Montreal Alouettes owner Gary Stern had warned, even before the start of the season, that he would not sit idly by for long if his team started the season on a bad note. The first pawn on the chessboard fell on Wednesday as head coach Khari Jones was shown the way out.
General Manager Danny Maciocia will assume the role on an interim basis until the conclusion of the 2022 season.
“This kind of decision is always difficult to make, but it was necessary in our eyes. It was better to take it early in the season, while there is still time, “said Maciocia, in a press release.
This dismissal comes 24 hours after the GM affirmed that he was “not there”. How things can change quickly in the world of professional sports.
A valued coach
On the player side, fullback Christophe Normand and linebacker Brian Harelimana had the same feelings when it came to Jones.
“Khari, he was a guy who was loved and he really is a beautiful person, “said the first.
“He was loved and respected by the whole locker room, for his part expressed the second. Sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air. But that doesn't take anything away from Khari, who was a really good leader.”
While the 51-year-old's dismissal came as a surprise to Normand, Harelimana didn't fall out of his chair on hearing the news, considering the team has gone a disappointing 1-3 so far in 2022. /p>
“We don't really talk about it among ourselves, but we all felt it. We knew we had to be better with the club we have. With each defeat, we felt the pressure getting stronger,” said the defensive player.
“It's a shame it's going like this, but our ultimate goal is to win a championship. With this in mind, I believe this is a decision that will help us,” continued Harelimana.
A matter of time
Jones spent the last year of his contract in 2022, he who had entered the position before the hiring of Maciocia. This foreshadowed that he would be the first to leave, in the event of a bad start to the season.
The 51-year-old was appointed to the role less than a week before the start of the 2019 campaign, after Mike Sherman was fired. He had maintained an impressive record, under the circumstances, of 10-8, good for second place in the Eastern Conference that season. The Alouettes had however lost their flag in the first round of playoffs.
Jones returned to the collar in 2021 after the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. During that shortened season, he went 7-7, earning the Montreal organization third place in the East and another playoff berth. Once again, she was shown the exit door in her first game.
Barron Miles too
Head coach Khari Jones is not alone to have lost his job with the Montreal Alouettes on Wednesday, since defensive coordinator Barron Miles also left.
Hired in 2020 as a defensive backs coach, the former star safety of the Canadian Football League (CFL) is very close to Jones.
The Alouettes' defensive unit has been dominant only once this season. Without being bad, she terribly lacked consistency. After four games, she ranks second-to-last in the league in yards allowed on the ground (427) and majors through aerial plays (5).
“We haven't been able to live up to our expectations defensively for two years,” linebacker Brian Harelimana said. We have a great defensive line, great linebackers and great defensive backs. We have never been able to be a dominant defensive. We may have needed this change to become one.”
This change will be embodied by Noel Thorpe, who will replace Miles. The 52-year-old is thus making another comeback with the “Als”, his third lifetime stint with the organization. He will take on the role of defensive coordinator, in addition to taking care of the defensive backs.
Danny Maciocia: a man of experience
Quebecer Danny Maciocia, who will assume the duties of head coach of the Montreal Alouettes in following Wednesday's dismissal of Khari Jones, finds itself in familiar territory.
The 55-year-old, who was at the helm of the University of Montreal Carabins for a decade, previously served as head coach in the Canadian Football League, even winning the Gray Cup in that role in 2015 with the Edmonton Eskimos.
It is important to remember that Maciocia, general manager of the Montreal team, was also a member of the Alouettes' coaching staff between 1996 and 2001 before moving to the Eskimos, first as offensive coordinator.
If the presence of Maciocia on the sidelines was not the desired scenario, it has something to reassure. It has nothing to do, at least, with certain situations in the past during which general manager Kavis Reed took the place of coach Jacques Chapdelaine, in September 2017. In previous years, it was Jim Popp, whose reputation as a GM was well established, having made various inconclusive stints as head coach of the Alouettes. The last time, he had replaced Tom Higgins in 2015 without much success.
As for Maciocia, he had won the Gray Cup for the first time with the Eskimos in 2003, alongside this same Higgins. He was offensive coordinator at the time.
On the university scene, Maciocia won the Vanier Cup, with the Carabins, in November 2014.
“It's the one of the best coaches I've had in my career. He won everywhere he went. His experience will help us a lot,” said Alouettes linebacker Brian Harelimana, who worked under Maciocia during his time at the Université de Montréal.
– With the collaboration of Philippe Asselin