Jones, 64, brings significant experience and a lengthy coaching resume to the Tiger-Cats, including head coaching stints in the NCAA at Southern Methodist University (2008-14) and the University of Hawaii (1999-2007), and in the National Football League with the San Diego Chargers (Interim – 1998) and Atlanta Falcons (1994-96).
In just over six seasons at the helm of SMU football, Jones rebuilt a program that had won just two games in its previous two seasons and hadn’t been to a bowl game for nearly a quarter century. During his tenure, the Mustangs won three bowl championships, sent 22 players to the NFL, and his “Run and Shoot” offence essentially rewrote the SMU record book, setting 13 of the school’s 14 all-time offensive team records. Jones was also named Conference USA Coach of the Year by The Sporting News in 2009, marking the fourth time in his career he received that honour (1999, 2006, 2007).
Prior to his time at SMU, the Portland, Oregon native served nine seasons as head coach at the University of Hawaii, similarly rebuilding an otherwise downtrodden Warrior football program that had just suffered its first-ever winless season in 1998, and had a combined 12 wins and no NFL draft picks or bowl game berths in the five years before his arrival. In 1999, Hawaii’s 9-3 record after going 0-12 in 1998 marked the biggest season-to-season improvement in NCAA history. Jones went on to lead the Warriors to 76 wins overall, the most by any Hawaii coach in school history, as well as two Western Athletic Conference Championships and six bowls. The program also developed six All-Americans and 17 NFL draft picks during that span, including putting a school-record five players into the NFL in 2007.
In 1994, Jones was named head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Despite taking over the worst team in the NFL from the previous season and having no first or second-round draft picks in his first-two years, the Falcons made the playoffs in 1995 and became the first team in NFL history to have five players go over 1,000 yards on the same team. Jeff George had 4,000 passing yards, three wide receivers went over 1,000 yards (Eric Metcalf, Bert Emanuel and Terrance Mathis), and Craig “Ironhead” Heyward rushed for over 1,000 yards as well.
Jones also spent time in the NFL as the Falcons’ Offensive Coordinator (1991-93), Detroit Lions’ Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers Coach (1989-90) and Houston Oilers’ Quarterbacks Coach (1987-88). Overall, he enjoyed 13 years as a coach in the NFL, and coached Hall of Fame quarterbacks Brett Favre (1991), Warren Moon (1987-88) and Jim Kelly (1984). During his NFL stops, he also coached three other quarterbacks to their only Pro Bowl appearances: Chris Miller (1991), Bobby Hebert (1993) and Jeff George (1995).
In 1986, Jones was co-offensive coordinator of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Rough Riders, joining the team after the United States Football League folded. He had been coaching in the USFL the previous two seasons with the Denver Gold as offensive coordinator (1985) and Houston Gamblers as wide receivers coach (1984). Jones made his coaching debut in 1983 as quarterbacks coach of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
Before his coaching career began, Jones also played quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons for five years (1977-81) and had a one-year stop in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts in 1982. He signed with the Falcons as a free agent out of Portland State after earning All-America honors with the Vikings, where he led the nation in passing and total offence.
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