately, Campbell and Jones are finalists for the CFL's coach-of-the-year honour, which will be handed out Thursday night at the league's awards banquet rather than after the Grey Cup.
While Campbell, 44, and Jones, 49, are in their first Grey Cup game as head coaches, both have been here before as assistants. Campbell is making his fourth appearance - winning in 2003 and '05 with Edmonton - while Jones is in his sixth CFL championship contest, winning previously with Montreal (2002), Calgary (2008) and Toronto (2012).
Interestingly, Jones didn't speak with reporters as Toronto's defensive co-ordinator in 2012 but showed a charismatic, sometimes funny side Wednesday.
"I used to not care what time meetings were and what time the bus left, and now those questions come to me,'' he said when asked how being a Grey Cup head coach differs from being an assistant. "It's kind of a little bit of a headache.''
The Grey Cup has also been quite prominent in Campbell's life. His father, Hugh, led Edmonton to five straight CFL titles (1978-82).
"I'm proud of who my dad is, he's a CFL lifer,'' Campbell said. "He's been around the league a long time in a lot of roles, and obviously is a good guy you can learn from.
"But at the same time I'm just trying to be my own guy and my own coach.''
Campbell and Jones will also field very similar teams Sunday: strong offences anchored by veteran quarterbacks and rugged, pressure defences. Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris, 40, is a finalist for the CFL's outstanding player award after passing for a league-high 5,703 yards while Edmonton is a stellar 9-0 since starter Mike Reilly returned under centre.
"We took some flak last year and when you win two games you should, that's part of pro football,'' Campbell said. "I'm happy for Henry that he weathered the storms we had to go through last year so we could have some success this year.''
Reilly missed much of the first half of the year after suffering a knee injury in the season-opening loss to Toronto. But Edmonton has been lights out since his return and heads into Sunday's game the decided favourite after sweeping Ottawa 2-0 in July when Reilly was hurt.
"Mike is the engine, he's the guy who makes things run,'' Jones said. "When your quarterback plays well you have success and Mike is playing at a high level right now.''
WINNIPEG - Rick Campbell isn't about to mess with success.
The Ottawa head coach said if scoring off the football field helped his team get to the Grey Cup, he he's fine with his players getting lucky this week as the Redblacks prepare to face the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday in the CFL title game.
Campbell, in his first CFL championship contest as a head coach, offered a brilliant answer when asked the traditional question about pre-game sex at the annual Grey Cup coaches news conference Wednesday.
"It's my job to put guys in the best position to have success, whether that's on or off the field,'' Campbell said with a straight face. "So I guess I'm going to give advice more than a policy.
"This would probably apply to most of our players and coaches and it mirrors our football team is that the odds aren't good and no one gave you much of a chance but if you pay attention to detail and you execute and you do it with zest and enthusiasm, anything can happen.''
The Redblacks finished atop the East Division with a 12-6 record after winning just two games in their inaugural 2014 campaign. Ottawa is in the Grey Cup for the first time since 1981 when the former Rough Riders lost 26-23 to the Edmonton Eskimos in Montreal.
(The Canadian Press)