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EDMONTON — Ever since becoming a head coach in 2014, Chris Jones has been understood by many to be one of the CFL’s best bench bosses.
On Thursday night, at the 2018 Shaw CFL Awards at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre, Jones’ efforts were validated with his first-ever Annis Stukus Award for CFL Coach of the Year.
The Riders’ head coach edged REDBLACKS head coach Rick Campbell after taking 41 of a possible 60 votes.
“We’ve got good people. That’s first and foremost,” said Jones. “All of our coaches, I can’t begin to tell you – they’re like my family when I’m away from my family. They’re like brothers – we all fight like brothers, but as soon as we get out of that room – we’re together. We’ve got great players. We work ‘em. They lift like twice a week. They put the work in. That’s what it is – you’ve got good people around you.”
In his third season with the Roughriders, Jones led the Riders to their first home playoff game since 2013 and help build a defence that tied a CFL record with 11 touchdowns in one season, and also led the league in opposing net offence (an average of 317.5 yards per game), forced the most two-and-outs (107), and tied for fewest sacks allowed.
Since taking the job following a three-season season, Jones has improved the Riders each and every year. After a five-win campaign in 2016, Jones double the Riders’ win total in 2017 and led them back to the playoffs, crossing over and advancing to the Western Final before bowing out to the eventual Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts.
This season Jones coached the Riders to 12 victories, matching the team’s highest win total since 1970. He earned the Riders a home playoff game, an eventual loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Jones becomes the first Riders coach to win the Annis Stukus Award since 2013 when Corey Chamblin won the award. He is the sixth Roughriders coach to win, joining Chamblin (2013), Kent Austin (2007), John Gregory (1989), Joe Faragalli (1981) and Eagle Keys (1968).
Jones is a four-time Grey Cup Champion, including once as a head coach with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2015.
“I’ve said it a million times, I come from a small town called South Pittsburg, Tennessee,” said Jones. “There’s no greater expectation because you’re judged as a man for the rest of your life after the type of football player you were at South Pittsburg. You walk out of there and you’re soft, or whatever – and you’re judged for that for the rest of your life. That’s a pretty good barometer of what you’re expected to do when you go to Regina.”