It looks like the CFL's coaching carousel may be coming to a stop, at least in Edmonton, and it appears Winnipeg defensive* coordinator/assistant head coach Kavis Reed (pictured, right) may be the one who grabs the brass ring. The Edmonton Journal's Mario Annicchiarico reported late Wednesday night that the Eskimos are set to announce Reed as their new head coach as early as Friday, according to an anonymous CFL source.
*Note: A typo here originally had Reed as the special teams coordinator in Winnipeg. He handled special teams in Saskatchewan the year before, but was running the Bombers' defence this past season. His full resume can be found here.
It's not just a lone report, either. Dave Naylor spoke to Edmonton GM Eric Tillman and reported that no firm offer has yet been made to Reed, but he expects that to come as soon as today. Terry Jones also expects Reed to be named head coach within days, and Arash Madani also got the same line from Tillman that no offer has yet been made to Reed, but Tillman may have let the cat out of the bag with other comments to Madani about what the Eskimos' staff might look like:
"Some of those are accurate, based on what Kavis has discussed with me. Some are not. But, it's not appropriate to go through a projected staff yes or no checklist," said Tillman. "Hell, we haven't even offered the head coaching job to anyone yet. And, every projected staff is different based on who it might be."
We don't have the full context of those comments, but to me, that first sentence is all but confirmation that Reed will in fact be the next Eskimos' head coach. The rest of it reads like backtracking to reinforce the claims that a decision hasn't yet been made. If Reed wasn't going to be offered the head coaching job, it seems highly unlikely that Tillman would talk about his potential staff. Combine that with the reports from Annicchiarico and Naylor, as well as the Stampeders' announcement today that both Chris Jones and Dave Dickenson (who both interviewed for the Eskimos' position) will be back in 2011, and Reed at least being offered the Edmonton job seems like a lock. If he's offered it, it's hard to envision him not taking the job (barring a dispute about compensation or authority); there aren't exactly a lot of head coaching jobs available in the CFL, Reed's successfully worked with Tillman before and he just happens to live in Edmonton during the off-season.
If the hiring of Reed does go ahead as predicted, I think this could be an excellent move for the Eskimos. The main argument one can raise against Reed is his lack of head coaching experience, but most of the other candidates for the job don't have that on their resume either. Moreover, extensive research I've done on coaching changes at the NFL level suggests both that previous head coaching experience is overrated and that external hires tend to do better than internal ones; innovative thinking sometimes tops having been there and done that. Much of that would seem to apply to the CFL as well. Furthermore, the biggest advantage Reed brings is that he's worked on all sides of the ball; he has a strong record as a defensive coordinator, but he's also done well as a special teams and running backs coach. The specialization of football makes that kind of cross-disciplinary experience rare, but it could be a tremendous asset for a head coach.
Head coaches obviously draw most of the ink spilled on coaching changes, but their staffs are an important part of a team's success or failure as well. There's simply too much work in running a team for one coach to be involved in everything; successful head coaches put good people in place under them and work with them to build strong plans for all facets of the game. If we go by Madani's report, it looks like Reed may have a talented staff to work with. Madani writes that the team is looking at bringing in Saskatchewan quarterbacks coach (and former CFL quarterback) Marcus Crandell as offensive coordinator, going with either B.C. defensive line coach (and former Toronto head coach) Rich Stubler or current Edmonton linebackers coach (and former Winnipeg defensive coordinator) Mark Nelson as defensive coordinator, bringing in Rick Campbell from Calgary to run the special teams and retaining receivers coach Jason Tucker and offensive line coach Tim Prinsen.
That looks like a pretty solid group. It's a staff that obviously goes on the side of youth, but there's experience at defensive coordinator with either Stubler or Nelson. Crandell at offensive coordinator may be the biggest question mark, as that's the area where Reed has the least experience, but Crandell has delivered a strong performance as Saskatchewan's quarterback coach and has been involved in enough CFL offences as both a player and a coach to have a good idea of what he's doing. Campbell would also be a nice acquisition; he's done well with Calgary's special teams and he interviewed for the Eskimos' head job. We'll see if that group comes together as expected or if changes are made, but on paper, it looks quite reasonable.
The final important thing to consider is what effects these pieces of news could have on the current remaining open head coaching slot in Saskatchewan. Reed wasn't widely viewed as a strong candidate there, so his hiring wouldn't seem to affect that, but Dickenson (to a greater degree) and Jones (to a lesser one) had both been mentioned as possibilities for the Roughriders. The most likely candidates there—Richie Hall, Doug Berry, and Greg Marshall—all remain, though. Crandell's departure may also affect the Saskatchewan staff, as he seemed a logical candidate for the offensive coordinator slot if Berry was promoted to head coach or left after not getting the HC job.
In other CFL coaching news, Perry Lefko writes that the Riders may try and make their move by Christmas and throws another name into the mix: Bob Wylie, who worked as the Saskatchewan offensive line coach last year and currently holds a similar position with the NFL's Denver Broncos, but may be on the way out in the offseason thanks to Denver's recent firing of head coach Josh McDaniels. He also mentions that Saskatchewan director of U.S. scouting Joe Womack may be heading to Hamilton as an assistant general manager. The dominos may have started to fall, but it looks like the entire CFL coaching picture still won't be set for a while.