Veteran fans taking in training camp at McMaster University will immediately recognize — and not with warm nostalgia — the Hamilton Tiger Cats’ new senior assistant head coach, standing hard by the quarterbacks.
That would be Scott Milanovich, who, as a rookie head coach, led the hated Toronto Argonauts to the 2012 Grey Cup, along the way relegating the Ticats to last place and out of the playoffs with three victories over their freeway rivals during the final couple of months of the Ivor Wynne Stadium era. In those three season-changing wins, the Milanovich-directed Toronto offence amassed a gargantuan 121 points.
Milanovich, who ran the Argos for five years, also won two Grey Cups with Montreal as an assistant head coach under Marc Trestman in 2009 and 2010, and has had two separate NFL terms: as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterbacks coach and offensive co-ordinator; and, until recently, two years as the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback coach. He’s worked closely with quarterbacks such as Blake Bortles, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan.
Toronto Argonauts players Joe Eppele, left, and Alexander Robinson, right, pour Gatorade on Argonauts then-head coach Scott Milanovich after the CFL East semifinal.The Canadian Press file photo
He is a longtime friend of Ticat president and head coach Orlondo Steinauer, who was his defensive assistant coach in the 2012 season before coming over to the Ticats the following year as defensive co-ordinator.
“I worked closely with Scott in his first year as a head coach and a natural bond between us just happened,” Steinauer says. “We stayed in contact after I left, even when he was in the NFL, and even when I was at Fresno.
“I thought it was a long shot that we might be able to get him, but I said to him if things didn’t work out in Indianapolis would he keep us in mind. We’re just fortunate to have a guy like that in training camp with us. It will change a little bit over time, but we have a decent plan in place with what he’s going to help us with, weekly, then we’ll go from there.”
Milanovich said he had asked Steinauer to “keep an eye open” for landing spots as it became clear that he would be let go in Indianapolis, where his head coach Frank Reich and offensive co-ordinator Marcus Brady had already been dispatched.
“I think the world of him,” Milanovich said of Steinauer. “I’m here to help wherever I can, and be there for him, for Bo (Levi Mitchell, the quarterback) be there for Tommy (Condell, offensive co-ordinator) and Mark (Washington, defensive co-ordinator).
“I’ve known Tommy for a long time too, and Jeff Reinebold and, actually, a lot of the guys on this staff.”
Although they developed a good rhythm after they solidified their offensive line over the final third of 2022, the Ticats offence famously struggled to score touchdowns all year. So, from the outside, it’s obvious to wonder whether hiring Milanovich can be seen as exerting pressure on Condell. The same questions arose when the Ticats brought in Khari Jones last season.
Those on the inside — Steinauer, Milanovich and Condell himself — all say no. Resoundingly.
Milanovich forcefully dismissed that line of thinking: “I certainly don’t see it that way and don’t want it to be that way. In Toronto, I tried to hire Tommy. He’s been absolutely great about saying, ‘Hey I want your opinion.’”
“No, and I mean that very seriously because Tommy was on board with this,” Steinauer added. “It was a collective decision. Tommy already had a relationship with Scott. Tommy was completely on board, and Scott wanted to make sure that he was.”
Milanovich won’t say whether he’ll immediately pursue another CFL head coaching or offensive coordinator’s job, preferring to stay in the present and focus squarely on helping the 2023 Ticats reach another hometown Grey Cup.
With the CFL cap on coaching staff numbers now amended, the Ticats were able to add Milanovich at virtually the last minute and are up to 13 from the previous limit of 11. Milanovich and his wife Jaime have bought a new home in Florida and he says he won’t be in Hamilton during every practice week of the regular season. The frequency will likely all be determined as time goes on.
“I want to enjoy this part of my career,” he says. “This is the reason I’m here.”
Notes: After Monday’s long practice, Orlondo Steinauer had the Ticats on the field for only about two hours Tuesday, but Wednesday’s session was expected to be about 90 minutes longer. He’s also started with veterans getting rest days from full practice … Among the Ticat cuts Tuesday were three players from among the deep competition at wide receiver: Kendrick Price Jr., Darvin Kidsy and Neil Pau’u … The Ticats signed QB Taylor Powell who played at Eastern Michigan and Missouri.
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