Cultural managements

‘This team needs a cultural shift’: Eddie Steele defends Elks veteran signings as Chris Jones establishes ‘winning culture’

Eddie Steele is finally satisfied with the management of the Edmonton Elks.

The retired defensive lineman turned analyst made headlines last season for his criticism of former general manager Brock Sunderland, which resulted in his dismissal from team broadcaster 630CHED.

Now Sunderland are gone and Steele’s former manager Chris Jones is back in town, leaving him excited for the future. Jones’ behavior in the past has offended some people the wrong way, but Steele has little time for those criticisms.

“Initially you had a lot of people when he signed, they go to the same tired old comment of, ‘He’s going to be here for a few years and he’s going to scramble,'” Steele acknowledged on The Rod Pedersen Show.

“That feeling wears off, cause that’s all you have to say? Because other than that, I mean he’s winning and he’s shown that he’s winning.

A Gray Cup ring could prove Steele’s point, but even the staunchest Jones supporter scratched his head this week when the Elks announced the signings of veteran receivers Adarius Bowman and Emmanuel Arceneaux. Bowman, 36, last played in the league with Montreal in 2018, while Arceneaux, 34, last played for the Roughriders in 2019, spending last season playing indoor football.

For a team desperate for an infusion of talent, many have wondered what eventual value the two former veterans could offer. Steele has no such questions.

“It was well documented how I felt about the previous regime and the culture and how the organization as a whole was run. I think Jones is bringing these guys in to establish a winning culture, establish a veteran presence in that locker room with guys who have been there, done that, had a ton of success and won in this league,” a- he explained.

“They know what it takes to win. I don’t think Adarius and Manny are signed to come in and be the bell cow, some thousand-yard receivers. I think they are there more for this leadership, this presence.

According to Steele, this aspect is far more important than on-field contributions, especially given the lingering effects of the team’s former leadership.

“This team needs a cultural change. That was one of the main issues with the Elks last year was the lack of team culture, the lack of direction,” he insisted. “Jones puts a stamp on it by bringing in these types of guys who know Chris Jones and know what he’s waiting for and they can kind of be like coaches on the pitch and in the locker room to really turn things around.”

While Jones has knocked out popular veterans in the past — just ask Weston Dressler and John Chick — he’s also been known to give opportunities to some who are considered past their sell-by date. This is part of what makes the curmudgeonly trainer so immensely popular with players.

“He watches over his guys. If you’re with Chris and you have a good relationship and a guy like him gets the positions he gets where he can have the power to make decisions, he’s going to watch over his guys,” Steele said.

“As a player, he watched over me when I was cut. As a coach, he watches over his boys. He’s loyal. I have to say that about Chris Jones. He’s maybe not- not being loyal to the franchises where he bounces, but he doesn’t just bounce either, he’s going for promotions and you’d be crazy in life not chasing after promotions like he got promotions.

Promotions, like the one he got in Edmonton, allow Jones to get more opportunities for trusted players like Bowman and Arceneaux, setting a new tone for the entire organization.