Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young took to Twitter on Monday to voice his support for vice president of football operations Kent Austin in the wake of player complaints.
Several players raised concerns about Austin’s coaching, personnel decisions and management style in a story published in Monday’s Spectator. Young responded on social media with a series of Tweets that criticized the story – as well as the Ticat players quoted – and defending Austin’s record with the club.
“Where is the love for a coach who took Ticats to Grey Cup twice in four seasons?” Young wrote on his account @CaretakerBob. “With exception of last year or so, Kent Austin was arguably most successful head coach, in CFL history. Good coach, better person.”
Young also took issue with the story itself, which featured several players saying they believe Austin’s return would significantly reduce the likelihood of several prominent free agents-to-be re-signing with the club as well the team’s ability to recruit players from around the league. They also believe it’s unlikely June Jones, who replaced Austin after an 0-8 start, will return if Austin remains in his current role.
“This is just sad. A cowardly Ticat player, maybe two, complain anonymously to a naive journalist about a former coach,” Young wrote.
Austin held his end-of-season press conference on Monday at Tim Hortons Field and addressed the comments made by his players.
“I read the story. We’re all disappointed in our season right now, from the top down. I would say that when you have a season like this, when you have to make decisions for the betterment of the football team, not everybody is going to agree with those decisions. That’s the nature of the job that we’re in,” Austin said. “But I think that anyone that’s been around me would understand that I’ve always done things for the betterment of the football club.”
Austin is under contract through the 2019 season and says he has no plans to leave. He was asked if he was done with coaching, something which he has previously said was his favourite role with the Ticats.
“Right now, I am. I love my job,” Austin said. “I’m really happy here, I really like the guys, I think we got a good football team and we’re focussed on winning a Grey Cup next year, which I think we can.”
Austin said he met with Jones to discuss personnel on Monday and stressed that they two have an effective working relationship – something Ticats’ players questioned in their comments. He said a decision on Jones’ future would be made in the near future.
“We’ll talk about it at the right time and that’s in process right now. June’s done an unbelievable job and did the job that he felt he would do. We’re working through that through the next two, three, four weeks,” he said. “He came in a very tough situation and did a great job. His performance and how he handled things speaks for itself.”
Another big question facing the club is at quarterback. Jeremiah Masoli, who finished the season as the starter and played very well in his 10 games at helm, is set to become a free agent while Zach Collaros, the No.1 pivot during the team’s 0-8 start, has a year left on his contract that will make him the top-paid player in the CFL next season.
“We feel like we have two really good quarterbacks. Sometimes quarterbacks go through ups and downs – I certainly did. It doesn’t mean you can’t play the game,” Austin said. “Zach’s an outstanding quarterback and we’ve got two good ones that we think we can win with.”
But he hedged when asked if he would bet on Collaros being with the club at training camp next season.
“I’m not a betting man,” he said.
Austin also provided an update on Johnny Manziel, who is on the team’s negotiation list. In September, the CFL announced the 24-year-old quarterback would have to meet certain undisclosed conditions before he could play in the league next season but were he to meet those conditions, the Ticats would have until Nov. 30 to extend him a contract offer.
“I talked to them as recently as four days ago. I’m still waiting for an update,” Austin said. “I’m certainly in contact with his agent quite frequently.”
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