Maas: ‘You want an opportunity to coach here one day’
REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders have found the man to lead their offence for the next two seasons, as the team officially named former Edmonton head coach Jason Maas as their offensive coordinator on Friday.
The addition of Maas creates a formidable trio of coaches which also includes 2019 Coach of the Year nominee Craig Dickenson and Jason Shivers — who was also extended through 2021.
After mulling over some candidates, Dickenson knew exactly who he wanted for the job once Maas was an option.
“When the season ended, we as a staff got together and tried to figure out ways we can get better, and as the offseason started to progress and the Grey Cup was over, some really good candidates became available. Jason Maas became available at a certain time,” Dickenson said. “Looking at the things he’s done on offence and the teams he’s been able to put on the field and on offence, it became apparent that he was a very strong candidate.
“We started kicking the tires on coordinators and we were fortunate enough to get our foot in the door with Jason, (we) had a good visit with him and he decided to come on board so we offered him the job.”
Following the Riders’ exit from the 2019 postseason after dropping the Western Final to Winnipeg, Dickenson had the chance to make some changes to his staff. He said that he informed former offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo that they were going in a different direction, leaving the door open for a new voice on the offensive side of the football. But even Dickenson didn’t have a particular way he was going to lean when it came to naming a new OC.
“The reality was Mac had a few opportunities for head coaching jobs and we wish him all the best,” Dickenson said. “We had no idea what direction we were going to go in until we knew who was available. When Jeremy and I first sat down, we wanted to try to make decisions that were best for the club regardless of our record.
“We certainly acknowledge that we had a good record but we can always get better. When Jason became available, we felt like it was the right thing to do.”
Maas is returning to an offence-centric role once again after serving as the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos for four seasons.
During his tenure with the Esks, Maas’ squad qualified for the postseason on three occasions but was unable to make it to the Grey Cup, losing in the Division Finals on every occasion. That prompted Edmonton general manager Brock Sunderland to make a move. He was relieved of his duties on Nov. 27.
“Once I was released from my contract duties with Edmonton, I was sitting at home expecting to sit out the year. But I started fielding calls from various people around the league and started to get interest,” Maas said. “A couple of days after that, Craig reached out, which was surprising to me. So I had preliminary talks with a few people and as it progressed with Craig, I started to lean heavily towards (Saskatchewan) for the opportunity to be a part of an organization that, from afar, you really respect and understand it’s a special place.”
After spending six seasons in the CFL as a player, Maas immediately made the jump to coaching, jumping on as the QB coach with the Toronto Argonauts. In his first season with the organization, he won his first — and to this point, only — Grey Cup as a coach. After sticking with the Double Blue through 2014, he spent a year as the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ offensive coordinator in 2016 before accepting the head coaching role in Edmonton following that season.
“It’s nice to sit back and focus on nothing but offence, the people, the staff and the players but still have the opportunity to talk to Craig about other things,” Maas said. “But I love offensive football. That’s one of the reasons I got into coaching because, at a very young age, I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I was done playing. Usually, around this time of year and the last four years, I’ve wanted to get away from football for a month.
“Right now, I can’t wait to get home and start watching film and start building the offence, talking to people and thinking about all these different designs. That does truly excite me; it’s been a while since I’ve felt that way.”
Over his entire career as a coach, Maas has worked alongside the likes of Ricky Ray, Zach Collaros, Trevor Harris (on two different occasions), Henry Burris and Mike Reilly. Now he gets to work with 2019 Most Outstanding Player nominee Cody Fajardo.
During his first full season as a starting pivot in the CFL, the 27-year-old led the league with 4,302 passing yards while throwing for 18 touchdowns and completing 71 percent of his throws. Fajardo also ran for 611 yards and an additional 10 scores on 107 carries.
“Watching him play this year, the thing that jumps out at you — say the game against Ottawa, he gets to play one of his first games fully and he lit the scoreboard up and did it in a variety of different ways,” Maas said of Fajardo. “He’s talented, he can run the ball, he can throw the ball and he’s tough as hell. Watching him play, he has that Moxy and savviness to his game that you appreciate. I realize this: he’s young and he hasn’t played a lot. To play one year and do what he did on one year was outstanding and now it’s about putting that together and continuing to progress.
“I think there’s room for improvement but watching him play, it’s exciting to get to work with a guy like that.”
When Maas walked in for his interview two days prior to the announcement, it was the first time he had walked into Mosaic Stadium through the home entrance. With a smile on his face, he had nothing but praise for the fanbase who he’ll get to see every game over the next two seasons.
“I’m just really excited to be a part of Rider Nation. You hear about it; you know about it but I think it’s one of those things that’s a bucket list thing if you’re a CFL guy,” he said. “You want an opportunity to coach here one day.
“The energy that this building creates and the old building created and the fanbase that’s around the country — even in the States when I go home. I’ve worked other jobs and worked in the oil field as well. I travelled a lot around Canada and the one constant is Sask fans.”