Chris Jones coaches for one thing: Championships.
In 2018, it may not be the Grey Cup but he was happy to take home the Annis Stukus Award for CFL Coach of the Year at the the league’s annual awards ceremony Thursday night.
It’s the first time Jones has won Coach of the Year, and the fifth Rider coach to accomplish the feat.
— Jamie Nye (@jamienye) November 23, 2018
Jones credits his amazing team of coaches, saying the award is more a credit to the staff rather than just himself.
”We got good people, that’s first and foremost,” he said. “I mean all of our coaches … they’re like my family when I’m away from my family. They work hard. Don’t matter what time we get out of there, the next morning they’re in there at five, five-thirty, six o’clock at the latest and they spend just tireless hours. We just have a really really good group that’s dedicated to each other.”
Along with the players, Jones says there is only one thing that will make you successful and that’s having good people around you.
Jones led Saskatchewan to its first home playoff game in five years and best record since 2008. Since taking over the Riders in the 2016 season, Jones has increased the team’s win total every season — from five in 2016, to 10 in 2017. The Riders finished 2018 with a 12-6 record, good for second in a strong West Division.
Jones, who also acts as the team’s defensive coordinator, built a team backed by a strong and playmaking defence with strong special teams. The offence struggled to find the end zone all season but the team was able to overcome with 11 defensive touchdowns, tying a CFL record.
The awards night was highlighted by many winners crediting the CFL for the opportunity, which came to Jones in 2002 when he was hired by Don Matthews.
“I came up here, and I met Don. It was a little bit different situation, people were all over the place. People blitzing, people dropping into coverage. He never wanted to be painted inside a box or put inside of a box. He was sound but he didn’t want to do the same old, same old and that’s been a blessing of mine of being around all the good folks I’ve been around,” Jones said.
Matthews won the coach of the year five times and Matthews’ coaching philosophies are still impacting Jones a decade after they stopped working together.
“Tonnes, tonnes,” Jones said of Matthews’ influence. “The same things we taught in ’02 and ’03 are still being taught today.”
Jones beat out Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell for the award with 41 of 60 votes.
Riders rookie Jordan Williams-Lambert lost to Redblacks kicker Lewis Ward for rookie of the year. Votes were 50-10.