One day, Jaime Elizondo will pull the lid completely off the Argonauts’ offensive playbook.
But the Argos’ offensive co-ordinator is a lot like Cleo Lemon, his starting quarterback: He’s learning on the job, and knows that without patience, the plan won’t come together.
“As a co-ordinator, I would like to be considered aggressive (on offence),” Elizondo said after the Argos practised on Wednesday in Mississauga.
“That’s the philosophy I have.
“I want to take shots. But with the development of not only Cleo, but the receivers, it has been a process of making sure we have controlled success in the passing game, before we can start opening it.”
The Argos have accumulated the fewest yards on offence through six weeks. But they’ve been able to win four times, and running back Cory Boyd has been a major factor.
For Elizondo, a 38-year-old native of Mexico, Boyd’s overall performance not only has been that of a game-changer, but Boyd’s presence has meant that other parts of the offence hasn’t had to get ahead of itself.
“There is no question, it has been the biggest blessing for me to be able to bring Cleo and the receivers along,” Elizondo said. “But we need to be better, and that’s the big message we are sending to everybody.”
In 2002, Elizondo completed a law degree at Washington College of Law at American University. He specialized in three areas — international trade law, international business and intellectual property — and had a solid job offer upon finishing school.
But he had football in his upbringing. That process began as a child, when his father passed away and his mother settled in Texas, where football is king, after remarrying.
“I made a decision not to follow law,” Elizondo said. “To me, the most important thing in life is following your dream. I think a lot of coaches do it because they have to. I don’t. I’m fortunate I get this opportunity, because once you invest yourself, it’s in your blood.”
During his days as a Terrapin, Elizondo got a job as an assistant recruiting co-ordinator at Maryland. Roles at other colleges followed, and a three-year stint at Hofstra University led to an assistant’s position with the New Orleans Saints in 2007.
Elizondo learned under Marc Trestman with the Montreal Alouettes two years ago as the wide receivers/assistant special-teams coach, and in 2009, he was the wide receivers coach at Syracuse University.
Along the way, Elizondo forged relationships with men whose life revolved around the sport. Elizondo once called San Diego Chargers defensive co-ordinator Ron Rivera out of the blue to get some ideas on how the Chargers defended routes. New York Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is a friend, as is Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers coach David Culley.
Elizondo said his one year under Saints head coach Sean Payton helped instill his approach to the game.
“Just the way he is, the way he carries himself,” Elizondo said.
“That’s what a lot of coaching is, is being a good teacher. And I like the way he taught. I have picked all of their brains.”
With the Argos, Elizondo has 135-140 plays for each game. Having head coach Jim Barker, another man whose background is in offence, on the sideline has been a bonus, but Barker does not get in Elizondo’s way, letting his offensive co-ordinator call the plays.
It’s just a matter of getting through the playbook. Elizondo knows it is coming.
“You like a play and you know it is good, but is it a matter of can we protect long enough, can we run the route the right way, is the quarterback going to feel a receiver coming out of the break at the right time?” Elizondo said.
“And that is chemistry. There are always great plans in place, but it is has been a process of making sure we have some success and that we don’t overlook that. I would like to continue to — not say expand — but get to our offensive package, because it is pretty vast.”