I love the way our GM and Head Coach have assembled the current Argos. As the year unfolds, we should be looking for continued improvement, and hopefully a home berth in this year’s Grey Cup.
Despite my unwavering loyalty to the Double Blue, I am confronted with certain undeniable facts. Over the span of my “fandom,” Argos have not always fielded teams of the calibre of our current one. Since 1952, Argos have won the Grey Cup five times. That’s five times in 60 years, or once every 12 years. In an eight team (sometimes 9 team) league, that puts us well below the average.
Let’s compare that to Wally Buono’s record in a relatively brief 22 years as head coach (with both Calgary and BC). Buono’s teams have reached the Grey Cup nine times, and won it five times. For comparison sake, Wally reached the Grey cup every 2 ½ years. During the same 22 years, Argos reached the Grey Cup four times, or once every 5 ½ years.
What has been the difference? At the risk of seeming simplistic, I believe the biggest single reason for Wally’s success has been the ability to develop quarterbacks. He takes young players with no or limited professional experience, typically apprentices them behind a more senior QB, and moves them into a starting role when they are ready. Buono’s track record is legendary. Among the elite quarterbacks he has developed are Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia, Dave Dickenson, Casey Printers, Buck Pierce and Travis Lulay.
How many elite level quarterbacks have the Argos developed in the same time period? I think the answer is zero. 0. The Argo style has been to bring in experienced QB’s either by trade or sign them as free agents. Not to say we haven’t had some good QBs in Argo land (Holloway, Flutie, Dunigan, Allen, Ray), but which system works best? The record speaks for itself.
A quick look around the league shows that most of the other teams are following the “Wally” formula. Durant in Saskatchewan, Tate in Calgary, Lulay in BC and Brink and Elliott in Winnipeg have all been nurtured by their current teams. In Montreal, the Als have been developing Adrian McPherson to eventually fill Calvillo’s shoes, and Hamilton has Porter and Lefevour going through similar tutelage.
But here’s the point. Right now we have one of the best QBs (arguably ever) in Ricky Ray. We have a head coach and a quarterbacks coach who have both been professional QBs. We also have two highly regarded and capable young pivots in Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros. We won’t have Ricky forever. So I implore Messrs. Barker and Milanovich, establish as a top long term priority to develop both Trevor and Zach as quickly as they are capable of progressing. Study how Wally did it. Give them any game time experience you can. Set as a goal to develop both these capable young men into elite level quarterbacks. Give them the opportunity to stumble now and again, but let them learn. And stick with them.
The Argos will benefit from this for years to come.