By George, he's back

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

George Cortez was home in Iowa yesterday, cruising Calgary's hot housing market via the internet.

"It's amazing when you look at all these houses and you go, 'That's not too bad, it's only $500,000!' You want to slap yourself," Cortez laughed.

Cortez was announced as the Calgary Stampeders new offensive co-ordinator yesterday, a post he held during the team's last two Grey Cup wins in 1998 and 2001.

While he has noticed a few changes in the Cowtown economy since his departure, his own market value has also gone through the roof since leaving Calgary in 2002 for the University of California Berkeley.

Three successful seasons with the Golden Bears were followed by a year coaching the offensive line in Saskatchewan. He had been the No. 1 candidate for the Stampeders offensive co-ordinator's job since Steve Buratto was fired last month, ending a two-year stint.

Cortez is credited with developing QB sensations Jeff Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowl player, and Dave Dickenson, this year's Grey Cup MVP with B.C.

Cortez also groomed backup Henry Burris in the late 1990s, Calgary's current No. 1 pivot, a player still grappling with unlimited potential and disappointing results.

"I've got a picture in my desk from 1998 after we took the team picture with the Grey Cup with me and Jeff and Dave and Henry," Cortez said. "Only one of those guys hasn't been the MVP of the Grey Cup and we'd certainly like to make that happen."

Cortez will double as Stampeders quarterbacks coach while he'll hire two assistants, who will likely work with the o-line and receivers.

Burris, who feels partly responsible for the firing of Buratto, welcomed the arrival of Cortez.

"He understood the things that I was comfortable in doing and I'd say the big thing with Cortez is that there's a lot of communication," Burris said.

"He always gives you an understanding of why he wants to do things and expects high execution from you."

Cortez said his success during his last stint in Calgary probably made him the most coveted candidate. He'll be expected to turn Burris, an elite group of receivers and star tailback Joffrey Reynolds into the CFL's top unit while limiting turnovers.

"We were a successful football team and I was lucky enough to be involved in that," recalled Cortez, first brought to Calgary in 1992 as an assistant under Wally Buono. "I have no illusions that if you don't have good football players, you'll have trouble being successful. It's always nicer when you draw up those Xs and Os on the board that you have the guys who can make it happen on the field."

Cortez declined to comment on team personnel, preferring to keep those opinions in-house for now.

He inherits an offence that led the CFL last season in several key categories but struggled in the Red Zone and turned over the ball far too often, including seven times in the 30-21 West semifinal loss to Saskatchewan. Burris threw four picks that day.

"I know we'll try to eliminate turnovers," Cortez said.

"I saw the stat the other day watching an NFL game on TV that the team that has the fewest turnovers wins 81 percent of the time.

"The key for our offence is we score one more point than the other guys, whether that's 50-49 or 3-2, the most important thing is winning the ball game."

The Stamps have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround the last two seasons, posting 11-7 and 10-8 records before falling in the West semifinal.

The addition of Cortez will have fans and the ownership group expecting the club to take the next step in the post-season.

"It's good to have high expectations," Cortez said.

"People who have high expectations drive themselves to be successful."

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YOU'RE HIRED

George Cortez, 55

Offensive co-ordinator

- Calgary (1992-94; 1997-2001).

- Ottawa (1990-91).

- Montreal (1983-86).

- Saskatchewan (2006).

- QB coach Southern Methodist University (1995-96).

- Offensive co-ordinator/QB coach University of California Berkeley (2002-05).


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