The Ottawa Redblacks are headed toward their third offensive coordinator in as many years. They have chosen to part ways with Khari Jones, their Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator during the 2023 season. Jones was able to build one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the league, but couldn’t seem to get the passing attack going this year.
Perspective is Everything
If you go back and look at the right statistics, and avoid certain ones, one could argue that Khari Jones shouldn’t have been let go yet. Some will say its admirable that he was able to build a serviceable offense with a fourth string quarterback who was on the practice squad as recently as earlier this season. However to say either of those things you have to ignore that Ottawa had one of the worst passing attacks in the league, and just completed their fourth season without a single quarterback passing for over 10 touchdowns.
Playing in 15 games with 14 starts, Crum produced 10 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He also collected 8.1 yards per attempt, on his way to 3,109 yards passing. By the end of the year the dual threat quarterback had added 9 more rushing touchdowns, and 741 yards rushing. Bringing him to a grand total of 3,850 yards on the year. Crum’s success on the ground is a big reason why the Redblacks found themselves with the second best rushing attack in the league, behind only Winnipeg.
Crum’s struggles in the passing game compounded this, every time the Redblacks entered the redzone, we knew that Crum was more likely to run it in than he was to throw for a touchdown. It also made our offense very one dimensional, so much in fact that the Redblacks ended the season with the least passing yards in the league at 3,967 yards, and lowest average per game at 220.4 yards. This is despite the fact that Ottawa had the 7th most passing attempts, and completions, as well as the 5th highest completion rate at 66%.
Turnovers Lead to an 0-10 Divisional Record
The most important area of concern for this offense was turnovers. Ottawa committed the second most turnovers in the league with 47 total, including 18 fumbles lost, and 18 total interceptions. They also allowed a league leading 71 sacks, this was ten more than the closest team, Montreal. They ended the season -4 in the turnover margin.
These turnovers played a huge part in our ten divisional losses this year. In fact, 11 of Crum’s 12 interceptions went to division opponents. This is a huge factor in why we saw Ottawa outscored by nearly 100 points in divisional games, but outscored Western Division opponents despite a 4-4 record. No matter who lines up under center in 2024, they need to clean up these turnovers, and get rid of the ball quicker.
Offensive Line also needs to be an area of emphasis. Whether it means bringing in better depth, or simply finding more durable starters, the team can not find success when they have a different starting offensive line nearly every week. Injuries across the board have been a massive issue for the Redblacks. Perhaps it’s time to rethink their strength and conditioning department heading into the future.
One bright-side of this Ottawa collapse is we ended the year as the second least penalized team in the league. Discipline was not an issue under Bob Dyce in 2023. I expect this is a big reason why we will potentially see Dyce retained, but Jones was not.
Let’s take a look at some up and coming assistant coaches in the league that deserve consideration for the opening at offensive coordinator.
Kevin Bourgoin, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Bourgoin has had tremendous success at developing players in the CFL. We need look no further than the stand-out receiver for the Blue Bombers, Dalton Schoen who has now produced back-to-back 1,000 yard 70 reception seasons. Under Bourgoin’s watch Schoen has scored 26 touchdowns in just two seasons. Prior to this he oversaw running backs and helped coach Andrew Harris to three straight rushing titles.
Before he joined the Blue Bombers, Bourgoin spent 15 total seasons with Maine, first serving as the receivers coach in 1998 spending three seasons there. He would spend the next six seasons as the receivers coach for Brown University before returning to Maine as the receivers coach for the 2005 season. By 2007 he had taken over as the offensive coordinator, a role he held until 2015.
In 2016 he was hired as the QB Coach/Offensive Coordinator for the first school to ever give him a job nearly 20 years before at Colby College. He caught the attention of the Blue Bombers, and was hired as their running backs coach after just two seasons in his role with Colby. All said and done, Bourgoin has ten seasons of experience calling offenses at the college level. You could do a lot worse than this man as your next offensive coordinator.
Jason Hogan, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
2023 served as Hogan’s second season with the Blue Bombers as their running backs coach. Hogan has overseen the development of Brady Oliveira for the last two seasons, as we as fans have watched Oliveira emerge as a CFL Star. He helped lead the second leading rushing attack in 2022, which helped Winnipeg be the most prolific offense in the league once again.
In 2021 Hogan served as the assistant offensive coordinator, running backs, and wide receivers coach for the Université de Montréal Carabins. He had spent four seasons with the team after joining them in 2018 as the quarterbacks coach. Hogan has overseen nearly every position on offense which is a benefit to how he coaches.
Before joining the Carabins he also worked for the Alouettes for two seasons. First as a defensive assistant/receivers coach, then as an offensive assistant for the 2016-2017 seasons. At College Andre’-Grassett he served as the assistant offensive coordinator for the 2010 and 2011 seasons before taking over as the offensive coordinator full-time in 2012. He stayed in that position until 2015. He also spent time with the Alouettes during his off-seasons from 2013-2015 helping their youth program, and working in sales before finding his way to the coaching side of the team. His experience as an offensive coordinator at lower levels can’t hurt, he is also fairly young, and could bring with him an innovative approach to offense.
Marty Costello, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
If we are looking for someone who can fix this offensive line, I present to you Marty Costello. Once hired by Winnipeg to be the assistant offensive line coach under Bob Wylie, he eventually replaced his one-time mentor and has stuck with Winnipeg ever since. After eight seasons with the team, and six as the primary offensive line coach, he might be ready to make the leap to play caller at the CFL level.
Leading one of the most efficient offensive lines in the league, his unit is always near the bottom of the league in sacks allowed, a category Ottawa needs dramatic improvement in. In 2017 his unit allowed the least pressures in the league with 71, in 2018 they allowed the second least sacks, in 2021 they allowed the least sacks in the league, and in 2022 they had the second fewest in the league once again. In 2023, Winnipeg was again had the second fewest sacks in the league. The only team to allow fewer was Toronto. Costello had nine years of experience at the collegiate level before making the jump to the CFL.
During his time at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, he served as the run-game coordinator/offensive line coach. A position he held for two seasons before Winnipeg came calling. He also served as the run game coordinator for little known Dana College, and as an offensive coordinator for Culver-Stockton as well. He has experience being involved in or calling plays himself.
Mike Miller, Toronto Argonauts
Mike Miller has been coaching professionally since 1997, having been first involved with professional football in 1999 just his third season as a coach. He experienced professional football outside the NFL for the first time in 2006 when he was hired by the Berlin Thunder as their QB/WR coach. Miller has worked under some noted offensive minds during his career as a coach. From Mike Mularkey with the Steelers, and Bills, to Ken Whisenhunt with the Cardinals. He’s participated in Super Bowls, and Grey Cups alike as well.
His resume speaks for itself as a position coach, having most recently overseen a position group as a quarterbacks coach that included McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Chad Kelly, and younger options like Cameron Dukes, Bryan Scott, and Ben Holmes. As a receivers coach he oversaw Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Steve Breaston with the Cardinals. This included sending both Boldin, and Fitzgerald to the Pro-Bowl, and watching as Fitzgerald and Breaston both put up 1,000 yard seasons in the same season.
After this time as the receivers coach with Arizona it began a nine season stretch in which he was involved in play-calling. It began as a Passing Game Coordinator in 2009, before a promotion to Offensive Coordinator in 2011 all with Arizona under Whisenhunt. In 2012 when the Cardinals moved on, he was hired by Montreal, as their Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach. Despite lasting just one season in the CFL in this role, he made history starting four different quarterbacks all of which who won at least two games.
He was hired at Edinboro University as their Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers Coach, this too latest one season but not for lack of success as his team led the country with an 80% completion rate as a team, and set a single-season reception record. After the 2014 season he left Edinboro and took a year away from coaching. He returned in 2016 with the school that gave him his start. Robert Morris, as their offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. After two seasons in this role he was hired as a Defensive Coordinator for Westminster a role he held for one season before transitioning into a role as Assistant Offensive Line Coach/Offensive Consultant before transitioning into a part-time Offensive Consultant role to make way for a new job as a receivers coach in the XFL with the New York Guardians.
In five games, he oversaw a unit that had three receivers produce over 102 yards or more. After the XFL shut down, Miller took a season off before moving on to Toronto as the quarterbacks coach. Everywhere he has been he’s found success, but he’s never been
Pete Costanza, Toronto Argonauts
Pete Costanza has a background in Arena Football. Beginning his career in 1997 with the New Jersey Red Dogs as an assistant coach, under future Calgary Stampeders Head Coach/General Manager Jon Hufnagel who was the Head Coach of the Red Dogs at the time. By his fourth year in coaching he was hired to be an Offensive Coordinator with the Roanoke Steam. From 2000 to 2007 he would serve as an Offensive Coordinator and/or Head Coach with several arena football teams.
In 2008 when Hufnagel made his move into the CFL after a few years with the Giants as an Offensive Coordinator, he brought Costanza with him as his Receivers Coach. Holding this position from 2008-2019, Costanza and company collected 6 Grey Cup appearances, including 3 victories. During his first season in Calgary they won the Grey Cup, and two of his players topped the 1,000 yard mark finishing in the top six of the league in receiving yards. In 2009 he added two more 1,000 yard seasons to his resume with Nik Lewis repeating the feat, and Jermaine Copeland doing the same with both players finishing in the top ten of the league.
Costanza would go on to coach 10 1,000 yard seasons, with 2014 was his first season without a receiver in the top ten in receiving yards since joining Calgary, in 12 seasons with the Stamps, he had just two seasons in which he didn’t have at least one receiver in the top ten. He actually had more seasons in which he coached two players into the top ten. In 2020 the CFL Coaching Salary Cap was brought in, and this helped lead to Costanza exiting stage left to join the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
This time he would oversee Running Backs. After the 2020 season was cancelled, Costanza stayed in Winnipeg for just one season. In his only season with Winnipeg, they won the Grey Cup, with two players finishing in the top ten in rushing yards. This also happened to be Brady Oliveira’s first season involved heavily in the offense. In 2022, Costanza accepted the job as Receivers Coach/Passing Game Coordinator for the Toronto Argonauts, and again in his first season he won a Grey Cup. This is a trend, Ottawa should want to be a part of, as this amounts to his third stop where his team won a Grey Cup in his first season.
During this year he helped coach Markeith Ambles and Kurleigh Gittens to a combined 1838 yards and ten touchdowns. Both players finished in the top ten in receiving touchdowns, this was also the 11th 1,000 yard receiving season in Costanza’s career as a WR coach. In the 2023 off-season he was interviewed for and nearly hired to be the next Offensive Coordinator for Saskatchewan. Instead he returned to Toronto and helped lead them to a historic 16-2 record, he also added one more 1,000 yard season to his coaching resume with yet another new name, DaVaris Daniels topping the mark under his guidance. Costanza could be the perfect candidate to get this offense back on track, and determine if Ottawa has the right quarterback on the roster, or if they need to explore their options…including perhaps one of the Argos back-ups?
Scott Milanovich, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Scott Milanovich has jumped back and forth between the CFL and NFL for years, so it was no surprise when he landed back in the CFL for the 2023 season when the Colts decided to clean house. Being hired by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as their QB coach, Hamilton became Milanovich’s fifth stint with a CFL team. His unique experience having served as a quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator, or head coach for the last twenty years, and eight years as a player makes him a great candidate to bring into Ottawa.
Milanovich is no stranger to being the guy tasked with rebuilding a broken offense, and he is known for his the former quarterback is known for developing young players at the position. Milanovich has a way with players, able to tap his own playing experience spanning four seasons in the NFL, and one season each in the NFLEL, AFL, XFL, and CFL.
Ironically Milanovich was once the Quarterbacks Coach to new Seattle Sea Dragons Offensive Coordinator Nick Rolovich in his first season as a coach with the Rhein Fire. Milanovich immediately double dipped as a coach. Jumping from the NFLEL in Spring of 2003, to the Calgary Stampeders where he coached, AND actually played briefly for them as well. His time in Calgary lasted just one season, but he remained with the Rhein Fire through the 2005 season. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2005 his last year with the Fire. In 2004 he was tasked with developing Chad Hutchinson the former project quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2005 it was former Eagles QB Andy Hall, former Packers QB Scott McBrien, and former Lions QB Jason Fife.
He would work for the Cologne Centurions in the 2006 season, before returning to the CFL in 2007, where he was reunited with Scott McBrien. During the 2006 season he coached future NFL Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury, Current XFL Special Teams Coordinator Tory Woodbury, and Shane Boyd who went on to sign with Montreal in 2009 where Milanovich was now the Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach. Milanovich was promoted to Assistant Head Coach prior to the 2009 season. The Alouettes went on to win the next two Grey Cups in 2009 and 2010. After the 2011 season, Milanovich was hired as the Head Coach of the Toronto Argonauts, leading them to another Grey Cup victory, his third in four seasons. During this season he had Ricky Ray, and Current Edmonton Elks Offensive Coordinator Jarious Jackson at quarterback, on his way to winning Coach of the Year.
Ricky Ray was Milanovich’s hand picked quarterback acquired via trade late in 2011. Ray would prove his worth by not only winning a Grey Cup in 2011, but leading the CFL in passing yards, and touchdowns during the 2014 season. Ray was the main starter for four of Milanovich’s five seasons at the helm in Toronto. During this stretch the Argos made the playoffs three times. In 2017 Milanovich chose to resign from his duties as Head Coach, and ultimately was hired to oversee the Quarterbacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars a position he held from 2017-2019. In his first season he helped Blake Bortles to one of the best seasons of his career, and nearly an AFC Championship win.
He was hired as the Edmonton head coach for the 2020 season but chose to resign to pursue NFL opportunities, landing with the Colts in 2021 under Frank Reich. He spent two years with the Colts before landing back in the CFL. I believe it’s time for him to get another opportunity to call an offense, something he was passed over for in Jacksonville despite serving as the interim coordinator to finish out the season. I believe he would also be one of our best options because our issues since 2018 have been directly related to the quarterback position.
Michael Lionello, Montreal Alouettes
Michael Lionello is an interesting choice, because he got his start in the CFL working under Khari Jones when he was the Offensive Coordinator of the BC Lions back in 2016. In 2017 Lionello was promoted to running backs coach, a position he held for two seasons. During these two seasons he worked under Jones in 2017, and Jarious Jackson in 2018. One of his big success stories, is Jeremiah Johnson, Johnson was signed as a free agent prior to the 2016 season, Lionello’s first with BC, having just set a career high in rushing with 448 yards.
Johnson would go on to run the ball 416 times for 2,355 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 2019, he worked with the Toronto Argonauts for one season as their running backs coach. He moved on to Montreal in 2020, and attempted to bring James Wilder Jr. with him before the season was cancelled. He returned to Montreal in 2021, and oversaw an offense that put up league leading numbers in several categories.
In 2022 he took over the wide receiver position and watched as Eugene Lewis put up a 1,303 yard season with 10 touchdowns. Reggie White also had his breakout season catching 53 passes for 722 yards and 2 touchdowns. His best work might have come in 2023 when he was promoted to Passing Game Coordinator. His entire receiver group was turned over, and he was able to make it work with Tyler Snead, Austin Mach CFL rookies, and 2nd year receiver Tyson Philpot. Together these three receivers accounted for 2,474 yards in 2023. Lionello is young, and he is a branch from the Khari Jones coaching tree, but is that the right option at this point?
No matter who the new coach is Ottawa has to fix their offensive line woes, and figure out who their long term answer at quarterback is. If I had to pick, my top options would be Milanovich or Mike Miller. I personally want a coach with a focus on quarterback, even though this approach didn’t work out with Khari Jones, the Redblacks can’t continue to tread water at quarterback and hope to find any sort of success. Masoli has one more season on his deal, and there is the potential that young back-ups Tyrie Adams, and Dustin Crum return, but are either of these guys the answer?
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