CFL Pass

MODDEJONGE: Rick Campbell hiring in B.C. sets precedent in CFL

Colour me confused. And you might as well leave the lid off the paint can, because I can’t be the only one.

This time last year, Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive co-ordinator Paul LaPolice and Ottawa Redblacks offensive co-ordinator Jaime Elizondo were both denied permission to interview for the vacant head coaching position with the Saskatchewan Roughriders left behind by Chris Jones.

Canadian Football League rules supposedly allow clubs to block moves by coaches under contract and, as crazy as it sounds, it even applies in the case of promoting a co-ordinator to head coach.

But the restrictive rules came into play before then.

In February of 2018, former Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach June Jones hired Jerry Glanville to be his defensive co-ordinator instead of Phillip Lolley, who had served as interim DC during the Ticats 6-4 turnaround following an ugly 0-8 start in 2017.

But even when he was passed over for Glanville, Lolley was still under contract as a Ticats assistant. According to an Eskimos source, when the Green and Gold inquired about hiring the Alabama native as linebackers coach, Hamilton boss Scott Mitchell cited league rules and blocked the Eskimos from hiring Lolley, which ultimately happened a year later. But only after he sat out a full season.

That brings us to this week’s announcement of the B.C. Lions naming a new head coach in Rick Campbell, who was under contract as Ottawa’s head coach — that is, until he abruptly quit last month.

Is there a different set of rules for the son of Hugh? Or, is this a case of LaPolice, Elizondo and Lolley not doing what Campbell did? Does quitting somehow make the rules null and void? Was quitting a smart way to circumvent the restrictive rules that have been applied to others? All of these are questions the league office should answer.

Word out of Ottawa is Campbell stepped down after saying he could no longer co-exist with general manager Marcel Desjardins. If any of the other three gentleman had quit, citing personality or philosophical differences, would the league office have allowed them to go wherever they wanted a few weeks later?

Let there be no doubt the hiring of Campbell will have an impact on the CFL in 2020, especially if the next shoe to drop is former Eskimos head coach Jason Maas resurfacing in Vancouver as the Lions new offensive co-ordinator, reuniting him with Mike Reilly.

It’s a dangerous duo that led the league in passing yards during all three of their years together with the Eskimos from 2016-18, with Reilly quarterbacking the system put in place by Maas, who was also his own offensive co-ordinator.

But the hiring of Campbell and whatever loophole in the rules that were applied will also have an impact beyond B.C., Ottawa and Edmonton. Winnipeg, the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan will feel the effects, as well.

Specifically, how does the league office justify the decision to a Roughriders organization that was denied permission to speak with Elizondo and LaPolice about 11 months ago?

Speaking of Saskatchewan, Lolley is the lone member of Maas’s former coaching staff in Edmonton who is still under contract for another year. What if he doesn’t like the head coach that Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland hires? Like Campbell did with the Redblacks and Lions, can Lolley just quit and sign on with the green Riders in a few weeks?

Is there a one month rule? If not, why would Saskatchewan get treated any differently than the Lions? That’s the danger with precedents.

And what about players?

Can they quit by simply saying they no longer want to play for their general manager and go sign with a new club next month? Maybe Spruce Grove native Mark Korte is frustrated by Desjardins too. Can he just quit and sign with Edmonton in January?

If not, why not?

The precedent has been set with the Redblacks former head coach. Not happy? No problem. Quit and go wherever you want.

A lot of questions need to be answered.

No doubt, a big one got answered on Monday in Vancouver. With what appears to be a wink at the rulebook, the Lions got better when they hired Campbell.

But when that happens at the expense of other West Division clubs, hard questions have to be asked.

And on an individual level, three coaches who had their movement blocked — coaches named LaPolice, Elizondo and Lolley — have every right to ask why the rules that painted them into a corner over the previous two years don’t apply in this situation now.

Why does someone get to use a different brush?


On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge