Quandary nothing new to Buono
By PERRY LEFKO
Wally Buono didn't become one of the greatest head coaches in the history of the Canadian Football League by making rash decisions. With 23-year-old sophomore quarterback Casey Printers lighting it up for the B.C. Lions while Dave Dickenson recovers from a knee injury which required off-season surgery and continued to bother him through the first three games of the 2004 season, Buono is facing a curious, if not enviable, decision.
Dickenson, who clearly was hobbling while doing some running the day before the Lions shellacked the Argos 31-10 on Friday at B.C. Place, is scheduled to return for the team's next game, Sept. 11 in Ottawa against the Renegades. There will be all kinds of stories leading up to the game. Will Dickenson be given his starting job back or will Buono stay with Printers? The younger quarterback has won all six of his starts and has played a pivotal role in the Lions' first place standing in the West.
"I have a plan in my mind on how I want this thing to unfold today, but there's no guarantee Dave's going to be ready for that game," said Buono after the victory over the Argos, in which Printers threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
"When (Dickenson is ready to play), I'll make whatever decision I have to make. When Dave's healthy (and) Casey's healthy, we'll do what we have to do. Today, I know what I'd like to do, but I'm not going to divulge what I'd like to do.
"It's tough because there are a lot of variables you have to deal with. It's not just A for B and B for A. The best thing is that I think both players are really liked and both players are respected.
"Here's the other thing: If one falters, you don't blink. You just do what you've got to do. The team is interested in winning. Who they win with doesn't make a big difference, right?"
Buono has previous experience in this situation. In 1995 with the Calgary Stampeders, while Doug Flutie recovered from surgery on his passing arm, Jeff Garcia took over and won eight of nine starts. When Flutie was ready to play, Buono put him back. Even though Flutie struggled in a playoff game and the fans booed him and Garcia replaced him, Buono went right back to his starter for the remainder of the playoffs.
"That was life, but that was a whole different entity," Buono said. "When it's time, I'll make the decision based on what is right for the team with the facts I have."
Dickenson, 31, returned to the Canadian Football League last year after two years as a third-stringer in the National Football League and was voted the Western Division's nominee for most outstanding player, losing to the Montreal Alouettes' Anthony Calvillo. In the 2000 CFL season, Dickenson won the award. If he's healthy, any head coach in the CFL would covet him. Then again, any head coach would love to be in Buono's shoes because you never can have enough quality quarterbacks that can consistently make plays.