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It was one of the more hotly contested debates of the 2017 season: who had the better catch? Was it Bryan Burnham’s one-handed touchdown grab while falling down in Hamilton or a slick deflection play by Saskatchewan’s Duron Carter against Toronto?
It was the subject of many debates between fans, players and coaches alike. Now that Jarious Jackson is back in orange, he knows what side of the fence he is on.
“At this point in time, being back in orange and black, I have to be biased and say yes, “ said Jackson when asked if Burnham deserves the crown.
And that was further proof that Jackson looked right at home in front of the BC Lions backdrop, collared orange shirt, signature smile and all.
After officially signing his deal earlier on Thursday afternoon, the newly named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach couldn’t wipe said smile off his face.
“Definitely a lot of hugs and smiles, I think that’s due to just being excited about the opportunity as far as advancement goes. I think that’s where all of the elation comes from.”
It happens in every sport, at every level. No matter how much one guy seems tied to one franchise, they sometimes have to leave the nest and see how it’s done in other places before coming back in a more prominent role.
After working with the Lions QBs in 2013, the former Notre Dame signal caller and Denver Broncos draft pick caught the eye of a GM in Edmonton named Ed Hervey and newly hired head coach Chris Jones.
His two seasons as passing game coordinator included a Grey Cup championship in 2015. Jackson, and virtually the entire Eskimos coaching staff, made the jump with Jones to Saskatchewan for 2016.
It was there where he helped Carter, an ageless Kevin Glenn and company get to within a whisker of representing the East in the 105th Grey Cup. Now he will be tasked with a similar turnaround on the west coast.
“Coach Jones was wonderful in the process of even allowing me permission to speak with the BC Lions as far as interviewing for this position,” explained Jackson.
“As far as learning, Coach Jones, Coach (Riders OC Stephen) McAdoo, those guys have been great mentors for me. It was all the same group as far as coaches working together. “
“When he came over to Edmonton as the quarterbacks coach we always talked about the progression of becoming an offensive coordinator at some point,” said Hervey.
“Just watching his growth and maturity as a coach, we just felt that now was the right time and that it was a great opportunity. We’re excited that he’s here to lead our offence.”
Coaching in the West Division for the last five seasons has also allowed Jackson to become quite familiar with a few of the pieces he is inheriting in his new offence. One he is excited to help grow is the quarterback.
“Jonathon Jennings has all the tools,” said the “older” JJ.
“I can’t wait to sit down, talk with him, pick his brain and see where he is as far as his knowledge of the game. What he doesn’t know, that is going to be my job to teach him.”
Only two clubs finished with more passing yards than the Lions in 2017. They also finished in the top three in rushing touchdowns and were actually at or near the top in red zone production for most of the season. With Hervey’s mission to improve the offensive line a top priority, you get the sense there is nowhere to go but up in year one of the new regime. Jackson’s stamp will be all over that.
“This team is not far off at all. There are a lot of great pieces as you mentioned. I’m sure Ed, Wally and the rest of the staff are going to do a great job of bringing in whatever holes that need to be filled. I’m just excited to be here and work with whatever players that I get.”
A Grey Cup champion in both 2006 and 2011, the strong -armed quarterback had to earn every snap. Along with providing a solid option behind the likes of Dave Dickenson, Buck Pierce and Travis Lulay, Jackson was a valuable contributor in the room. Perhaps his biggest strength was the ability to pass down leadership skills to younger players. It’s no wonder he has succeeded with that as a coach as well.
“The bottom line is to win games. That’s the main thing that I’ve learned throughout the process. You win games, you come in, you put the time in, you be up front, and you be honest with guys because at the end of the day, the players know. We’re going to have fun, but at the time time we’re going to work hard.”
He bleeds orange all right. And the offence is in good hands because of it.