HAMILTON - In football’s vernacular, live bullets begin firing when the season begins in earnest.
It’s a metaphor that gets tossed around almost as often as quarterbacks get tossed to the turf, the beginning where optimism prevails, where every team views the coming season through the same lens.
For Khari Jones, Friday’s unveiling at Ivor Wynne Stadium carries added meaning, a time that appeared preordained from the moment he stepped away from the game.
For the first time, Jones will be calling the plays as the Ticats’ new offensive co-ordinator, a role that seemed as inevitable as it was predictable when Hamilton self-destructed in last year’s Eastern semifinal to the Argos.
For nine years, Jones lined up under centre, earning multiple all-star awards and the league’s most outstanding player award in 2004 when he played in Winnipeg under assistant coach Paul LaPolice.
His ties with Winnipeg, Hamilton’s opponent on Friday, and his roots and relationship with LaPolice, the Bombers’ head coach, provide more sub-plots.
Jones won’t be pulling the trigger nor will he be handing the ball in the backfield, but he’s an extension of starting quarterback Kevin Glenn, who served as Jones’ understudy when the two played together in Winnipeg.
For the past two years, Jones served as Hamilton’s quarterbacks coach, evolving into an important sounding board and extra set of eyes for Glenn, who experienced, at least statistically, his most productive season.
If ever a guy was ready to assume a co-ordinator’s position it’s Jones, a very cerebral and explosive quarterback during his time who went on to become a very insightful and respected broadcaster.
Every piece of advice he gleaned from a coach, every note he took as a player and broadcaster will now be put into effect in a game situation that counts.
“I’ve always been a big note taker,’’ Jones began on Wednesday. “I’ve been keeping a journal for years and I went far back, looking at what I was thinking as a player and what I was thinking as a broadcaster.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some great coaches, played in different systems. I have likes and dislikes, but there’s nothing like getting out there and seeing how your style melds with them (players) and adjusting when you have to.”
Jones will call the plays for Glenn.
Jones will also begin his new football career on the sideline and not in the press box.
“I used to call the plays as a quarterback and I know it’ll be different calling them from the sideline. Just like when I played, there will be nerves right before kickoff, but those nerves mean you’ll be ready.”
The decision to do the play calling from the sideline stems from his days as a player.
“I like to look into a player’s eyes,’’ Jones added. “I like to feel the mood and try to figure it out. If I don’t like it, I’ll try to change it.”
Philosophically, the arrival of Avon Cobourne forced some tweaking to Jones’ system, which will take shots down the field, but also commit to a running game.
“My thought process was a little different only because Avon is a pretty special back,’’ Jones said. “You have to find ways to get him the ball and he’s going to get the ball. Every time our offence is out there, we’ll have him in our picture.”
As quarterbacks coach, Jones said he had input into the play calling, especially when it came to the passing game.
When he was promoted during the off-season, Jones took the Ticats playbook and began to remake it.
“It’s more of a philosophical change,’’ Jones continued. “It’s more to fit my personality and how I think about the game of football.
“I started to think about a lot of different things I normally don’t think about it. I’m learning and still learning. It’s been a good progression.
“It might seem fast, but it feels right.”
It all comes down to execution, which Jones can’t control.
When the bullets start flying on Friday, he’ll get a close-up view.