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Friday, January 29, 2016


Thursday night in Estevan was the first public speaking appearance by new Saskatchewan Roughriders V.P of Football, General Manager & Head Coach Chris Jones.  It was the annual Estevan Bruins fundraising dinner and the Voice of the Bruins, Jeromy Corrigan, was on hand and sent us the audio.

Jones did a Q & A with Rider Radio host Michael Ball, and here's a transcript of what was said:

Q:  What's your approach to coaching and how did it come to be almost all of your staff from Edmonton joined you in Saskatchewan for 2016?

CJ:  We don't have staff meetings to have staff meetings.  We have very few staff meetings.  Our time is too valuable and we know what we gotta get done.  Day 1, Day 2 , Day 3, everybody knows their job responsiblities and go out and get the job done.  When we take the field, we hit the ground running.  So basically I told them 'the rumour on the street is there could be an opportunity for us so raise your hand if you're interested in going'.  And they all raised their hand and I said 'okay let's roll'.

Q:  How will you balance being Defensive Coordinator and Head Coach?

CJ:  It's just a matter of balancing your time and having a clear vision of exactly what you expect out of your staff and your personnel people and players.  You treat 'em with the utmost respect and you demand exactly what you want and you don't settle.

Q:  You're going to live in a hotel?

CJ:  I go to work at 3:00 am until 7:00 pm and I work seven days a week.  There ain't no real reason to have an apartment where you gotta play electrical and cable bills and stuff like that.  All my towels are in my locker at work and I only got a few black shirts and a few pairs of jeans.  The people (at the hotel) know you and I got two little girls.  They stay down South at our place on the Tennessee/Alabama line and my wife's a school teacher with only a few years left until retirement.  They come up to visit and the hotel people get to know everything about them.  That's the way we do it.

Q:  You're based out of the South?

CJ:  I stay down there in the off-season and then every single weekend but one, I'll be travelling to the minicamps from Miami to Tampa, and go home.  Tomorrow I got a 6:45 am flight to Houston and I've got three quarterbacks who we'll meet with.  Then a workout and then I'll head to Dallas.  So it's a little bit of a busy schedule.

Q:  How was Chris Jones as a football player?

CJ:  Slow.  Physical.  I liked to fight.  I enjoyed Alan May's talk before me here actually!  I was raised in an all-black project and my mama made $6000/year.  I weighed 113 lbs in the ninth grade so I had to fight my way out of a lot of situations.  That's where I'm from, you know?

Q:  How did you get to Canada?

CJ:  It's strange man.  Paul Jones, who's been in the league with Edmonton for years, would come by our school and I'd tell him 'this guy's pretty good' or 'that guy's pretty good'.  He saw that I had a decent eye for talent and I said 'there's not an internship for white guys in the NFL so Paul why don't you get me an internshp in Edmonton?'  He did and I went up there in 1999 and there were guys like Rob Brown and Doug Pederson.  They had no money to hire me so I had to run down to Mobile with $100 in my pocket.  I was doing a home visit for Tennessee Tech and got a call from Paul Jones.  Long story short, Don Mathews approached me and offered me a job.  Told me to call Jim Popp.

I drove up to Montreal and stopped in a place called Watertown, New York.  I was driving in the snow and never had before.  I stopped for a pee and there was a sign over the urinal that said, "Life Is A Journey, Not A Destination".  I thought I'd better get back in the car and keep going!  Ended up in Quebec where nobody told me all the signs are in French and you can tell I don't speak French.

Q:  What's the key to finding good Canadian football players?

CJ:  There's two different ways to find them.  I try to work them out as much as I possibly can.  Speaking of the Americans first, basically I'm evaluating everything they do from the moment they sign those sheets.  Do they look me in the eye?  I ask for their email and see how many actually put it on there like I asked them to do.  If he's looking around talking and I can't stand being around him for 2-3 hours, why would I bring him up for seven months?  My house payment and car payment depend on this!  My two girls' college degrees depend on it.  Some of our guys have unsavoury pasts but I can tell after I work 'em out whether or not they can play for us.

With the Canadians what we do is, of course we have the Canadian Draft and the Canadian players have come so far from when I first got up here in 2002.  The first combine I went to was in Montreal and the players were like our high school players in the States.  But the League has done such a great job of organizing the combine now.  I wish I had a picture to show you how far they've come but there's now a lot of 4.4 40's and a lot of bench rep guys in the 20's.  It's really fun to see how it continues to come along.

Q:  What's it take to win in the CFL?

CJ:  You've gotta have a good quarterback and good Canadian content.  If that's the case and you have a little bit of defense, you're gonna win.  If you have a whole lotta defense, you're gonna win a lot.

Q:  What do you think of the Riders' Canadians?

CJ:  You always have to rebuild so you're always looking where your players will come from and who's going to back them up?  We're looking at centre, guard and a few receivers.  Also the safety and nose tackle spots.  That's probably where we'll target.

Q:  What about Rob Bagg?

CJ:  I've done a lot of investigating and I like guys that are good in the locker room and put the football team first.  He's a guy that does that, according to everybody I've talked to.  I've asked players over the phone who the leaders are and his name kept coming up every time.  Then when I met with Darian, and Jeremy O'Day who wants to win more than anybody in the organization, Bagg's name came up there too.

Q:  Dressler and Chick.  They're good guys in the locker room ...

CJ:  That's one of the toughest things ever.  I've had to cut some of the players closest to me over the years like Ed Philion and Tim Strickland, and actually all the best ones I've had I've eventually had to cut them.  That's never an easy thing.  When you have an organization as proud as this one and you have those guys who've done so much, that was a very tough decision and it led to a lot of sleepless nights.  Unfortunately with the ecomonics of the game, the numbers just didn't fit.

Q:  Did you try to negotiate with them?

CJ:  About four or five guys were making a third of the salary.  That's the case.  They give you so much money to work with and these people around here are working people like me.  Just do the math.  You can't pay the electric bill and the water bill and not pay the cable bill.  They'll turn it off.  You can't put an entire football team together if you're paying too much in one area.  That's just the facts of life.  It doesn't matter if it's the quarterback or anyone else.  We did what we could do and in today's world, I tried to re-sign a Canadian kid the other day and talked to him on the phone and his agent called and said not to talk to the player until they get the contract.  The agents are controlling this thing now, more than the kids know.  And they shut doors, unfortunately.

Q:  Have you spoken to Chick and Weston?

CJ:  I talked to John at length the day prior.  And then Weston, last night flying in he was sitting right next to me in the last row so we got to talk.  He was in his street clothes so I didn't recognize him at first but I recognized his voice.  He said 'Coach here's your bag', and I recognized his voice.  We talked the whole way over from Calgary and we talked about his workout program.  He's welcome to work out with our guy.  That's how we operate.  He's got some years left in the tank so good luck.  This was just a business decision.

Q:  What was Don Mathews' influence on you?

CJ:  I owe a tremendous amount to Don.  He's forgotten more about football than I know.  He and Bill Parcells are guys I bounce things off of.  He's not in very good health right now, by the way.  That first year in Montreal he had me watching so much film.  He asked me who I liked and I said honestly only #75 and this big old #78 who turned out to be Adriano Belli.  We cut everybody else and the next year we won the Grey Cup.

Q:  What's the story with Bill Parcells?

CJ:  Well, Paul Jones again, he said he knows Bill Parcells and I asked him to get me up with him.  I happened to be doing a workout down in West Palm Beach, which is five minutes from Jupiter where he lives.  We went to Hurricanes Bar & Grill and had breakfast of all things.  We had breakfast, then drank coffee, drank coffee, drank coffee, and then ate lunch.  We spent six hours together in all.  I just wrote down tons of notes and a lot of the things we do are similar to what he and Don gave me.  I've had the good fortune of being around all these good folks.