Easy being Green

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

The daily media grillings, Marcus Crandell admits, became a gruesome part of the job.

Responding to what management was saying. Reacting to another loss on the field. Offering his views on persistent rumours about ownership in addition to the starting quarterback's own struggles and cloudy future.

The constant swirl of controversy that surrounded the Calgary Stampeders his last three seasons made for an uncomfortable atmosphere at McMahon Stadium.

Each year, a new set of coaches and schemes was introduced -- sometimes mid-season -- while the team struggled in the standings, falling to six wins in 2002, five in '03 and just four last year.

The quarterback who orchestrated the franchise's last Grey Cup title in 2001 had seen enough and, obviously not a part of the new ownership's plans, eagerly jumped at free agency last February.

His ticket out of Calgary came courtesy Saskatchewan GM Roy Shivers. Crandell, who'll get his eighth consecutive start tomorrow when the Stampeders visit Taylor Field, is thrilled to wear Green and White.

"I was tested every day," Crandell says of the turmoil in Calgary. "It just made you wonder what direction the team was going. It's the sort of things you shouldn't have to worry about when you're in an organization. You should be able to go out there and play football. There were a lot of guys there who felt that way."

After the Stamps won two of their first 13 games last season, it became clear Crandell was falling out of the No. 1 role and no longer had the confidence of then-GM/head coach Matt Dunigan. Dunigan's fiery approach was also in stark contrast to Crandell's rather calm, quiet demeanour.

"I'm the same person all the time and guys here love me for the person I am because I stay so calm, don't get too high or too low," says Crandell, who was eventually forced, despite being injured, back into the Stamps starting role last season due to a rash of wounds to other quarterbacks.

"Being in my position as quarterback, you can't let everything get to you. That's me, the way I've always been. I'm not the kind of person who'll ever give up. Even when I had to go out there and play, I tried to win. That's one thing a lot of people didn't realize. I didn't complain about being hurt out there on the field. I wanted to win for the guys, had good relationships with a lot of guys and I wanted to fight for them."

The fit in Regina has been tailor-made as Crandell's wife Mona is from the city.

While the Crandells have yet to buy a house in Regina, choosing instead to wait to see what the future holds, the No. 1 job is certainly up for grabs. Nealon Greene entered the season as the starting pivot but struggled through a five-game losing streak mid-season. The reins were turned over to Crandell, who has employed a conservative game plan while sparking a five-game winning streak, although the team has lost its last two contests.

It's unclear where Crandell fits in, although his confidence is as high as ever.

"I've always had confidence that

I could get the job done. There was just too much other stuff there, man," says Crandell, the 2001 Grey Cup MVP. "There was the owner (Michael Feterik) and us coming into practice having to worry about what's been said in the paper by the general manager and all those things. Not everybody was concentrating on football.

"I wasn't dealt the best hand there. I tried to make the most of it ... I was like a guinea pig, so to speak, coming into a new system and getting thrown in there as the starting quarterback and, if it doesn't go well, everybody points the finger at me. That's how it is."


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