Khari a quick study

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 PM ET

Let’s start by welcoming Khari Jones into the fraternity of CFL co-ordinators, a job so thankless you can do it really well for 16 years and still not get a promotion (hello, Greg Marshall).

The former Blue Bomber quarterback isn’t letting that dissuade him, though, as he dons the offensive guru’s headset in Hamilton.

“I’m excited about it,” Jones told the Sun from his home in Burlington, Ont. “It’s something I feel very comfortable with. It’s probably the closest I can get to being out there as a quarterback.”

Making his first foray into coaching just two years ago, Jones is moving up the ladder almost as quickly as he became the Bomber starter back in 2000.

“It’s only been two years of coaching, but I feel like it’s been 15 years,” he said. “Because my playing career, I was coaching a lot of that. So it doesn’t feel that foreign to me.”

Jones did have a hand in game plans here. Called his own plays when he first got here, too, and he’s looking forward to doing that again.

Jones says working with his former Bomber teammate Kevin Glenn is a blast.

Who better to help Glenn handle adversity than a guy who was hailed as the franchise saviour when he became the Bomber starter, won the CFL Most Outstanding Player Award in 2001, then was blamed for everything except rising taxes by the time he left, three years later.

“If he’s not going well personally, I try to give him what he needs,” Jones said. “If it’s just a little hint here or there, or if it’s, ‘OK, get your head out of your butt’... sometimes it’s just taking your focus away from some negative stuff that’s going on. Heck, I’ve told him a joke on the sidelines.”

If Jones can help get the Ticats over the hump and into a Grey Cup, who knows, he might become the popular choice as the CFL’s “next head coach.”

A tag Marshall carried for years.

MEET THE NEW BOSS: Speaking of Marshall, the new Saskatchewan head man tells me he’s talking to Riders offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry about staying with the Riders.

Marshall, you’ll recall, worked under Berry with the Bombers from 2006-08, creating a flip-flop of authority you might think would be awkward.

“I guess it could be,” Marshall said. “But Doug and I have a pretty good relationship. We enjoyed working with one another and we’ve stayed in touch since we’ve gone our separate ways. I don’t think it would be awkward, and I don’t believe Doug would think that way, either.”

As for taking over a team that’s already near the top, with a fan base screaming, “Grey Cup or bust,” Marshall looks at the bright side: at least he’s not forced to rebuild a loser.

“Wherever you are, the goal at the beginning of the year is to win the Grey Cup,” he said. “We’re in a lot better position than if I was taking over a 3-15 team.”

True.

But Rider Nation is far more fanatical than it was when Marshall started his coaching career there, 17 years ago.

“It might be the only place in Canada where football is more popular than hockey,” he said.

AND FINALLY: As one of this country’s several million armchair hockey coaches, my take on the Team Canada meltdown in the World Junior final: it starts with the head coach.

When your team begins to fall apart, the coach has to reel it in, and Dave Cameron couldn’t do it, not during that second intermission, not during a timeout that he should have called sooner — not anytime in that fateful final period.

The best junior players will occasionally get rattled.

Job 1 for the coach is to bring them back, fast.

Cameron failed.

And our hangover will last a lot longer than the Russians’.


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