BC Lions Football Club vice president, football operations and GM, Wally Buono announced this morning that Mike Benevides has been named the team’s new head coach. Benevides, formerly the club’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, becomes the 24th head coach in team history and takes over for Buono who recently stepped aside from the helm of the current Grey Cup champions.
“Mike has taken every opportunity that has been presented to him and succeeded. He possesses a unique combination of experience, passion and people skills that make him a perfect fit to be the next coach of the BC Lions,” said Buono. “I look forward to working with Mike and bringing another championship home to BC in 2012.”
Coming off his fourth season as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Benevides has built a strong coaching background after originally coming to the Lions in 2003 as special teams coordinator following three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders under Buono.
“I am both humbled and thrilled to accept the position as head coach of the BC Lions,” said the newly appointed Benevides. “I can’t imagine a better situation than right here in BC to take on this new challenge and I am grateful for the support of Wally Buono, Dennis Skulsky and the entire organization.”
Since 2008 when Benevides was named defensive coordinator, no CFL team has recorded more quarterback sacks (211), or forced more turnovers (203) than the Lions. The 5,725 net yards allowed by Benevides’ squad in 2011 was second to only Winnipeg and was the club's best regular season defensive performance since 2006, as well as the second lowest total allowed by the Leos in the past 16 seasons.
Improving steadily from 2009 to the second overall defensive ranking in 2011, no team allowed fewer points than the Lions’ 362 this past season. Dominant and opportunistic over much of the year, the Lions enjoyed a stretch of 15 quarters and 61 possessions without allowing an opponent to score an offensive touchdown. Benevides also oversaw a defence that placed no fewer than six players on the 2011 West Division All-Star squad.
“It is my goal to build a team that is tough, physical and one that puts a premium on field position,” added Benevides. "Most importantly, we will continue to be a team that attacks opponents and is aggressive in all three phases of the game to manufacture explosive plays on both sides of the ball.”
Taking a lead role in the recruitment of new players, Benevides has been instrumental in the evaluation of Canadian talent for the club especially over the past six CFL Drafts where he identified several key players such as Shawn Gore, Akeem Foster, Jamall Lee, James Yurichuk, Dean Valli, Rolly Lumbala, Jon Hameister-Ries and Jason Arakgi. Other players who were selected by the Lions and have gone on to enjoy starting CFL roles include Toronto’s Ricky Foley and Jason Pottinger.