Argos Face Winter of Discontent
Changes await in Argoland, changes that could go all the way up to management, filter down to coaching and, ultimately, the players.
When a season plays out as it did for the Argos, a 5-13 team that would lose its final seven games, change is the easy way out, assuming the right ones are made initiated, presumably, from people who know what they are doing, which is quite the leap of faith with this organization.
What needs to be done and what will get done aren’t necessarily guaranteed.
Ownership can start by providing the Argos with the necessary tools to at least have the team catch up with the rest of the CFL, help establish a level playing field by getting rid of whatever real or perceived distraction has been allowed to linger since David Braley sold the team.
It’s interesting how the organization invests in a strength and conditioning coach, but didn’t see the need to build or help arrange for a legitimate weight room. The practice setup at Downsview isn’t very good and when losses mount, as they did this year, all the minor inconveniences begin to add up.
Let’s not kid anyone because the Argos weren’t good enough, even if they once stood at 4-2, no phase of their game — defence, offence and special teams — played to anything remotely close to consistent.
Both GM Jim Barker and head coach Scott Milanovich are under contract for two more years, but if either decides to leave, for whatever reason, no one should blame them. Each shoulders blame for this incredibly wretched season, but this is the CFL and quick turnarounds are as common as a change in possession during a game.
At some point over the next few days, ownership and upper management need to sit down with Barker and review the season and move forward.
Milanovich has held this team together for years, but he knows how football is a bottom-line business.
“The bottom line is that I didn’t do as good a job as I should have in getting our guys to consistently play well,’’ said Milanovich.
“There’s really not one thing to pin our season on, more of a combination of about 40 things that all came together to produce this negative storm.”
Not having a healthy Ricky Ray to run the offence was key. There were not enough playmakers on both sides of the ball and not enough depth to fill the gap when players were injured. Home-field advantage was non-existent in their first year at BMO Field, where the Argos won just twice. There was a disconnect between football ops and members of the coaching staff, as well as players new to the CFL who didn’t know the meaning of professionalism and were unaware of the grind of an 18-game season. The list is as long as the Argos’ losing streak.
And now it’s incumbent on ownership to take the necessary steps.
The Argos are followed by a rabid fan base that has expressed mounting frustration at the lack of entertainment, which turned into anger when every move would lead to a backward step in the standings.
These people need to be rewarded or the franchise will fall even deeper out of the consciousness of the Toronto sporting fan.
The knee-jerk reaction would be to clean house and bring in a new regime, but there are so many off-the-field issues with this team that won’t be solved by simply taking a swath to the entire organization.
A new practice site with all the amenities — at least that’s the word being bandied about — in concert with Ryerson, is three, maybe four, years away, but the present needs to be addressed.
Milanovich has taken responsibility and he has at least deserved another shot, if he is so inclined.
Barker made the right moves when he anointed Milanovich as head coach in 2012, a year the franchise won the Grey Cup.
But it’s time for ownership to stand up and hold itself accountable. The Argos are a joke, only no one is laughing and even fewer care.
When indifference kicks in, a team is in serious trouble and serious decisions must be made.
SCULLERS WELL-STOCKED WITH PENDING FREE AGENTS
Three starting offensive linemen, a 1,000-yard running back, a 1,000-yard receiver, the list of free agents is long, dotted with some long-tenured Argos who won’t be back or who may retire.
In total, there are 24 Argonauts eligible for free agency, though a few will likely get released well before the CFL’s courting period in February to pursue NFL opportunities. Of the team’s free agents, 11 started on defence.
The last quarterback to lead the Argos to a win, Dan LeFevour, is a free agent, a veteran the team turned to on Sept. 11 when Hamilton came to town.
Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, who bounced back from last season’s down year in Winnipeg, is a free agent, as are long-snapper Jake Reinhart and special teams player James Yurichuk, who came home following a Grey Cup season in B.C.
Offensiv e lineman Greg Van Roten will try to knock down some NFL doors and receiver Diontae Spencer, who will be coveted in the CFL, is going to take a shot as well.
Veterans such as slotback Andre Durie and linebacker Brandon Isaac, who were part of the Argos’ 2012 Grey Cup championship, are likely to contemplate their futures in football.
Anthony Coombs has emerged as a talented Canadian running back, his role to expand in Toronto if he decides to stay and if the Argos present the right offer.
It’s going to be an interesting time for the Double Blue, to say the least, which made some bad decisions last off-season when free agency kicked off.
Besides the aforementioned players, the free agent list also includes Matt Black, Michael Carter, A.J. Jefferson, Devin Smith, Justin Hickman, Tracy Robertson, Bryan Hall, Kyler Elsworth, Cory Greenwood, Tyler Holmes, Brandon Whitaker, Chris Van Zeyl, Kenny Shaw, Isaiah Green and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.