So Much For Stability
It would seem the Argonauts ownership and top brass weren't at all impressed with the team's performance in Montreal on the weekend.
A week after supposedly saving his job by beating Hamilton, head coach Rich Stubler is out this morning as head coach two days after losing 45-19 to the Alouettes, with the CFL's all-time winningest coach, Don Matthews, coming back as `head coach for the third time.
Yep, that Don Matthews.
The Argos have an 11 a.m. press conference scheduled for this morning, with the participants being GM Adam Rita and CEO Pinball Clemons. It's not clear whether Stubler will be retained in any capacity, only that Matthews, who coached the team in 1990 and from 1996-98, winning two Grey Cups, is back.
He's 69 years old now, and has been rarely heard from since he quit as coach of the Alouettes in October, 2006, citing health reasons. He has 231 career wins - 49 with the Argos - as well as nine Grey Cup appearances and five titles.
The shakeup comes on the heels of Hamilton firing Charlie Taaffe as its head coach yesterday. Winnipeg traded running back Charles Roberts to B.C. last week and tried to trade Tom Canada to the Tiger-Cats for linebacker Zeke Moreno yesterday, meaning the three bottom-feeders in the East Division - Toronto, Hamilton and the Blue Bombers - are all desperately trying to save their seasons.
Stubler's run as Argo head coach ends after 10 games and only four wins, with the team's once proud defence, of which he was the chief architect, crumbling. Former league MVP Kerry Joseph, after playing strongly against Hamilton on Labour Day, struggled in Montreal and Stubler wasn't afraid to say so afterwards.
Having a losing record and publicly criticizing the star player is a formula that rarely keeps a head coach in place very long.
Stubler, who took over from the highly popular Clemons, was criticized internally for being too insular in his approach and for being too critical and hard on his assistant coaches. He came out his shell and was much more open with the media on the weekend in Montreal, but it was too late to save his job, with Clemons and co-owner David Cynamon at Molson Stadium to watch the debacle first-hand.
Going to Matthews is a big gamble, for his last days in Montreal weren't pretty. That said, he and Rita are very tight friends, and generally speaking, his players have always loved playing for him. While he has a gruff exterior and has traditionally held the media with disdain, he prefers to run a loosey-goosey operation, demanding only that the players be prepared and ready to perform on game day.
The Argos brought in a bunch of new players on Monday, and more changes may be coming. With Winnipeg coming to town on Friday, more victories are necessary to make sure the Boatmen at least make the post-season. Moreover, with the threat of the NFL and the presence of the Buffalo Bills in the marketplace, the Argos need to try and put a more consistent, entertaining offensive product on the field, particularly with scoring in the CFL way up this season.
The club failed to qualify for the Grey Cup last November when the big game was held at the Rogers Centre, a major disappointment for ownership. Clemons decided he'd had enough of coaching, and giving Stubler the job after years of being defensive co-ordinator was a decision met with some disagreement within the organization because of Stubler's prickly ways. He rarely spoke publicly while running the Argos' highly respected defence, and seemed generally uncomfortable with the spotlight when thrust into the head coaching position.
Whether the Argos can turn the season around under Matthews is unclear. The defence just isn't what it was, and Joseph has been inconsistent, even after his backup, Michael Bishop, was traded away to Saskatchewan, ending an ongoing quarterback controversy.
The team has been toying with the idea of trying to sign former Saskatchewan running back Kenton Keith to bolster its iffy running game, but haven't been able to come to terms with the back.
In Toronto football circles, Matthews is as big a name as Clemons, and bringing him back, at the very least, guarantees the club will grab some headlines.