Toronto Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich calls the plays on the sideline against Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg on August 14, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Scott Milanovich steps down as Edmonton’s head coach to pursue opportunities in NFL

Scott Milanovich steps down as Edmonton’s head coach to pursue opportunities in NFL

The CFL team with no name now doesn’t have a coach.

Scott Milanovich resigned Monday as the head coach of the Edmonton Football Team to explore NFL opportunities. The move came just over a year after Milanovich stepped down as the quarterback coach with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars after three seasons to return to the CFL, where he got his first opportunity to become a pro head coach.

Milanovich, who turned 48 on Monday, is expected to become the quarterback coach with the Indianapolis Colts. That position became vacant after Marcus Brady — who served as the Montreal Alouettes’ receivers coach from 2009-11 when Milanovich was the offensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach on Marc Trestman’s staff — was promoted to offensive co-ordinator on Monday.

Edmonton GM Brock Sunderland said while the timing of Milanovich’s resignation wasn’t ideal, it didn’t come as a huge surprise.

“Scott was transparent throughout the process,” Sunderland said in a telephone interview. “When Marcus Brady was in the mix for a promotion starting last Thursday and Friday, Scott called me and we had some candid discussions about what the potential may be.

“We talked a couple of times over the weekend and (Monday) morning he called and was officially offered the job and he let me know. It wasn’t a completely out-of-the-blue call where I was shocked. It’s not April or May so it certainly could be worse.”

And Sunderland said part of a GM’s job is planning for every contingency,.

“If you’re a GM you should always have a list of candidates because you just never know whatever circumstance may pop up and I always have a list ready,” he said. “You always hope you don’t have to go to it but that’s why you prepare and do your due diligence and have those names ready to go.”

Milanovich’s departure creates two problems for Edmonton as he also was the club’s offensive co-ordinator. So Milanovich’s successor would have to be someone with an offensive background if they were to handle both jobs because the offensive assistants currently on staff likely don’t have enough experience to assume responsibility for the unit.

Two potential candidates could be Jaime Elizondo and Jim Barker, both offensive-minded coaches with extensive CFL backgrounds.

Elizondo has served as an offensive assistant or offensive co-ordinator with Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa and has a history with Edmonton starter Trevor Harris. Barker has been a CFL head coach with Calgary and Toronto (twice) and won four Grey Cups.

And it would seem former CFL head coach Chris Jones has thrown his hat into the ring after a tweet Monday. Jones, an assistant coach with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, was Edmonton’s head coach in 2015 when it won the Grey Cup.

””@EdmFootballTeam would love the opportunity win another one! #GreyCup2021,” Jones tweeted above a picture of himself with the Grey Cup.

Edmonton defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe is another veteran CFL coach, having also served with Montreal (defensive co-ordinator/assistant head coach from 2013-17) and Ottawa (defensive co-ordinator 2018-19). But like Jones, Thorpe doesn’t have an offensive background.

“It’s going to be the best candidate overall,” Sunderland said. “There’s no exact timeframe, we’re going to make sure we do our due diligence and get the right person and we’re not going to rush it.

“The only prerequisite I have is I want someone who’s familiar with the CFL. It doesn’t mean they’ve had to be a co-ordinator but they’ve had to have coached in this league. I think it’s a big jump to go from four-down football with zero CFL experience, especially in a timeframe we’re under.”

Milanovich guided the Toronto Argonauts to the 2012 Grey Cup title in his first year as a head coach. But he never got the chance to coach Edmonton as the CFL didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Milanovich is also good friends with Colts head coach Frank Reich. Both were quarterbacks collegiately at Maryland and served as backups in the NFL before getting involved in coaching.

Milanovich actively courted Reich to join his Toronto staff in 2012 before the latter accepted a job as receivers coach that year with the Arizona Cardinals. Brady, who replaced Milanovich as Montreal’s offensive co-ordinator, reunited with Milanovich as Argos offensive co-ordinator (2013-17) before being hired as the Colts assistant quarterback coach in 2018.

Milanovich and Brady won two Grey Cups together as coaches (2009-10 with Montreal) while Brady added another CFL title in 2017 as Toronto’s offensive co-ordinator. Before entering the coaching ranks, Brady was a CFL quarterback with the Argos (2002-03), Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2004-05) and Alouettes (2006-08) and met Reich in large part because of the Colts coach’s relationship with Milanovich, the ‘12 CFL coach of the year.

Brady replaces Nick Sirianni, who left Indianapolis to become the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach. Brady becomes just the third Black offensive co-ordinator in the NFL after Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy and Tampa Bay’s Byron Leftwich.

Kansas City and Tampa Bay square off in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

Milanovich was a former NFL quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-99). He also suited up with NFL Europe’s Berlin Thunder (2000), the XFL’s Los Angeles Xtreme (2001), Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm (2002), and Calgary Stampeders (2003).

“Scott and I were friends when he was hired and that remains intact,” Sunderland said. “He’s doing what he feels is best for him and his family and I respect and understand that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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