Good horsemanship

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

While incoming head coach John Hufnagel can't be blamed for the circus-like atmosphere his organization created late last year, he's already done plenty to restore legitimacy to the ranks.

Making his first major personnel move as head coach and head honcho of the Stampeders, Hufnagel officially brought back one of the most competent and popular quarterbacks in team lore yesterday, Dave Dickenson.

Not because they worked together in 1996 or because Dickenson was league MVP here in 2000, when he last wore red and white.

But because it was the right thing to do. It was the common sense approach to filling a void that almost crippled the club last year.

Things haven't made a whole lot of sense around McMahon Stadium since Wally Buono ran the show due to a pathetic mish-mash of ownership and coaching follies like the one that saw Dickenson snubbed in 2003.

Back then, he would have discounted his services to return to Calgary from the NFL, only to be rebuffed by owner Michael Feterik, who wanted his son to pretend he was a quarterback.

This time Dickenson was prepared to give the same "adopted hometown discount," forgoing close to $100,000 to play for Calgary instead of Toronto. It had every bit to do with playing for Hufnagel and offensive co-ordinator George Cortez as it did with winding down his career alongside his brother (special teams coach Craig) and returning to the city he's always wanted to retire in.

"I'll finally get to see my backyard in the summer," joked Dickenson, who has maintained a residence in Valley Ridge for several years now despite toiling for the Leos.

Unlike last year, when the need to start aging CFL rookie Akili Smith would have derailed the Stamps playoff hopes had Henry Burris been hurt longer, Dickenson will provide the club with unmatched efficiency, proven leadership and an innate will to win.

As a starter or from the bench, he's proven to be one of the CFL's most consistent players over the last decade. Before the concussions, he was simply the league's best.

He also comes with so much more, as someone who is, quite frankly, already a bigger name in town than the man he'll now back up.

Whether he plays a down or not, he'll help sell tickets, help bolster the confidence in the dressing room and help Burris scamper to the next level the city has been waiting for him to reach.

Indeed, if he has a weakness it's his inability to avoid injury, a fact that led him to the point where backing up made more sense than starting. Three concussions in as many years prompted him to take a step back and ponder retirement before moving ahead to take on a role that will see him preserve his body on the sideline for the most part.

The move gives the club the league's best quarterback tandem and also allows the team to groom an heir apparent at a slower pace, as this organization did in its heyday when guys like Burris and Dickenson studied under Jeff Garcia and Doug Flutie.

It's a brilliant move no matter how you dissect it.

Following a rocky start (given the way his hiring was botched by ownership) the John Hufnagel era officially kicked off yesterday with the type of announcement Calgarians can be proud of.

It's been far too long since that was the case at McMahon.


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