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JONES: Eskimos make a great hire in Scott Milanovich as new head coach

 Councillor Shane Keating speaks at city hall on Thursday May 11, 2017. Gavin Young/Postmedia Network
Councillor Shane Keating speaks at city hall on Thursday May 11, 2017. Gavin Young/Postmedia Network

When Rick Campbell couldn’t wait to sign with the B.C. Lions, XFL assistant coach Jamie Elizondo was denied permission to talk to Edmonton and other head coach candidate Paul LaPolice took the job in Ottawa, Eskimos fans were getting concerned.

Then came the flurry of Twitter action Thursday morning and the official announcement early Thursday afternoon.

Scott Milanovich is the 22nd in the history of the franchise that has won and played in more Grey Cup games during their 71 years of history than any other but played in fewer (1) during the last 14 years than any team in the league.

Due to the fact Milanovich is still working as quarterbacks coach of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars, there was no press conference to follow.

Milanovich and general manager Brock Sunderland will be available to the media via teleconference Saturday afternoon. Sunderland is currently with Milanovich in Florida.

His hire was immediately applauded from every corner of the league.

The pieces began to fall into place with a revelation that Sunderland had taken a trip to Florida and further when Mark Kilam, the Stampeders special teams co-ordinator, thought to be a candidate, re-upped with Calgary Thursday.

Milanovich, currently QB coach of 4-9 NFL Jacksonville, won two Grey Cups as an assistant with Montreal and then was head coach when the Toronto Argos won Grey Cup 100 in 2012.

One thing you should know. Milanovich wasn’t fired in Toronto. He left to go to Jacksonville when current Eskimos starting quarterback Trevor Harris left the Argos to go to Ottawa.

Another thing you should know. The man can pick a coaching staff.

When he won with the 2012 Argos, Milanovich had Chris Jones as his assistant head coach and defensive co-ordinator, Orlando Steinauer as secondary coach, Jason Maas coaching the quarterbacks and Stephen McAdoo coaching the offensive line. He also had Mike O’Shea as special teams co-ordinator.

Maas, now offensive co-ordinator in Saskatchewan, was head coach of the team he once won two Grey Cups with as back-up quarterback to Ricky Ray for the last four seasons, putting together a record of 39-33 but failing to finish higher than third and not providing a single home playoff game during his run.

Ray, who once told former Eskimos media relations director Dave Jamieson that Milanovich was the best coach he ever played for, might be in play to be a quarterback coach, although when he was here to be inducted to the Wall of Fame Ray indicated he was in no hurry to become a coach yet.

Defensive co-ordinator Phillip Lolley is the only member of the previous staff with a year left on his contract and after a successful first season in the job would be expected to be retained.

Lolley, who gave Jones his first coaching job, ran the same concepts defense in Edmonton as Jones did for Milanovich in Toronto.

As a quarterback coach in Jacksonville, Milanovich went back to his area of strength. He’d been a quarterback in the NFL with Tampa Bay, in NFL Europe with Berlin, the XFL with Los Angeles, the Arena League with Tampa and in the CFL with Calgary.

He went back to Europe as quarterback coach of the Rhein Fire, returned to Calgary as QB coach, back overseas as offensive co-ordinator in Cologne and then to Montreal before winning a Grey Cup in his first year as head coach.

He’ll come to Edmonton with a 43-47 CFL record from his five seasons in Toronto.

Don’t expect to see Milanovich in Edmonton soon. Jacksonville, with three games to go, doesn’t finish the season until Dec. 29 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Bottom line?

Milanovich has to be considered a definite upgrade to Jason Maas and he should be able to attract staff, retain players from free agency and attract players entering free agency.

Great hire.

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