Inside the CFL: Khari Jones left the Alouettes with her head held high

“It was so abrupt, and that’s the hardest part of it,” the former head coach told the Montreal Gazette of his firing after Week 4.

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In the final year of his contract, and knowing he wasn’t hired by general manager Danny Maciocia, former head coach Khari Jones was a dead man walking in many ways, especially when the Alouettes lost three of their first four games.

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The seemingly inevitable happened on July 6, unsurprisingly during a bye week on the schedule, when Maciocia fired Jones along with defensive coordinator Barron Miles. While the likeable Jones wasn’t unemployed for long, hired last Monday by Hamilton as a football operations consultant, he is reluctant to rock the boat when he discusses his tenure in Montreal, knowing he works in a Little League of nine teams.

“It was so abrupt, and that’s the hardest part about it,” Jones told the Montreal Gazette this week, the first time he has spoken about his more than two seasons as the Als’ head coach. “I have gone from teams after seasons. This was not natural, because it was during the season. It’s not something I stopped at. I know what happened and I’m okay with it.”

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Was the dismissal inevitable? Jones declined to comment. Was it premature, so early in an 18-game season and considering Montreal lost its first two games by a combined four points? “I’m disappointed about that,” he said. “I’ll leave it like that.

“I knew the situation I got into and I accepted it. I knew this could happen. I feel good about the work I did and I leave feeling good about it. I don’t hold back or worry about the other stuff and I won’t speak ill of anyone I worked with. I’m fine with that.”

While there are little things like game decisions, Jones admitted he could have done it differently, though he declined to specifically address starting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.’s benching for Trevor Harris early in the second quarter of the second. game, he leaves with his head held high.

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“I’m proud of what we accomplished there, although it may not have been to the point where I felt we could get to,” Jones said, choosing his words carefully. “To take over from (Mike Sherman after training camp in 2019), do the things that we did and come out with a winning record, regardless of what happened. I’m proud of that and I think I’ve shown that I can get the job done. I learned a lot, I made mistakes of course, but I felt good about the work I did. I hope people see that.”

Under Jones, the Als went 10-8 in their first season, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2014, though they lost at home to Edmonton in the Eastern Division semifinal. Montreal went 7-7 last season, though Jones missed a game the team missed due to COVID-19. They were eliminated again in the division semifinal, in Hamilton. His regular season record was 18-17, but 18-19 overall.

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The one issue Jones will discuss at length, and resented, was his name being associated with his players’ lack of discipline. While the Als were penalized heavily in many games under Jones, and two defensive players were ejected from games this season, those totals haven’t diminished under interim head coach Maciocia.

“It bothers me that my name became synonymous (with it) and people started talking about the discipline,” he said. “I disagree with that. People start to think of you as an undisciplined person or someone who promotes it. Many different things were involved. If we had guys that were crazy off the field, getting into trouble or there were a lot of suspensions… We had high penalty totals on special teams, where he had young guys. Those same guys are now doing well.

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“When you hang your hat saying that he runs an undisciplined team, I don’t agree with that. Did I just become an undisciplined trainer? That became a kind of rallying point and that was a bit unfair.”

Jones watched his former team blow a 19-point third-quarter lead against Edmonton on July 14, but the Tiger-Cats were in BC on Thursday night, so he wouldn’t have watched Montreal nearly lose a 14-point mattress in Ottawa. earlier that night. Hamilton entertains the Als next Thursday.

Jones is believed to have received severance pay from the Als when he was fired, which paved the way for another CFL team to sign him. While he has never worked with head coach Orlondo Steinauer, Jones, a former quarterback, played for Hamilton in 2005 and began his coaching career with the Ticats in 2009, advising quarterbacks for two seasons before becoming at the offensive coordinator.

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While the responsibilities that come with Jones’ new role are still being defined, he denied that he intends to usurp anyone’s job. Hamilton has struggled this season, going 1-5, but the Ticats have made it to the Gray Cup, losing twice to Winnipeg, the last two times it was played.

Jones could have stayed home with his family in Surrey, BC, while he cashed Als checks, but he’s flattered that another organization reached out so quickly. Jones’s popularity shouldn’t be in question either, given the number of players he said contacted him when they learned of his firing.

“It just feels good that somebody… wants me to be around,” Jones said. “This is what I want to be doing.”

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