On December 13th BC Lions GM Wally Buono announced that Mike Benevides would be taking over his role as the teams head coach.
Benevides, previously the Lions defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, will be the 24th coach in Lions history.
Benevides spent three years as a special teams coach under Buono in Calgary, and has been the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Lions for the past four seasons.
Since Benevides took over the Lions defense in 2008, they have been one of the strongest defensive teams in the CFL, recording the most quarterback sacks (211) and forced turnovers (203).
Benevides has also been involved in drafting players for the Lions, and over the previous six drafts has chosen numerous stars who have gone on to start for the Lions and other CFL teams. Buono will remain as the general manager for the Lions.
This change is both good and bad. Benevides is a good candidate to replace Buono, but the fact is he is replacing the best coach in the CFL and a man who had the complete trust of his players and organization.
He manufactured a memorable season last year, and it was a perfect note to go out on. Having said that, any replacement will be a downgrade.
The fact that Buono will still be involved with the Lions as the GM means there will a ton of pressure on Benvides.
This team will be expected to repeat, and if there is trouble during the season there will be calls for Buono to step in and take his old job.
However, Benvides has often been called “Little Wally” because his football views are so similar to Buono’s. He has been working with this team for several years and has had lots of success.
He won’t be as good as Buono, at least not right away, but if you had to make a change, he was a clear choice to take over the job.
He also clearly wanted to stay in BC, he turned down a head coaching job with the Argos in 2008. He will have Buono’s support if needed, and he is inheriting the best team in the league.
What Will Happen?
The CFL is a finicky league, and there are often big changes from season to season. The Lions could repeat or flounder, and Benevides will probaby not get the recognition he deserves either way.
He’s in for a tough season, and while I think he’ll be fine, get ready to see some “Bring Buono Back!” signs in the stadium, and more than a few articles on the web.
Prediction: Benevides finishes his first season with the Lions and makes them the top defensive team in the league.
The Lions make the playoffs and have another deep run.