Don’t Blame the League for CFL teams and coaches acting up

Larry Wong: Edmonton Journal

Lately, no matter what the CFL does, people are going to criticize it.

Our heavily scrutinized commissioner, Jeffrey Orridge, is finally making his presence felt with power moves. While many people fail to recognize it, he has been wrongly blamed for this entire gong-show regarding coaches, compensation and contracts.

It all started when Chris Jones and the entire Edmonton staff with expiring contracts left for Saskatchewan. It was no big deal; Jones received a promotion and his staff had no more years left on their contracts.

All is good and legal.

Understandably, Edmonton wanted Jason Maas to be their next head coach. Inexplicably, Ottawa demanded compensation for Edmonton taking their offensive coordinator and promoting him to head coach, which is a normal promotion and has never required any sort of compensation.

Orridge placed a mediation on the dispute, satisfying both the Edmonton and Ottawa parties, and avoided a potentially messy situation in just one, twenty-minute phone call. But yet it was the league’s fault- Orridge’s specifically- for using supposedly bendable rules that make Ottawa think they can receive money or a draft pick for terminating their offensive coordinator’s contract so he can receive a promotion with a team that followed all regulations to get Maas on their staff.

Anyone else not following?

The madness continued. Montreal defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe, knowing the Alouettes aren’t obligated to grant him permission, resigned from his role and attempted to make a lateral move to defensive coordinator with the Eskimos. But yet it was supposedly the league’s fault for Thorpe getting the idea to attempt to terminate his own contract.

In light of CFL teams simply being pests, Orridge places a temporary moratorium on any coaches’ movement from one club to another, requiring the commissioner’s permission and investigation for a move to go through. But yet, of course, the league is blamed for stalling teams’ ability to hire new coaches.

Just wait…

In under 24 hours, commissioner Jeffrey Orridge released a statement, concluding his investigation of the Thorpe-to-the-Eskimos case and ruled that Thorpe is still under contract with Montreal. But yet- surprise, surprise- the league is blamed for making the decision too quickly, merely one day after complaining the moratorium was stalling teams from hiring new coaches.

How ironic.

Frankly, it is the teams themselves that have made this turn into a full-flight, heated political-like debate. They’ve behaved like spoiled brats. Had Orridge not handled all that has occurred this week the way he has, we may have a civil war on our hands (looking at you, Edmonton and Ottawa).

Regardless, coaches are still crying because teams are supposedly keeping them from advancing their careers, and on the contrary, general managers/executives are crying and demanding compensation for coaches leaving to get promotions.

First of all, forget compensation. Remove compensation from your vocabulary. As 3DownNation’s Ticats blogger, Josh Smith, says: to compensate or to not compensate is not even a question.

This has never been an issue before this off-season, when everyone decided to make excuses for something not going their way.

If general managers don’t want to lose coaches to career advancement, as I’ve said numerous times, they should follow a precedent the Tiger-Cats have set. Hamilton signed both offensive coordinator Tommy Condell and defensive coordinator Orlando Steinauer to long-term, three-year deals that include a no-move clause. These clauses work for both parties; the coach doesn’t have to be worried about getting fired, and the team doesn’t have to worry about losing their coach to a promotion elsewhere until the deal expires. Multi-year contracts, however, would make more sense for certain coordinators’ contracts with no-move clauses included.

On the other hand, if coaches feel like their respective clubs are holding them back from further advancing their careers- and for some reason, if a two-year, no-move contract doesn’t appeal to them- maybe they should just sign one-year contracts and stop complaining.

It’s simply getting outrageous. It’s always been known that as long as the interested club offers the coach a promotion of some sort (quarterback coach to offensive coordinator; offensive coordinator to head coach; head coach to general manager), and the coach’s current club follows the unwritten rule and allows an interview (meaning they’re also allowing their coach to be hired), then the under-contract coach can breach his contract and go coach elsewhere. Seems simple, and it is. But now we have Noel Thorpe “resigning” so he can get out of his contract and make a lateral move to Edmonton, which isn’t right. Thankfully, Orridge declared that Thorpe is still under contract with Montreal, and is their property.

While Thorpe, knowing there’s no way he’ll be coaching in Montreal next year, is my number one candidate for Edmonton’s open defensive coordinator job, he isn’t (and shouldn’t) be able to join the Eskimos on his own accord. He signed a contract and should honor it. And because there isn’t really a promotion that the Eskimos can offer him, the Alouettes don’t have to grant Edmonton permission to interview him. Perhaps the only way Thorpe can become Edmonton’s defensive coordinator now is via trade.

Whether it’s signing no-move contracts, which can work great for both, or one-year deals to the coach’s tune, both the teams and coaches have different options.

While not perfect, the CFL isn’t using an outdated rule book that has countless loopholes as certain people (and teams/coaches) think they are. With no compensation, but no lateral movements around, the league has a good system.

And while it may need just one or two tweaks after what we saw this week, (there may have been one flaw with coaches resigning to get out of their contract and take a job elsewhere), the CFL has a commissioner that proved he can do something and likely made a new, upcoming rule on the fly.

With Orridge laying down the law, it appears, at least, as though everything is finally under control.