Buono's QB moves backfire

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

The good guy won.

The Argos' Mike (Pinball) Clemons came across as the good guy in the battle of the head coaches in the Grey Cup.

His counterpart, B.C. Lions' Wally Buono, wore the figurative black hat in the days leading up to the Cup and, some critics will claim, the dunce hat after his team lost 27-19 to the Argos at Ottawa's Frank Clair Stadium on Sunday.

His decision to avoid naming his starting quarterback and then opting to go with Dave Dickenson over the league's most outstanding player, Casey Printers, will be analyzed and dissected in the days and weeks and years to come.

If Printers did indeed have lingering physical effects from the shoulder/arm injury he suffered in the CFL West final in which Dickenson relieved him, then Buono made the right call. Buono said he made the call based on that reason alone, regardless of whether Printers felt he could play. Buono had seen enough in the practices leading up to the game, particularly Printers' difficulty throwing the ball long, that he felt the need to start Dickenson. And Dickenson played well. The Lions did not lose because of him.

Conversely, the Argo won in large part because of the play of quarterback Damon Allen. This is the same player Buono, who upon taking over as the general manager/coach of the Lions in 2003, re-signed after his contract expired and then promptly left him with an uncertain future after the team signed Dickenson.

From a business standpoint, the move appeared to make sense going with a younger player, in particular one who had been voted the outstanding player in the league two years before. But considering that Allen had given his all to the Lions and the community during seven seasons, it lacked respect.

Allen never lambasted the Lions nor Buono for their treatment, only to say he wanted to do well for the Argos for giving him a chance after they traded for him.

Allen rewarded them with a Grey Cup with a heroic performance for the ages. Only he can say for sure how much satisfaction he reaped pinning a loss on the Lions and Buono. Allen is a classy professional with pride in his ability and likely will savour his latest achievement against the team that essentially gave up on him.

To his credit, Buono repeatedly answered questions from the media about some of his moves after the Cup. He was not as perfunctory or condescending in his responses as Montreal's Don Matthews following his team's 26-18 loss to the Argos in the East Division final.

Buono even managed to criticize his punter/kicker Duncan O'Mahony for his subpar performance in the game. This was the same player who kicked the game-tying field goal in regulation and the game-winner in overtime in the West final. He's also the player Buono signed away as a free agent from the Calgary Stampeders in the off-season and struggled with in the early part of the season when his field-goal attempts failed more than they succeeded.

PINBALL A SOLID LEADER

As for Clemons, he did very little wrong all week, both in the way he handled himself publicly and in the way he managed his team.

Regardless of whether he is to be acclaimed as a great coach -- there's a common belief he lacks the Xs and Os acumen of his more experienced counterparts -- he is a solid leader who can rally his troops through trying times. And he has had plenty of those this season and the last, beginning with holding his team together through a bankruptcy in 2003 and with mounting injuries and a brutal schedule this year.

Remember, it was Buono who called the Argos' decision to rest many of their starters for the final game of the regular season "an embarrassment to the league." His comments bothered Clemons, who felt Buono made the remark without knowing the circumstances and the facts that led to the decision. In Clemons' mind, he made the move in the best interest of the team,

In the end he succeeded. The good guy won.


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