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TORONTO — The Canadian Football League announced today the finalists for the 2014 Annis Stukus Trophy, awarded to the CFL Coach of the Year. As voted by 65 members of the Football Reporters of Canada, the finalists are Montreal Alouettes Head Coach, Tom Higgins, Calgary Stampeders Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel, and Edmonton Eskimos Head Coach, Chris Jones.
The 2014 CFL Coach of the Year will be presented the Annis Stukus Trophy on January 21, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba as part of the CFL’s annual Congress.
** The CFL Coach of the Year will also be streamed live on CFL.ca. Details to follow. **
Chris Jones – Edmonton Eskimos
In his first season at the coaching helm for the Edmonton Eskimos first-year head coach Chris Jones helped lead the Esks to a 12-6 record and second place in the West Division, capping the biggest turnaround by any CFL team in 2014.
The Esks stormed out of the gate to begin the season 4-0, a mark the team has not completed since 2011. The momentum continued throughout the season thanks to a balanced offence and anchored by the defence.
The Esks went on to claim second place in the West Division and hosted their first playoff game since the 2011 season.
Jones’ team led many defensive categories this season including; interceptions, fewest first downs, average gain per pass, fewest yards passing per game, fewest passed completed, lowest points against per game and fewest points to name a few.
This is the first time that Jones has been named a finalist for the Annis Stukus Trophy.
Tom Higgins – Montreal Alouettes
In a year where the Alouettes had to fill the void left by the CFL’s all-time passing leader, Anthony Calvillo, Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins found a way to put an impressive second half of the season together to help lead the Alouettes to a playoff win and a chance for a berth in the 102nd Grey Cup.
After beginning the year 1-7, playoffs seemed like an unlikely possibility until the team rallied and finished the rest of the season with an 8-2 record to finish in second place in the East and earning the right to host the Eastern Semi-Final.
To open the 102nd Grey Cup Playoffs, the Alouettes played their most dominant game of the season knocking off the Lions 50-17 and qualifying for the Eastern Division Final against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Although the Alouettes came up short against the Ticats, Higgins led the Alouettes to a remarkable in-season turnaround that marked the first time a team had ever fallen six games below .500 and recovered to finish at .500 or better. The Alouettes are also the fourth CFL team to ever start as low as 1-7 and make the playoffs.
Higgins won the Annis Stukus Trophy twice in his career; in 2003 with the Edmonton Eskimos and 2005 as a member of the Calgary Stampeders.
John Hufnagel – Calgary Stampeders
In his seventh season as head coach and general manager of the Stampeders, Hufnagel guided the Stamps to a league-best 15-3 record during the regular season and capped it off with a Grey Cup victory.
The 15 victories were the largest total by a CFL team since 2009 and the best by a West Division team since 1994. The impressive record was accumulated in a very tough West Division with the team being led by a third-year starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and without all-star running back Jon Cornish for several games throughout the season.
The Stamps led the league in a number categories including points scored, away record, most first downs, most yards net rushing, average gain per pass, fewest passes intercepted, fewest yards penalized and fewest quarterback sacks.
This is Hufnagel’s fourth nomination in his career and has won the award once in 2008 as a member of the Calgary Stampeders.