To say the end of the Roughriders season has been difficult for Chris Jones might actually be an understatement.
Not only did his team lose 23-18 in the west semi-final to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but in the 48 hours that followed, Jones had to layoff a half a dozen employees and tell the rest they would be taking a pay cut.
It’s all in an effort to comply with the CFL’s football operations cap. The cap was approved in 2018 but begins in 2019. It limits the number of coaching staff to 11 and the number of football operations staff to 16. It also requires teams to keep their salaries under $2.7 million.
“The unfortunate reality is that there is about five or six people that won’t be with our organization anymore and then the rest of them that are here, some of their bonuses and things – reasons that they came here – are being taken away, plus a six-10 percent pay cut.”
The cap’s aim is to even the playing field across the league among all the teams, some of whom do not have the influx of cash or profit margins that the Saskatchewan Roughriders do.
Jones said he understands that reasoning, but it doesn’t make telling his staff right before Christmas that they either won’t be with the team next year or that they’re taking a pay cut.
“A lot of our coaches either played or have been associated with me in the past. It’s never an easy thing I can tell you that. These people are like your family. I spent a lot of hours with the players and coaches and support people and they become a staple of the people that you’re around.”
And Jones said the effect will be felt especially with young coaches who teams across the league bring in to become the future running back and linebacker coaches and maybe even offensive and defensive coordinators one day.
“It limits the support people at a lot of different levels,” he stressed.
And he’s also worried it will limit the success of the team and the on-field product. With the launch of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) just months away and the XFL on its way back, finding talent will become much more difficult, according to Jones.
“When we got (defensive end Mic’hael) Brooks hurt a few weeks ago, it basically took myself and our three guys in personnel working night and day to find a guy who wasn’t signed in the AAF,” Jones said. “That’s the harsh reality in the new leagues. The competitiveness for players will continue to get harder as soon as the XFL kicks off (too).”
“I think the quality of the game is the main thing,” Jones added. “We need to keep a good quality product out there on the field.”