With the announcement of four new assistant coaches on Wednesday, the Montreal Alouettes have completed their search for co-ordinators, a group that will join first-time CFL head coach Mike Sherman for the 2018 season.
But while all the major boxes have now been checked off for a coaching staff that will have the daunting task of picking up the pieces of an Alouettes team that finished dead last in the CFL in 2017 at 3-15, had they got everyone they wanted it would have included a piece from the current Winnipeg Blue Bombers coaching staff.
According to sources close to the hiring process, Montreal was extremely interested in Bombers quarterbacks coach Buck Pierce, enough to offer him the position of offensive co-ordinator — a job Pierce ultimately turned down.
The Alouettes contacted the Bombers just prior to Christmas to see if they could talk to Pierce, and, according to sources who spoke on the condition on anonymity, after one phone call — followed by just hours of deliberation — asked Pierce to join the team.
But after given just a short time to decide, Pierce ultimately declined the offer to stay with the Bombers, despite what would have been a substantial pay raise from his current duties, according to sources.
Instead, the job went to another former Bombers QB, Khari Jones. Jones played with the Bombers from 2000 to 2004, leading Winnipeg to the Grey Cup in 2001. He signed with Winnipeg in 2007, retiring shortly after as a Bomber. Jones began his coaching career in 2009, with Hamilton, and was most recently with the B.C. Lions, where he had been the team's OC since 2014.
For those surprised that Pierce, who has spent the previous four seasons with Winnipeg — the first two as running backs coach, the last two working with the quarterbacks — would be up for such a promotion after a short time as a CFL position coach, perhaps they shouldn’t be.
Pierce was a leader on the field for much of his nine seasons as a quarterback in the CFL, which he split between the B.C. Lions (2005-09; 2013) and the Bombers (2010-13). He has also worked under and learned from current Bombers OC Paul LaPolice, who is considered to be among the best offensive minds in the CFL.
There are a number of reasons why Pierce might turn down such an opportunity. The Alouettes are far from the model of stability when it comes to teams around the league, particularly on offence. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where although veteran pivot Darian Durant is still under contract, Sherman has said he’s not a guarantee to start.
Pierce may struggle to get a second chance to become an OC and the pressure to do well in Montreal might not be worth the risk.
Then there’s the possibility that Pierce could become the next leader on offence for the Bombers. After guiding an offence in Winnipeg that ranked among the best in the CFL the last two seasons, LaPolice is considered by many the next in line to become a head coach again. He was one of the leading candidates for the head coach job in Montreal, but never pursued it in order to stay with Winnipeg. One would think it won’t be long before the right opportunity comes along, and if it does, Pierce may be the perfect fit.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 8:43 PM CST: Adds one paragraph.