Chris Jones has always said he loves being around a team with passionate fans, and now he’ll be sticking around for at least another year.
The Riders head coach, general manager and vice president of football operations signed a contract extension Tuesday that will see him at the helm of the green and white through the 2019 season. His previous contract was set to end in 2018.
Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds said extension talks began while the season was still on, but the two men agreed to shelve it until after the season.
It seemed the decision to extend Jones was a no-brainer for Reynolds who praised Jones’ work ethic, which he said is known league wide.
“He’s working very successfully, I think, at building a program that can consistently win,” Reynolds said. “And I think you see the progression of the team from five wins the first year to doubling that this year.”
Reynolds said the two men were comfortable with a one-year extension and didn’t really discuss adding any more time.
Reynolds added that this was something they would revisit annually.
“I’m happy that they’ve got confidence in myself and our staff and our organization to allow us to have the opportunity to extend another year and to keep moving forward with our plans,” Jones said Tuesday morning after the announcement was made.
Jones was originally hired on Dec. 7, 2015, and lead the 2016 Roughriders through a tough five-win season. The team’s fortunes improved significantly in 2017 under his guidance, however, doubling the number of wins and making it all the way to the east final. It was the first time since 2013 the Riders made it that deep into the playoffs.
Jones said the sting of losing the east final still gets to him, but the staff is all working hard to be better for next year and a big part of that will be hosting a home playoff game – a goal both he and Reynolds share.
“The common denominator (of Grey Cup qualifiers) over the last couple of years is they had home playoffs games. So certainly that’s what we’re looking to try and do and striving to do and not just do it next year but for the years to come,” Jones said.
Alongside Jones, the Riders also announced the return other football operations staff including former Roughrider Jeremy O’Day as assistant vice-president of football operations and administration, John Murphy in his role as assistant vice-president of football operations and player personnel and Mike Davis as the manager of football administration.
Riders confident heading into Free Agency
Once chatter about the extension was over, Jones addressed a number of questions related to the off-season and the Roughriders’ 22 free agents.
A handful of players have reportedly been granted NFL workouts including Duron Carter, Nic Demski, Kacy Rodgers and quarterback Brandon Bridge.
And while Jones declined to comment on James Franklin moving to the Argos, he was very open about his hopes for Bridge.
“I told him on the phone ‘(the NFL) is a chance of a lifetime for you, you know that we want you,’ he knows that we as an organization and us as a staff we certainly want him here with us, and we’ll find out (his future) in the next little bit,” Jones said.
As for the Riders other free agents, he’s feeling optimistic.
“We probably won’t bat 1,000 but we’ll get the biggest majority,” he said.
And that starts with Roughriders all-star defensive end, Willie Jefferson, who Jones said fully expects to be back with the team next season.
CFL free agency begins on Feb. 13, 2018.