March 24, 2024

Hall: Chris Jones, Jason Shivers reunite in Edmonton

Jason Shivers committed a fashion faux pas in his first shift as a defensive assistant working under the cantankerous Chris Jones.

He vows not to repeat that blunder in his new gig as defensive coordinator and assistant coach for the Edmonton Elks.

“I remember the first day I went to work for him,” Shivers said with a chuckle this week from his hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. “I showed up with a checkered shirt on — collars and khakis and stuff.

“And he says to me, `C’mon. You aren’t coming to work at no bank, man. C’mon. Show up with some football clothes on.’”

Message delivered. Message received.

And now, 11 years later, Jones has relinquished his title of defensive coordinator and handed it off to his protégé — the same guy who showed up to work his first day looking like a banker.

» Stream the CFL Combine Live on CFL+ here
» Elks announce Jason Shivers as defensive coordinator
» Marsh’s 3 Stars of the Combine: Who stood out on Saturday?

There’s no question Jones remains the undisputed boss as general manager and head coach at Commonwealth Stadium.

But Jones says he has no intention of micro-managing as the Elks attempt to qualify for the CFL playoffs for the first time since 2019.

“I have to bite my tongue, because this is his thing,” Jones said this week from the CFL Combine presented by New Era in Winnipeg. “I didn’t hire him to be the D-coordinator for me to be meddling in his business.

“Will I be involved? Absolutely. But I’m involved in all three phases.”

Turns out that, despite his clothing, Shivers made quite the impression on Jones back in 2013 with the Toronto Argonauts.

“When he first started, he was working in the business world,” Jones said. “Jason just walked in and said, ‘Look, I want to coach football.’ And Jason worked for free.

“And he would work all night long, and then, after all his jobs, and then come in and start his day with me. That’s no easy task.”

Certainly not, especially given that Jones is notorious for starting his workday as early as 4:00 a.m.

“He would be there all day with me,” Jones said of Shivers, who played five CFL seasons with Toronto and Hamilton.

“He did that for a whole year there in Toronto. At that juncture, I knew the kid wanted to be a football coach. And then he’s done the rest from there.”

Shivers followed Jones to Edmonton in 2014 as the defensive backs coach. The pair won a Grey Cup together in 2015.

The dynamic duo moved to Saskatchewan in 2016 where Shivers apprenticed under Jones for three seasons. Then the teacher moved south to the NFL Cleveland Browns, leaving the student to slide from the press box to the sidelines as defensive coordinator in Regina.

“That first year was definitely, I would say, eye opening, because the management of players really stood out,” Shivers said. “When I look back on that first year being a coordinator, I was the one in charge of the defence, and I was in charge of the guys in my unit.

 “When you have Chris Jones, he comes in with this demeanour, this ego, this long list of career accolades…It’s a little bit different versus, “Oh, here’s the new guy. He’s been here, but now he’s the guy.”

Before joining the Edmonton Elks this off-season, Shivers was on the sidelines with Saskatchewan Roughriders (Arthur Ward/

It didn’t take long for Shivers to get comfortable.

“After that first game, it just kind of all settled in,” he said. “I felt the pressure of wanting to do good — do great — for myself and the Roughriders, at that time, but also for Coach Jones who had been grooming me.”

Shivers is coming off a tough season with the Roughriders allowing a league-high 381.3 average net yards per game and 30.6 points a game.

The young Edmonton defence also struggled, surrendering the third-highest average net yards per game (375.7) and the second-highest points per game (28.7).

“I think it’s a very young and athletic defence,” Jones said of his new charges in Edmonton. “I think the sky’s the limit for those guys. They made a lot of plays last year.

“And I think we can make even more plays coming up this year.”

Not surprisingly, Shivers subscribes to a defensive philosophy similar to the one Jones has deployed for more than two decades.

“I like to see aggressive ball hawking and getting after the quarterback, making game-changing plays,” said Shivers, 41. “But for me, from a playcaller’s perspective, I teach the players the fundamentals, the technique, the schematics, and then let the players play. I train them up, so they know what’s going on.”

When it comes to sideline demeanour, Shivers and Jones are a study in contrasts.

“Very different,” said Jones, 56. “We’re like a Ying and a Yang. I guess he’s a little bit more reserved and calmer. A thinker.

“I’m more of the reactionary, kind of aggressive-type personality. But at the same time, we think a lot alike. He’s a winner.”

Off the field, Shivers continues to work in business, owning a cleaning and janitorial company alongside his wife, Danae.

“My wife actually runs it, so give the props to her,” he said. “I always tell my players that `You are a business. And you have to approach it that way. You’re the CEO of your business.’.

“I always try to tie in some life lessons for those guys. They can’t play forever. And I want them to have a good transition when the time comes.”

As for Shivers, he’s elated over the transition to the next chapter in Edmonton.

“I’m excited and up for the challenge,” he said. “I just can’t wait to get back to work and work with the new guys.”

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