As Santa prepares for his Christmas Eve journey, pulled by a team of magical Elks, some fans in Edmonton are preparing to be the 2022 CFL Grinch over the soon to be announced return of Chris Jones. Fans in Edmonton have long memories and are unforgiving of players and coaches who leave our beloved herd (I can still hear the Chris Pronger boos).
Why all the hate Elks Fans? Some fans are excited about the prospect of bringing in a man who has a CFL coaching and management resume that boasts a record of 53 wins and 37 losses. Chris Jones, who guided Edmonton to their last Grey Cup in 2015, has the potential to immediately make an impact over the on-field product for the Elks.
So, again, why all the hate Elks fans? Yes, Chris Jones did leave Edmonton for a promotion in Saskatchewan soon after their 2015 Grey Cup win. Yes, Chris Jones did take most of the coaching staff, who then GM Ed Hervey appeared to have no plans for in the 2016 season. Yes, Chris Jones was able to lure many starting players from the Elks to the Green Riders.
Are the fans of Edmonton going to hold on to this forever? Did the fans expect Coach Jones not to take a promotion, pay raise and new challenge that would be best for his career and family? Would Edmonton fans not have done the same in their chosen careers? Oh yes, loyalty.
Loyalty is an interesting concept in today’s CFL. Players’ contracts never seem to be much of a guarantee (see the list of 2022 CFL Free-Agents as an example) and coaches are ostracized if they seek and accept promotions. How about the fans who chose not to attend games in 2021 simply because the team and organization were struggling?
I hear many Edmontonians complain about the team, but many of those don’t even attend games. Coach Jones was loyal to his staff and players, which is why so many chose to follow him. He remains one of the most sought after football minds in the CFL regardless of his nomadic motorcycle riding where he roams from one football program to the next.
In speaking to Coach Jones last week, he is hoping to have the opportunity to turn the Elks team around. He understands that the CFL is in a precarious position and the league needs to continue to move forward and progress. Remember, community popular coaches don’t necessarily win Championships.
Kavis Reed was one of the most popular and community focused coaches since the great Hugh Campbell, but he couldn’t guide the Elks to glory. Enter Chris Jones in 2014; he immediately turned around a sub-par team producing a record of 12-6 and the best defence in the CFL. Losing in the Western Final in 2014 set the conditions for Edmonton’s off-season improvement under Jones. In 2015, they marched their way to a Grey Cup Championship.
This Christmas Season, Elks fans please find a little love and forgiveness in your hearts. When Chris Jones becomes the new GM, Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator, have a little sip of eggnog spiked with some fine Tennessee Whisky.
Focus your questions of loyalty on your season ticket purchases and commitment to being in the stands for the 2022 season in order to support your team and the CFL. Winning always makes things better, even the Grinch was able to find some love for the little town of Whoville. If it isn’t Jones who is hired in Edmonton, how long will your loyalty last when the team misses the playoffs in 2022?