Toronto in danger

Let’s start first with the head coach Jim Barker. He was dismissed in Montreal and Calgary, and 5 times in the American colleges. Barker was not the first choice for Toronto. Alouette’s offence Coordinator Scott Milanovich turns down the offer. Considering the Argos circumstances, potential head-coaches may not have rushed for the job. I must say Jim Barker is a competent coach. However, he is a coach the Toronto Sun describes as a "gambler". In my opinion, the Argonauts need stability the most. Toronto needs to rebuild the team on a solid base and not repeating the mistakes of the past.

What are the mistakes of past?

Last year, Toronto attempted to imitate Montreal by hiring a coach from the NFL, Bart Andrus. Like Marc Trestman, he too is an offence genius, but with no CFL experience. The comparison stops here. Why did Montreal experience success (15-3) and not Toronto (3-15)? Some of Marc Trestman’s staff had CFL experience. While Bart Andrus, who chose his entire staff, had only one, Steve Burrato. Trestman’s passing attack style was already close to the CFL game. He had to adapt his «West Coast» passing attack to the CFL. Being offense NFL genius doesn't mean much since its two different types of football. If a coach lacks humility and imposes his NFL offensive style, it will have very little success. Bart should have adapted his offensive to a one-dimensional quarterback like Kerry Joseph (Bombers, Mike Kelly, had the same attitude to impose a running attack with disastrous results in the CFL). How could the Argonaut’s organization make such an error of judgment?

Skipping steps is never good in the long run

The CFL team takes the time to properly train young players, especially in the case of quarterbacks. Generally speaking, there are more successes with college rookies than NFL veterans. Historically, few former NFL quarterbacks did very well in the CFL. The last one I believe was Doug Flutie. In Toronto, for some strange reason, they skipped the steps. They prefer this magic formula. ‘’All problems will be resolved if you bring lots of hype with former NFL players’’. The truth is, very few became saviors. No doubt they are great athletes but as all the others, they must earn their job and many do not. Remember Bethel Johnson, only 189 passing yards. Mike McMahon, a former Eagles quarterback, is another example. In his first game he was 6/18 for a total of 57 yards. In his second and last game against Montreal he was 0/12! When Anthony Calvillo couldn’t play for a long period, neither Jesse Palmer nor Mike McMahon, who had joined the Alouettes(two former NFLers), were good enough to start a single game. Remember "Quincy" Carter 5 or 6 years ago. He was not good enough to be Montreal’s forth quarterback.

The Argos quarterbacks

We would have thought that the Argos have learned a lesson from the past. The two NFLers, Ken Dorsey and Gibran Hamdan, as well as, Cleo Lemon, Dalton Bell and Canadian Danny Brannagan all have no CFL experience. It’s been said in the past few years that Ken Dorsey was most often used in desperate situations. The stats don’t pay him justice. Maybe it’s true. But history shows that few NFL quarterbacks have been very successful in the CFL. While shaping these new guys, as a precautionary measure, the Argos should have gotten at least one or two QBs with CFL experience. Did the Argos try a trade with B.C. for Jarious Jackson? Neither Michael Bishop, nor young Ricky Santos released by Winnipeg. Maybe the Argos are waiting that the Lions release Jackson? Or, hoping for the return of Jeff Garcia to the CFL, who knows? But above all, they are dreaming of a transaction with Montreal for Adrian McPherson. The Alouettes will want an arm and a leg for him.

How can we explain the Toronto choices?

Probably the Argos believe that these two former NFL quarterbacks will fit well in the CFL. There are always exceptions to rules after all. This is not new. Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers came to get the Alouette’s 4th quarterback Tyler Palko, who was just released. Last may, the Greenbay Pakers did the same with Saskatchewan’s Graham Harrell. Teams sometimes focus on players that they believe will fit well in their game play. But for an American to go back to the NFL, that is not a problem, he’s been playing that type of football all his life. But for an American who has never been exposed to CFL field, rules and rhythm is huge, especially for quarterbacks. The more time a quarterback spends in the NFL, the less he’ll be able to adapt to the CFL. It took two years for Casey Printers to gain CFL reflexes. However, wisdom dictates that it is almost suicidal to begin a season without a quarterback with CFL experience.

The Argos concession drop

Aside from the examples given above, other factors contribute to their fragility. The Toronto bad press over the past years. The NFL threat in Canada. Until now, results are very disappointing. In 3 NFL games, around 54,000 tickets were given, and others sold at a reduced price, with no full house and the fans attendance was very poor. But sadly, many Toronto media do not focus too much on the NFL disappointments, but much more on the good news of this foreign type of football. It seems they keep the worst and nasty critics to the last truly Canadian sport in Canada. So generally speaking, poor Argos performance in the Skydome is much worst than a poor NFL game in the very same stadium. Unjustly it will take only one good NFL game in Toronto to erase all the bad ones. It is doubtfully the same treatment that will be given to the Argonauts. So this is what the CFL concession in Toronto face every day. There is very little margin for error for the Argos. Sadly they made a lot of errors these past years. For too long, the Argos have relied on their defensive and special team to win games. They have neglected the offensive, and particularly the quarterbacks. The Argos are in a reconstruction phase, will the fans be patient? Season ticket sales have greatly diminished so far. Should the Argos distribute free tickets too? The game in Moncton is a bad sign for Toronto, maybe a wake up call. The loss of Toronto’s market will hurt our football. For the CFL’s 100th year anniversary in 2012, the Grey Cup game may be played in the Skydome. Will Toronto have a CFL concession then? Maybe this explains the CFL’s hesitation to confirm this news? Not all is bad news; the new Argonaut’s owner is very devoted to the CFL.

(Base on an article that I wrote in French at RDS)


That is a good analysis, CFLman!

I agree that Toronto is essential to the success of the CFL. Despite being in Canada's media centre, the coverage the Argos and the CFL receive is pretty poor. The media is quick to pounce on CFL foibles, like C. Zelkovich of the Toronto Star today claiming the "CFL has suffered some embarrassing stumbles in the past year". His two examples were David Braley owning two teams and the collective bargaining agreement will not be ratified until July 1st. But the media seems to gloss over the tens of millions in losses of the Blue Jays or the Bills in Toronto NFL series every year.

While Barker is seen as a saviour in Toronto, I see little in his past record which should elicit such praise, especially coaching. His decision not to bring in an experienced CFL QB, despite the team desperately needing a winning season to draw back the fans, as a major mistake.

One of the ex-NFL QB's or Dalton Bell might step up and be a winner out of the gate, but that is really a hope and a prayer. More likely these new QB's will struggle as they learn the CFL game. I understand the premise of letting a young guy play, then hopefully by mid-season he will be in a position to lead a playoff charge and be seasoned for next season. Barker thinks this is a better strategy than bringing in a journeyman CFL QB, who might win more games now, but won't lead the team to the championship.

That was the thinking of Mike Kelly in Wpg last season, then were left scrambling for any veteran QB to salvage their season. The Argos also have no fallback plan if the new QB's are found wanting. Do they just keep trying new QB's every 5 games on the hope they can find one who can play? Then the Argos might be looking at another 3 win season.

The Argos should have taken the Lions offer to trade for Jarious Jackson. I don't classify him as a "B" QB, more accurately he is a Top 5 QB in the CFL. If you look at Jackson's stats after the 2nd half of 2007 (he led the Lions to a 14-3-1 record in 2007), they are among the tops in the CFL. While Jarious has a reputation as being "inconsistent", that label was largely earned in his first 7 starts in 2007, when he struggled. By season end he was an undisputed team leader and winning QB. His only problem was the Lions were convinced they had somebody even better.

The Argos didn't have to start Jackson. They could of gone with Lemon or Dorsey for 5 games to try them out. Then if they failed, it would be comforting for the Argos coaches and fans to find Jarious Jackson available. Now what who will the Argos turn to...Danny Brannagan?

I really have no real problem with the choice of hiring Jim Barker as Head Coach. He's a very capable coach in my opinion. What scares me is his and Adam Rita's decision to not bring in any CFL QBs with starting experience. I mean the Bombers were smart enouigh to take a chance on Buck Pierce so why weren't the Argos. A lot of people had doubts about Kevin Glenn when he was released and look at the season he had in Hamilton. At the very least bring back Kerry Joseph at a reduced salary as insurance. But to go with NO experience at the QB position...yikes. I just can't see this season going well for them. They'll be lucky to win 6 games this season even if the defence is outstanding.

I agree with you too, love your analysis Xvys

....please dont' hold it against Barker that he was dismissed here in Calgary as the Coach...those were absolute gong show times and I actually felt sorry for the guy given the owner we had and his disfunctional GM/Pres.....Barker had to make something work out of poop and I doubt even Tom Landry could've fielded a winning record that year...

...the thing I found with JB and I'm sure you'll see it in TO is that he is very accountable, and a geniunely pleasant and humble guy, he will carry a great personal weight to try to make the best for the Argos...

Dinwiddie has experience as a starter in the Grey Cup no less. We'll see if he can start for the Argos. I believe he has potential, but like so many QBs who have come and gone in the CFL, he hasn't exactly had a lot of playing time. This may be just what he needs to excel. If anything, the Argos have plenty of competition at QB, with a coach who should know what to look for in a starter. Lets hope he can make good choices based on training camp and pre-season performances.

Interesting reading in this thread.

I see Toronto like an expansion team. Barker will get things started in the right track and if Nicholson has any smarts he will do like Bobby Ackles and get ride of Adam Rita and put in a real football boss like Popp or Tillman or maybe even Barker can take that back and turn the team over to a coach he trusts...

Here is some blurbs from Bobby Ackles book on Adam Rita and see if it fits the demeanor of the Argos ?

...when we were struggling and Adam (Rita) was wandering into the office well past nine and was gone by five, I tought Oh my god ! I don't like working with guys who are nine to fivers in this business.
I flew back to Vancouver and the following morning went looking for Adam. He wasn't in his office so I waited for him. I wasn't going to send for him. I'd look him in the eye. He arrived about 11:00

well considering dinwiddie signed with the riders i dont see him starting for the argos.

The Toronto media has always been unfair towards the argos.
I don't think the argos have any issues and I certainly don't think touchdown atlantic has anything to do with being a bad sign for the argos.

I just with the media wasn't so biased against them at times. The Jays are drawing 11 000 people, yet it seems these media types always have a way to spin the story. I doubt they'd afford the same luxury to the argos.

Montreal media did the same thing to the Als in the early 80’s. See they didn’t want the lowly CFL but the NFL! We all know how that turned out. Same thing with Baseball…seeing exactly the same scenarios as Montreal past.

The same year Montreal lost they franchise, they played an exibition game in St-John's.

I read Zelkovich's blog on a regular basis and read his articles on the CFL whenever I see them. I've found him to be more pro-CFL than anti and he often gets accused of having a pro-CFL agenda in the comments on his blog. Even when the Super Bowl beat out the Grey Cup in tv ratings by about a million viewers, he tried to find a way to interpret that as a good thing for the CFL.

The fact that Braley owns two teams is something that doesn't sit well with many fans as well, and I would assume that most of those who accept it would agree that one team per owner is better than two or more. I don't think he's wrong for bringing that up.

why would fans care if an owner owns 2 different teams.. i could care less who is writing the checks.. does it really make a difference? is braley that hands on that he's gonna say hey wally,, give us a qb and we'll give u this bag of footballs for him.. u really think wally would go for that?

see the way it works in sports is u have an owner, a president normally, a vp/gm most the time, a head coach and his staff. throw in some scouts and a director of player personnel and there we go.

its not like braley is running the team in bc or toronto, he's just backing them financially. he's the owner.. he has the most to lose.. why would fans give a crap.. because of the optics of a guy owning 2 teams in an 8 team league? WHO FRIGGIN CARES.

i bet if u surveyed 100 random people, not people who post on these websites here either cuz like it or not, THIS SITE DOES NOT REPRESENT THE MAJORITY of people going to games, if it did, every team would have 25-30,000 regular posters but... they dont.. but if u surveyed 100 random cfl fans who dont really follow it year round like the majority on here do.. probably 20 of them would care that braley owned both teams and 80 would probably have no idea who david braley is.

get off your high horses people and realize, THIS SITE IS THE VOCAL MINORITY.

Great reads here and great analysis CFLman. Unfortunately I think we might have to give a handicap to the Argonauts because think there is so much pressure to win there or else Toronto as a whole says who cares about the Argonauts, which they wouldn't say about the Leafs.

So let's give the Argos 2 wins to start the season out, to help em out there in the big smoke. :wink:

Braley owning 2 teams? Hey, only the Toronto people with money can blame themselves on that one and quite frankly I would expect them to say "what a joke". But the joke is on them, Torontonians, for allowing this to happen with such a storied and historic franchise like the Argonauts of Toronto. Just another black mark agains't that city I'm afraid, IMHO. You don't like something, well, change it people! Stop the complaining and be proactive. This is what is part of the Leafs problem as well I think, blame, blame, blame but can't figure out how to make it right.

Toronto only has Toronto to blame, they need to start looking themselves in the mirror and say "who are we?"

The same could be said about his first time in Toronto. Wasn't he the victim of a regime change.

Yeah I realized my gaff after I wrote that. I guess it was wishful thinking that the Argos would have the foresight to sign him before the riders did.

Thanks Earl many good comments.

I did not bother to read the entire article since the author failed to go into detail why Barker was fired in Toronto & Calgary. He was never dismissed in Montreal as he left there after a successful stint as oc to become head coach in the circus that was the Stampeders.

I am sure there are more facts in the article that were ignored as well.

I am a big fan of Jim Barker, I was sad when he was fired from the Stamps, it was not his fault the team was crap. The whole Stamps organization was a joke in those times. If anything Jim Barker will be great for Toronto, can't guarantee he will move mountains with a team full of sand, but I don't think anybody could this year.

Oh, I figured when I read it that you were clairevoyant and knew that Dinwiddie will get cut shortly into training camp and that the Argos would be picking him up before theirs finished. 8)