March 19, 2024

Shivers return a Green and Gold reunion

Jason Shivers with the Saskatchewan Roughriders | Photo Courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

EDMONTON, AB – Call it a family reunion.

The Edmonton Elks formally announced their 2024 coaching staff on Monday, including five new additions to General Manager & Head Coach Chris Jones’s unit. Among the biggest change was the Green & Gold return of Jason Shivers, who spent the last last eight years in Saskatchewan holding a variety of defensive positions, including serving as the Roughriders defensive coordinator from 2019-2023.

Shivers cut his teeth as a first-time coach tied to the hip of Chris Jones. He first started as a defensive assistant in Toronto and as then transitioned to defensive backs coach with Edmonton from 2014-2015. The duo are looking to re-discover the magic that saw Edmonton allow a league-low 341 points (18.9 per game) in 2015, en route to winning the 103rd Grey Cup.

“It’s a full circle moment that I think is going to bring a lot of sparks for our coaching staff and for the Edmonton Elks,” Shivers said about returning to the EE and Jones’s staff. 

“We’re like family, so we stayed in touch. We always knew that if the opportunity presented itself later on that we would cross paths and work together again.”

The 41-year-old former CFL and NFL defensive back will be taking over the defensive reigns of the Elks from Jones, with his official titles being assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach. Shivers should be a seamless fit into Jones’s defensive equation. The pair are already strongly aligned on their defensive perspective, which gave Jones the comfort needed to relinquish his oft-held D.C. responsibilities.

“Well, what it does, it makes just a little more of a fluid environment where I can work with the other two phases in a little bit more detail,” Jones said. “That’s something that I’ve been looking to do, and now having a guy that is not just bringing in a D-coordinator, but somebody I know and trust as much as I do. Like he mentioned earlier, we’re like family.”

Jones has been a defensive coordinator for most of the last 20 years of his professional career. He admits having a slightly more hands off approach in the day-to-day planning will be a tough adjustment, but it is one made easier by the addition of one of his disciples and friends. With both general manager and head coaching responsibilities on his plate, he feels he can be pay a little more attention to both with a trusted and experienced coach like Shivers.

“As I’ve gotten older, turning the reins loose, it’ll be tough, but I’m going to have my input with (the defence),” Jones added.  “It’s going to be a lot of fun because I’m working with a guy that I completely trust and know, and I know that he’s going to give everything that he’s got every single day.”

Shivers rejoins the Elks a more polished and experienced coach than in his first stint with the club. In his time away from Jones he was able to flourish as a well respected coordinator and the independence allowed him to add his own flair to a Chris Jones based scheme.

“I enjoy the working environment working under coach. He sets a high bar and he demands that everybody come in and be ready to work, so I love that environment,” Shiver said. “We have the same (defensive) philosophy. I may have added one or two things to the wrinkles, but that’s just an expansion on a lot of what we’ve done already in the past.

“I think having a time away from them really just helped me develop what and how I wanted to go about the process.”

Where Shivers experience will be most valued is in the Elks secondary. Shivers brought Roughriders defensive backs coach Marcus Klund along with him to Edmonton to help guide a talented but very green Elks secondary. Outside of Louchez Purifoy, the quartet of Kai Gray, Marcus Lewis, Darius Bratton, and Marloshawn Franklin have a combined 61 games of CFL experience — with all but four of them coming in 2023.

Having a coach whose specialty is in coverage will be nothing but a benefit to the entire Elks defence.

“To have a back end like that’s young, who can cover down, that means we can apply more pressure up front and make those quarterbacks know they can’t sit back there,” Shivers said. “So they either going to throw the ball quick or they’re going to have to try to run screen games. I think with the guys that we have, the arrow is only pointing upward and I can’t wait to get working with them.”