Posted on January 23, 2017 by Anthony Ciardulli
One of the most popular phrases in the NFL is Black Monday. It’s when Coaches coming off unsuccessful seasons get their pink slips on the first day the regular season ends. It’s unbelievable the upheaval one team may go through even before the playoffs begin. Coming off a disappointing 5-13 record many thought the Argonauts were destined down a similar path.
There were calls to move on from GM Jim Barker and Head Coach Scott Milanovich after a slew of in-season roster moves left both fans and media curious and confused to say the least. One of the more consistent defenders on the team Keon Raymond was let go with little to no reason. Last year receiver Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliott were praised as impact rookies with a bright future in Double Blue. One year later all 3 were showed the door on the same day due to commitment and an overall lack of discipline. The perceived dysfunction in the locker room served as a perfect storm for a complete redo in 2017.
That’s what happened in Montreal even before the season ended. Busy dealing with their own infighting the Alouettes announced long time General Manager and Head Coach Jim Popp wasn’t coming back. Montreal now has a new President, GM and Coach going into 2017. There was talk of a culture change, a new approach and a return to winning football. The Alouettes acted quickly this off-season by adding Darian Durant to that mix and Montreal now finally has the high caliber starting quarterback it’s gone without since Anthony Calvillo retired.
Instead the opposite has happened in Toronto. There was no press conference. President Michael Copeland stated at season’s end that a complete and thorough review of the entire organization was going to take place. That’s as much as we have heard from Argo land. If that review has brought up anything it certainly hasn’t been shared with either media or the fan base.
Speculation around the league is that the longer Toronto goes without announcing any major changes the more likely things are poised to remain the same. And with no source or access to information to base this on it’s my opinion that is exactly what’s going to happen. Potential candidates currently working in the CFL aren’t likely to get their release this time of year, making the list of potential replacements for both a GM or Coach that much more difficult. Whatever we might think or whatever we may want, the bottom line is that Jim Barker and Scott Milanovich aren’t going anywhere.
There are a few reasons why this is probably the case.
1) Roster Moves – The Argonauts have made a slew of moves resigning some key pending free agents. From bringing back Shawn Lemon, Anthony Coombs and Lirim Hajrullahu to releasing Josh Bourke you have to believe that an Ownership group looking to make a change on the Football Operations side would step in and give the incumbent a clean slate to rebuild the team. Further to that free agency is less than a month away. Putting a new GM in place even today would be almost an impossible task to have someone come in, evaluate the roster and decide how to move forward.
2) The Long Term View – When Toronto moved to BMO Field and the team was declared hosts of the 2016 Grey Cup so much of the planning were for the here and now. But it’s important to remember that Michael Copeland also reiterated that the return of the Argonauts return to prominence in Toronto was a 3 to 5 year task. So does it make sense for a complete overhaul after 1 year especially when both Barker and Milanovich have 2 years left on their contracts?
3) Drew Willy – While I have absolutely no problem with any of deals signed this offseason the return of Drew Willy is a potential Pandora’s Box. His acquisition was a water shed moment last year. His contract, what the Argonauts gave up in return to get him, and the terms of his restructured contract clearly tie Jim Barker and Scott Milanovich to the former BlueBomber. I don’t believe you can restructure Willy’s contract one day then be relieved of your duties the next. The belief, given his poor performance in limited action last year, tells me that the Management team and Coaches firmly believe that a full off-season and training camp can provide a return the team believed it would get when the trade to acquire Willy was made. As stated many times before the CFL is a quarterback league and the success of the team in 2017 will be directly tied to who is under centre.
Maybe some would have liked an Argo press conference at seasons end announcing whole sale changes. The team would be in the news and conversations can be had from fan both old and new. That I guess could still happen. But Ownership along with Michael Copeland it appears, have taken a steady approach with a calm hand rather than a fiery fist. The pressure to host a Grey Cup game like it did in 2012 was perhaps overwhelming. But Barker and Milanovich both have successful CFL pedigree and appear to have been given a chance to fix all that went wrong on the field in 2016.
Now should the team be on pace for another 5-13 season, which inevitably would also say that Drew Willy wasn’t able to find his game again, I have no doubt major moves will come and all bets are off. And oh yeah, there will be a press conference.
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