Milanovich says "gut" decision, Trevor Harris, reasons to join Esks as head coach

EDMONTON — Scott Milanovich said ultimately it was a gut decision, not to mention a chance to be reunited with quarterback Trevor Harris, that led him say yes to becoming the new head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos.

"I'm someone that trusts his gut, and it felt right to me. It felt like something I wanted to do," Milanovich said in a conference call with reporters Saturday.

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He said when the Eskimos came calling, he looked at the front office, the players and the history, then talked with some close friends, some people in the know, and made the leap.

"I miss calling plays. I miss being the head coach. And I'm not saying I have to be in that position. It just felt like something I wanted to build with these guys," he said.

It was the first news conference for Milanovich, 46, since being named Edmonton's 22nd head coach on Thursday.

He said one of the factors influencing his decision was having Harris as the starting quarterback.

The two go back to the days when Milanovich was head coach and Harris was backing up Ricky Ray with the Toronto Argonauts starting in 2012, with Harris taking over and excelling when Ray was injured for much of 2015.

Milanovich said he worked out Harris in a high-school gym in upstate New York prior to signing him to the Argos.

He said Harris drove through brutal winter weather from either Pennsylvania or Ohio, worked out for an hour, then sat with Milanovich in his car as Harris pulled out a looseleaf notebook of plays he had drawn and designed for a followup discussion.

"A coach loves stuff like that, when you've got a guy that's got that kind of commitment," said Milanovich.

"Honestly as the father of (two) daughters, and I know he's married, but the best compliment I can give a person is that Trevor Harris is the kind of guy that you want your daughters to marry.

"When you have a guy that works as hard as him, and he's your best player, the sky's the limit."

Milanovich will get busy with the Eskimos in January. He is currently the quarterbacks coach for the 4-9 Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL and will stay with them until the season is over.

He said he's watched Harris when he can, including the CFL East semifinal a month ago, when Harris completed 36-of-39 passes for 421 yards and one TD to beat the Montreal Alouettes 37-29.

"He looked great in the pocket. He gets the ball out quick. His feet are tied to the routes, all those things. He seems to know what's going on out there before it happens," said Milanovich.

"Those are things that Trevor always had, but you can tell they've grown from the time (since) I've been there (having left the CFL after the 2016 season)."

Milanovich takes over from Jason Maas, who was let go just over two weeks ago after four middling seasons that included a 39-33 record but never taking Edmonton higher than third in the CFL West, to go with no home playoff games and no Grey Cup appearances.

Maas is now the offensive coordinator in Saskatchewan.

Milanovich said he hasn't seen enough of the Eskimos to address strengths and weaknesses but is having video flown in to look at in his spare time before the new year.

He said his priority is to get his coaching staff in place, and said he will be offensive coordinator.

The Eskimos were 8-10 last season, losing to Hamilton in the CFL East Final.

Harris was leading the CFL in passing last season until a nagging arm ailment took him out for two months until just before the playoffs.

Milanovich brings three Grey Cup championships with his coaching resume, one as head coach with Toronto in 2012 and two as offensive coordinator with Montreal (2009, 2010).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2019.

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