With the 2019 season in the rearview mirror, once again multiple CFL teams made coaching changes to get back in the hunt for the Grey Cup in 2020.
Edmonton Eskimos: Jason Maas out, Scott Milanovich in
Jason Maas led the team for the last four seasons, making it to the division final twice. But Maas was unable to reach the Grey Cup, despite having talented rosters over his tenure. Maas’ play-calling and game management left something to be desired.
In the 2017 West Final against the Calgary Stampeders, Maas decided to kick a field goal late in the fourth quarter when all conventional wisdom said go for it. He failed to get back to a championship level despite having Mike Reilly, Adarius Bowman, Kwaku Boateng and many other star players on both sides of the ball.
Enter Scott Milanovich, who won a Grey Cup as the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts in 2012. He spent the last three seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars but will return north of the border to be a head man again. It’s somewhat of an unexpected hire but one that will be a good one for the Esks.
BC Lions: DeVone Claybrooks out, Rick Campbell in
The 2019 season was a disappointing campaign for the Lions. B.C. started off by giving DeVone Claybrooks the reigns after Wally Buono retired following the 2018 season. With the addition of Mike Reilly, many saw the Lions as a top team in the West. They were the only team that failed to make the playoffs from the West, forcing changes.
Rick Campbell is now in, and like Milanovich he is a Grey Cup winner with a new gig. After leading the Ottawa Redblacks for the last six seasons, Campbell and the team mutually agreed to part ways. The move came after a disastrous 2019 season in which they finished 3-15 after a 2-0 start.
The highlight of Campbell’s tenure in the nation’s capital was his Grey Cup win in 2016. The victory saw the 8-9-1 Redblacks upset the highly favored Calgary Stampeders in overtime. Campbell led Ottawa to three Grey Cup appearances and one win in six seasons, but that success will be hard to replicate in the rugged West.
Ottawa Redblacks: Rick Campbell out, Paul LaPolice in
It was only a matter of time before the offensive coordinator for the champion Blue Bombers was going to become a head coach. LaPolice was the head coach of the Blue Bombers from 2010-12 before receiving his pink slip. Last off-season the Saskatchewan Roughriders tried to interview him for their head coach this season, but the Bombers denied permission.
But this past season LaPolice wove together the complex quarterback situation for the Bombers. Matt Nichols went down, then Chris Strevler came in and struggled before Winnipeg brought Zach Collaros in. The two QB system of Strevler and Collaros managed to get the job done as Winnipeg secured their first Grey Cup since 1990.
The Redblacks are trying to figure out a direction forward after they lost 15 of their last 16 games in 2019. It may take time, but if LaPolice receives adequate time to build a team his way, he can be more successful in his second stint as a head coach than in his first.
Toronto Argonauts: Corey Chamblin out, Ryan Dinwiddie in
After a second straight 4-14 season, Chamblin was out after his only season leading the Argos. Dinwiddie will now be the third Argos head coach in three years.
Dinwiddie is well-familiar with the Canadian game, playing for the Blue Bombers from 2006-08 and the Roughriders from 2009-11. He then stayed in the CFL, joining the Montreal coaching staff in 2013 as their quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. After the 2015 season, Dinwiddie made the jump to Calgary as their QB coach. He held that job since 2016.
Dinwiddie’s time was coming soon, meaning the Argos had to pull the trigger on their now rookie head coach. Toronto’s been trying to figure out its quarterback situation since Ricky Ray hung up the cleats; they needed to get a young, offensive-minded coach to mentor Dakota Prukop and Michael O’Connor. It may not pay off immediately, but it’s a good hire.
Optimism about the CFL Coaching Changes
Overall, each of these new head coaches has a chance to be successful in their new role. LaPolice and Dinwiddie are inheriting projects, while Milanovich and Campbell have rosters ready to win now. It will be interesting to see if the eastern coaches can turn their teams around in 2020 and make the playoffs and whether the two western coaches can make up ground on the West Division’s big three.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images