Lions leaning toward hiring Tedford as head coach

Jeff Tedford. (Will Vragovic/The Tampa Bay Times/AP)

Wally Buono may be going back in time to find the coach of the future for the B.C. Lions.

League sources tell Sportsnet that the Lions are leaning toward hiring Jeff Tedford, the former CFL quarterback who groomed Aaron Rodgers in college while head coach of the California Golden Bears, as the next head coach of the Lions.

The 53-year-old Tedford worked with, and for, Buono on the Calgary Stampeders coaching staff between 1989 and 1991 when he was entering the coaching ranks.

It has been a whirlwind two years for Tedford after he was fired by Cal in 2012 — after 11 seasons running the program. He was out of coaching in 2013, was hired in January of this year by Lovie Smith to run Tampa Bay’s offence, left the team in the summer because of heart issues that ultimately led to him to sitting out the season. He was released from his Buccaneers contract on Dec. 5.

That move by Tampa last week freed Tedford to explore other opportunities, which sources say fully opened conversations between he and Buono. The Lions have been searching for a head coach since parting ways with Mike Benevides on Nov. 20 after B.C.’s 50-17 playoff loss to Montreal.

Tedford has an impressive football coaching resume, having worked as an assistant coach and coordinator with Fresno State and Oregon before landing the Cal head coaching job in 2002. It’s his work with quarterbacks, in particular, that has made him such a sought-after coaching candidate over the past 25 years.

Two of Tedford’s quarterbacks at Fresno State became first-round NFL draft choices (Trent Dilfer, sixth overall, 1994), including David Carr, who in 2002 was the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans. A pair of Tedford’s Oregon quarterbacks were first rounders (Akili Smith, Joey Harrington) and as were two from Cal – Kyle Boller and Rodgers.

Incidentally, Aaron Rodgers’s younger brother, Jordan, is on the Lions roster – having signed with the CFL club in the latter stages of the 2014 season.

Tedford spent six years in the CFL as a quarterback for four different teams before first working with Buono on the Stampeders staff. Even while coaching in the NCAA, he and Buono stayed in touch and it was not uncommon to have Tedford around the Lions facility from time to time.