The man many saw as the frontrunner for the newly-open Montreal Alouettes' head coaching job is now out of the race. The Toronto Argonauts announced Tuesday afternoon that defensive coordinator/assistant general manager Chris Jones, the man of mystery whose defence played a key role in the Argos' Grey Cup victory, has signed a contract extension with the team and withdrawn his candidacy for the Montreal position. It's an interesting move on Jones' part, as this looked like a natural time for him to take a head-coaching role (and he wouldn't seem likely to get one in Toronto any time soon, as Scott Milanovich has done extremely well there so far) and he appeared to be one of the top candidates the Als were considering. Of course, there's no guarantee Jones would have been selected as Montreal's head coach, but his decision to sign a new deal in Toronto instead before the Alouettes' search wraps up means they'll have to look elsewhere.
Jones would have seemed like a natural fit with the Alouettes on many levels. One of their chief issues in recent years has been the lacklustre performance of the defence, especially in the secondary. Signings like Byron Parker may help there and new defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe is a promising hire in his own right, but Jones has a well-deserved reputation as a defensive wizard thanks to his long CFL tenure, and the defence he installed in Toronto was a vast upgrade over what the Argonauts had previously (despite some key personnel losses). That doesn't mean he'd automatically have been chosen, but he was certainly a strong contender for the job. Eliminating himself from contention's an interesting move, and one that suggests the Argonauts offered him plenty of incentives to stick around.
The Alouettes have no need to panic, though. There are some interesting coaching candidates out there, and the focus may now shift to B.C. offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine. Chapdelaine has been a head coach at the CIS level in the past and won Laval's first Vanier Cup in 1999 before leaving for the CFL following the 2000 season; he's since had a mostly-impressive run as a special-teams coach, a receivers coach and an offensive coordinator with Calgary, Edmonton and the Lions. His recent B.C. stint as offensive coordinator from 2010 on is probably the most impressive part of his CFL resume, as the Lions' offence has dominated the league for much of the last two seasons and Travis Lulay has blossomed into a bona fide star on his watch. When you consider that the Alouettes already have a solid defensive mind in place in Thorpe, perhaps Chapdelaine would be a logical hire.
Don't write Chapdelaine in just yet either, though. There are other intriguing candidates around the CFL, including former head coaches Greg Marshall and Paul LaPolice, and the Alouettes may look south of the border as well. Montreal manager Jim Popp has often hired guys who are mostly known for NCAA and NFL work (that was the case with Marc Trestman, who was working in the NCAA with North Carolina State and had over a decade of NFL experience when Popp tabbed him in 2008), and there's already been some speculation on that front, including Herb Zurkowsky's report that Popp may be considering ESPN analyst Dan Hawkins (a former NCAA head coach at Boise State and Colorado). Whoever the Alouettes pick, it's going to be interesting. All we know now is that it won't be Jones.