BOMBSHELLS: Bombers O'Shea says Khari Jones has done fantastic job with Alouettes
Former Winnipeg Blue Bombers star quarterback Khari Jones was thrust into a very difficult position when he was named acting head coach of the Montreal Alouettes after the CFL pre-season.
Jones, who had been serving as the Alouettes offensive co-ordinator, took over when Mike Sherman was shown the door at a very odd time.
After a predictably slow start, the 48-year-old has done a masterful job, leading the Als to a 6-5 record, which has them firmly entrenched in the East Division playoff picture.
“Fantastic,” Blue Bombers coach Mike O’Shea said, when asked to assess the job Jones has done this season. “I see a team that has really got behind his leadership. They seem excited to play every week and they play hard-nosed football. It’s been really neat to watch.”
The Als, who are currently being operated by the CFL while a search continues for a new ownership group, lost their first two games of season. They were destroyed 41-10 in the second game by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and many pundits were predicting a last-place finish for the once perennially strong franchise.
But the very next week, the Als bounced back and beat the Tiger-Cats 36-29 in Montreal and are now 6-3 since that lousy start. Along the way, they have beaten the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders, both teams likely destined for the playoffs in the tough West Division.
“From the strife that they faced at the beginning of the year, a lot of negative commentary coming from there, (Jones) has managed to have them stay focused and win a lot of football games,” O’Shea said.
“It’s been very cool to watch and I’m very happy for him.”
Jones also has had a wonderful influence on quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr.
In his fourth CFL season, Adams has emerged as a bona fide starter, throwing for 2,465 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games.
Once thought of as a bust after a brilliant college career at Eastern Washington and Oregon, Adams is a dual threat who has also scored 10 touchdowns.
“How could it not?” O’Shea said, when asked if Adams was benefitting from having Jones as a coach. “Vernon Adams is a great athlete and a very good quarterback. Now he’s being coached by a good quarterback and I think that’s gonna take hold for sure.”
Until this month, the last time long-snapper Chad Rempel was forced to sit out a CFL game because of an injury was in 2009 when he was a member of the Toronto Argonauts.
He had played every game in five seasons with the Bombers and was proud of the accomplishment.
His streak ended on Sept. 7 when he missed the Banjo Bowl against the Saskatchewan Roughriders while dealing with a concussion. He hit his head hard on the turf after getting pushed backward by Riders defensive lineman Lavar Edwards during the Labour Day Classic on Sept. 1.
“It was tough for me to miss last game,” Rempel said after returning to practice on Wednesday. “It’s been about 10 years since I missed a game because of an injury. It was tough to sit out.”
O’Shea was furious about the hit on Rempel, and let the officials and Riders coach Craig Dickenson know it.
Dickenson eventually agreed that it was a hit that should not have happened as Rempel was in a defenceless position while snapping in punt formation.
Technically, the hit was legal because Rempel had lifted his head before Edwards made contact, but it was still dangerous.
“I’m not really upset about it,” Rempel said. “I think it was within the framework of the current rule.
“I do think the flaw in the language is that they judge it on if the snapper’s head is up. But that’s rewarding a snapper to keep his head down and draw a penalty, which I don’t think is right.
“To those who watched the play and don’t know, as your head is coming up and the guy’s face is (right in your face), do you even have a split second to react to what he might be doing? No.”
Rempel, a 37-year-old who is expected to return for Winnipeg’s game Saturday against the Alouettes, would like to see a rule change at some point.
“I would like to see some changes where a guy has to declare himself on a side of the long-snapper to avoid that because you are vulnerable,” he said. “Your head is down, you can’t evaluate what the guys are doing, coming at you, the same way that everybody else can on the field.
“Credit to him. He timed it up pretty good. He had a good get-off, he finished the play well and it was a bit of a perfect storm. My left foot got tripped up on our guard and unfortunately my head smacked the ground pretty good.”
Rempel missed the second half of the Labour Day Classic and all of the Banjo Bowl. Linebacker Thomas Miles filled in, along with Maxime Latour.
Miles fared well, despite not having done the job as a professional before.
“I think he did a fantastic job,” Rempel said. “That’s not an easy situation for him. I don’t think he snapped live in a game since university. He did a great job, both snapping and in protection. I was pumped for him.”
Rempel sure didn’t love seeing someone else doing his job, however.
“Obviously I have never enjoyed someone coming in and playing for me,” he said. “That’s why I’ve played through a lot of injuries over my career. I’ve never wanted to give another guy an opportunity to take reps from me.”