Milton: June Jones checks a lot of boxes for Ticats

When the thing you need to do to please the players is the same thing you need to do to please the fans, you shouldn’t wait long to do it.

So, eight days after the CFL season ends, June Jones is no longer the interim head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He is the head coach, no superfluous adjective.

The fans clearly wanted Jones back and the players, especially on offence, loved him from the day he inherited the loudest whistle.

And, most importantly, Jones’s bosses Kent Austin and Scott Mitchell, like what he’s done, the atmosphere he’s created, the hope he’s provided the franchise, and the impetus he’s given to prospective free agents to return to Hamilton. So he’s back.

For whatever reason, and it wasn’t just one, the day that June Jones went from Kent Austin’s assistant to Austin’s replacement as head coach, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats became the football team they saw in the mirror but not on the field.

In a result-based business you can’t argue with numbers, you can only add modifiers.

The Ticats had been oh-for-eight and they went 6-4 under Jones and could even have had a win or two more with a little better luck and a little better grasp of CFL nuances.

Yes, they were proceeding with urgency, as if they were in the playoffs, while some of their opponents weren’t and yes they solidified things on the back end of their defence that they hadn’t prior to Labour Day. But those in themselves don’t explain such a dramatic turnaround, or the sense of relaxation which permeated the clubhouse.

Outside of wins and losses, coaching is essentially a non-quantifiable profession. The same recipe doesn’t always produce the same dish. A coach often doesn’t do anything different in a 10-8 playoff year than he does in the season they finish 6-12, but it sure looks dissimilar. It’s no longer working, or the personnel doesn’t buy in like they once did or, as we felt about Austin’s offence, the other guys are on to what you are trying.

Jones’ return doesn’t necessarily mean that every free agent the Ticats want will arrive here, or that some players who complained they wouldn’t return if Austin is still involved, which he is, will actually return. But CFL history teaches us that a couple of thousand bucks in either direction makes more difference to a player than who’s signing the contracts. History also teaches us that most memories are short.

 Jones will make a big difference to offensive players because they feel his configurations put them in a position to succeed, as a team and individually. And score often. 

Austin’s did too in the earlier years, but not in the past many months, and it became clear it was taking players too long to digest the system, which is partly why the 2013-17 teams generally started poorly every season. Go 0-4, or 1-4,  enough times and 0-8 is absolutely inevitable.

Jones had to keep it uncomplicated because he arrived mid-season, and that was one of the beauties of the Ticats in the second half. They thrived on that relative simplicity. We’ll see what happens when the playbook thickens, but he’ll also have his first training camp and April Optional Team Activity period (which they should use for system development, not just talent evaluation) to work with.

It’s clear that despite being a pass-first guy Jones likes to establish the very real threat of a run. That makes the offensive linemen giddy, and the opposition nervous. 

He decided, correctly as it turned out, that Jeremiah Masoli is the better quarterback to sell that threat to opponents than Zach Collaros is. So it’s hard to imagine that Jones agreed to return without some semi-assurance that Masoli would too.

Formally sorting out the Masoli-Collaros hierarchy is the next step and understand this about the Tiger-Cats since Mitchell became the CEO: They like to do things in a certain, defendable, order especially in hirings and signings. Austin was ratified by Mitchell earlier, now Austin hires hiscoach, and the coach decides upon the quarterback.

Masoli, who needs a raise if he’s to start, and  Collaros, the highest-paid player in the league, cannot co-exist as quarterbacks here. The salary cap weighs against it.

So, we assume, the market is now open to Collaros bidders. He has a heavy ($200,000) bonus due in February and that would likely lower the trading price for a team who takes him before the bonus is due, and raise it for those who’d prefer to wait.

 The 2017 season was a terrible one on several fronts for the Tiger-Cats, but they ended it with optimism and have already re-upped the main cause of that optimism. Now they have to make the same correct decisions on a number of key players…which won’t be as obvious as it was picking the coach.

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (243 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

17 Comments on Milton: June Jones checks a lot of boxes for Ticats

  1. Sea of Dead // December 5, 2017 at 9:33 am //

    Hope the Cats continue to build on their 2H 2017 performance under JJ. Would have preferred a 2yr deal rather than a 3 but the Caretaker obviously has money to burn based on what he’s already given to KA in salary, US housing compensation, his Cornell dispute settlement, etc.

  2. Love it Milty and your correct a couple of those losses probably Were due to lack of cfl knowledge but it happens just look at Jason maas dickenson and bo-levi all with lots of experience and mind boggling moves in key games that’s part of the game . June Jones is the guy now and im looking forward 2018 !

  3. I do not see a better result from last year. Not giving Collaros a shot at running his system shows how short sighted and closed minded he really is the same as KA. I do not like that Banks is the number one receiver even though he has speed he drops more than he catches. We need a lot of new talent if we are to compete and Manziel is not the one. If 32 teams in the NFL don’t want or like him what makes you think he will be any better here. He is all for Johnny, he is not a team player kind of like Cam Newton only Newton has a little more talent. Not expecting anything big next year especially after free agent market.

    • Which of the 32 teams in the NFL want Collaros? And the real question is why would any of the other 8 CFL teams want him either?

      • I guess we will see next year when Collaros returns to slap the snot out of the Ticats while playing for someone else. 2 ex-Ticats made the all star team but no current ones made it . This is a disturbing trend.

        • Not going to happen Mark…even not withstanding the washed up theory the TC’s will know how to defend him.

          • What’s guaranteeing the success rate at defending?

            The Cats “know” how to defend Ray but still lost two out of three games.

    • While Banks has dropped a few sure catches, he’s also made some nice receptions. What do you base your “he drops more than he catches” comment on? He also had over 1,000 yards receiving in far less than 18 games as a starter. What more do you need to convince you he’s a legitimate top receiver?

      • Using the CFL’s receiving stats … it seems that Banks has a better reception/attempt ratio than SJ Green. He also trails Ellingson by only a couple of points.

    • Collaros lasted a few weeks at the Tampa training camp 2012 and was cut. Manziel lasted two years and still has the most wins of any Browns QB 2015 to present. He also owns the Browns single game rushing record for a QB and that goes back to 1946. Manziel was a team player it was his off field antics that got him. Google Kyle Shanahan and Manziel. Kyle is current 49er head coach and was Johnnies OC for a year. Has nothing but good things to say. Also June jones knows what he is talking bout and wants Manziel bad. Part of the delay on Ambrosies blessing is writing essays about being good now but also Manziels ex college coach is unemployed and may land with an NFl team after the last game. I would thing Sumlin would at least give Manz a try out. Good thing June Jones is not negative like you Frank.

  4. Eddiefelson // December 5, 2017 at 9:49 am //

    HOW THE F#/#^ can you say masoli is better “rightly so?”

    Not a chance on the planet…
    Collaros is hands down better- a changr was made to shake things up…but we didnt make the playoffs BECAUSE our best pkayer was on the bench.

    Stop trying to b.s. the readers

  5. BigRedMachine // December 5, 2017 at 10:51 am //

    Collaros is the highest paid player in the league? I want his agent negotiating my next employment contract… Could be that the Ticats had already decided during the season that they were going to release Collaros because of the size of his contract. To avoid fan backlash it was probably better not to let Collaros play in Jone’s system in case he does do well. This way, they unload a large contract with hardly a second thought from the fan base.

    • I will always be a Ticat supporter but I am not yet a Jones supporter simply because he did not give Collaros a chance in games when he could have. Jones will likely stick with Masoli well beyond the time when he should move on – this is the same as Austin refusing to run the ball when the passing game was not working for him. We are replacing one ridiculously stubborn coach with another – I predict Jones will not last beyond the end of 2018. Jones even publicly admitted that he saw what a great quarterback Collaros was every day in practice but did not play him – Jones is either dishonest or a fool and neither is a good quality for a coach.

      • Bold prediction for 2018.

        As for Jones comments on Collaros, there is not upside to publicly saying Collaros is washed up so take it with a grain of salt. Even if Jones thinks Collaros is great … it does not change that Masoli’s running is much better than Collaros’, giving yet another problem to opposing defenses.

      • June’s system requires a QB that can run. Look at Ohio State’s QB (just on other side of Lake Erie) who will probably be in CFL next year. Did you hear June quoting 49er Coach Walsh that you have to change 20% of your offence every year or they are catching up? He will change things. Also Manziel is the equal of Tony Dorsett for running and has a strong arm. Not my comparison google it.

  6. That’s why jj is the coach and we aren’t. He sees the potential in Masoli and the lack thereof in collaros .I’ve been a supporter of jm for a long time and I’m sticking with it .

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