1. Scott Milanovich
Nobody had Scott Milanovich on the radar to return to the CFL and become the 22nd head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. He was on a career path to become an offensive coordinator and eventually a head coach in the NFL.
What made the man who won two Grey Cups as an offensive coordinator with the Montreal Alouettes and Grey Cup 100 as the head coach of the Toronto Argos to make a U-turn and head back to Canada?
It hadn’t even crossed his mind, really. But then the phone rang.
“It was complicated,” said Milanovich on a conference call Saturday.
“I still had a year left on my contract. There were just so many things when we started talking,” he said of Eskimos general manager Brock Sunderland.
“Honestly, I’m one to trust my gut.
“It felt right to me. It was something I wanted to do. I missed calling plays. I missed being head coach.
“When I first started my offensive coordinator was Mike Shula, the son of legendary Don Shula, in Tampa Bay. I asked Mike if he had any advice for me and his advice was ‘Don’t worry about your next job. Worry about the one that you have.’”
But he learned something about himself along the way.
“A lot of people dream of being a head coach in the NFL. To me that’s not how it works.
“It was never one who was hung up about coaching in the NFL. I loved my time in Canada. I have great friends in Canada and as I listened to it I thought this was going to be a good opportunity for me and for my family.
“I got my opportunity in Toronto because I worked hard in Montreal as a coordinator. We had a great team and we were successful.
“It came up. It was in front of me. I liked how it sounded.”
It was a whirlwind deal.
“It’s been quite a week for me and my family,” he said of wife Jamie and daughters Macall and Maggie.
“I can tell you my girls are excited. I’ve known Brock for over a decade. I’ve always been impressed with his work ethic and passion for the game, his ability to evaluate players, his knack for managing people both with a firm hand and with the sensitivity as a person and not just a pawn.
“Brock deserves a great deal of credit for getting this deal done. He took a long shot. There’s no doubt. He had the intensity to push through. It was a difficult deal.
“It’s kind of a blur at this point. But on Tuesday I was informed that Edmonton had asked permission to talk to me. I spoke to Brock on the phone and he flew down and it grew from there and grew quickly as it had to if it were going to take place.
“Both with Brock and Chris Presson, I feel that we see the future of the Eskimos if not through the exact same lens, through a similar lens,” he said of the Eskimos new CEO who flew down to Florida to help close the deal.
“I like the way Chris is planning to build the brand. I believe in what Brock believes in how you build a team and I’m very comfortable that Eskimos fans can sleep well that their franchise is in good hands. And I’m humbled and thrilled to be chosen to lead this football team. I believe we’re going to make Edmonton and all of the people in Northern Alberta proud of their Eskimos.”
If you had to hire a football coach off his answers to the questions from the media in a 27-minute telephone conference call, you’d have hired Milanovich long before the phones were hung up.
The coach who led the 2012 Toronto Argos to win the 100th Grey Cup was an impressive study from start to finish.
So what kind of head coach will he be?
While he lists Jason Maas as one of his best friends, he’ll be the entire opposite on the sidelines.
“I don’t show a lot of emotion. That comes from my dad. He taught me as a quarterback at a young age to keep it under control. Everybody looks to the quarterback and to the head coach. If you don’t show poise and confidence out there, the people around you won’t.”
COACH REJOINS HARRIS
Trevor Harris was a factor.
“There were just so many things when we started talking. One was Trevor Harris. I believe you have to have a quarterback to win. That kind of got it closer,” said Scott Milanovich about his surprise decision to leave an NFL career path to become head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos.
“I once worked out Trevor Harris at a high school gym. He drove a long way. It was winter. It was cold. He worked out with me and with a high school kid. Then I sat with him in his car for another hour. He pulled out a looseleaf notebook with all these plays drawn and told me he wanted to be a coach one day. A coach loves stuff like that.
“Then in Toronto I watched him grow. At one point he took over from Ricky Ray and really did a great job. I followed him and stayed in touch since.
“The best compliment I can give a person is that Trevor Harris is the kind of guy you’d want your daughters to marry.
“I’m extremely comfortable and thrilled to be working with Trevor again.”