C'mon down, Rich

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Rich Stubler. Next head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos?

The defensive guru is arguably the man most responsible for getting a Toronto Argo team with no offence to the Grey Cup.

Now that Stubler has his personal problems behind him, a little birdie whispered to me the other day he might be very high on Hugh Campbell's list to be the last coach he hires before taking his retirement.

The personal problems, one assumes, involve a divorce in his second term as Eskimos defensive co-ordinator to join his significant other, his high-school sweetheart from 34 years ago, who recently fought and won a battle with cancer.

Stubler makes an interesting candidate.

"I don't politic for jobs. I've never been a candidate for anything," said the Argo defensive co-ordinator who sat down for what he said was his first media interview of the season when the Argos arrived here.

The man who is going to have to scheme his way to stopping Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers in this Grey Cup if the Argos have a hope against the B.C. Lions would certainly take a call from Edmonton next week.

"I'd love to talk to Hugh about it," said Stubler, who first came to Edmonton as defensive co-ordinator with Ron Lancaster. "To be honest, Edmonton and Toronto would be the only places I'd consider."

While rumors have been out there for a week that Pinball Clemons may choose to move to another job in the Argos organization after this Grey Cup, Stubler says he doesn't think that will happen.

"Pin has done an unbelievable job with the players," he said.

KEEPING GUYS TOGETHER

"I hope he coaches many years. I don't know anybody who could have done the job he did last year, keeping guys together when they were missing paycheques. He's one of those special guys you don't run across many times in life, especially in the coaching business."

Stubler says he loves his current situation.

"This group of kids is special. This is as much like a family as any group I've ever dealt with. This is the best group of guys I've ever had. It's not all talent. It's 50-50, talent and as a group of people."

One thing Stubler doesn't lack is guts.

While it was Clemons who wore it, it was Stubler who pushed him into the controversial move not to play all those players in the Argos final regular-season game.

"The decision was partly mine. Pin and I talked about it. My guys were beat up. Most of the kids who sat down were defensive kids. To my way of thinking it was a great decision. We took a lot of crap about it. But we're here. We're in the Grey Cup."

If he were to become a head coach, that's the kind of guy you'd get.

"I am who I am," said Stubler, who coached with Lancaster from '91-'95 when he took a job as defensive co-ordinator with Oregon, failing spectacularly in trying to introduce a Canadian-style, yard-off-the-ball defence to U.S. college football.

He returned to Edmonton to coach the defence in Kay Stephenson's ill-fated season as Eskimo coach.

"I'd have liked to have been a candidate in Edmonton that time, but I wasn't," he said of when his personal life wasn't stable.

He left Edmonton and went to Arena Football as a defensive co-ordinator, returned to join Adam Rita in B.C. in 2000 where he won his third Grey Cup.

ARENA FOOTBALL IN DETROIT

He returned to Arena Football in Detroit and hooked up with Toronto, kind of coaching by remote control.

"I came in about the second week of September and kind of consulted," he said of the strange season. "I'd come up on weekends. The lady I live with had cancer and she'd had surgery and I'd work by e-mail and fly up from Austin, Texas for the games."

Since then he's been full time.

"With this group I e-mail the players two or three times a week in the off-season. If I'd get a job in Edmonton, I'd move there full time," he said.

"I just like Edmonton. The Eskimos are a special team. I love living in a town which cares about football and cares about the people in football.

"You don't find that."

He's 55 now and says he's changed as a person and as a coach.

"My philosophy has changed in the last five or six years. I can't remember the last time I shouted on the field. A young coach mistakes that for enthusiasm. It's closer to stupidity. I finally realized coaches don't make the plays."

It took a long time, but Stubler says he came to understand it works best when you give players ownership.

"When you create robots on the field, they can't react to things. The player has to solve the problem. My philosophy now is to put them in the best possible position so when the time comes they'll react and make the decision."

Move over Danny Maciocia and Greg Marshall. There's another name in the hat.


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