Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray was acquired in the off-season and led the team to a Grey Cup victory in his first season. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Another CFL season is in the books, and the way it ended provides hope for long-suffering Blue Bomber fans everywhere.
Because if the Toronto Argonauts can turn themselves around in the space of 12 months, canít anybody?
At this time a year ago the Argos looked light-years from becoming a Grey Cup contender, coming off a 6-12 campaign with the worst offence and the bottom-ranked defence in the CFL.
Oh, and they were in desperate need of a quarterback.
Any of that sound familiar?
One blockbuster off-season, some growing pains and a surprisingly one-sided Grey Cup game later, Toronto is planning a parade, and itís not to say good riddance to Mayor Rob Ford.
In the off-season, Argos GM Jim Barker swung a trade with Edmonton for Ricky Ray, landing one of the gameís great arms by taking advantage of one of its bizarre minds, that of former Eskimos GM Eric Tillman.
Barker also hired one of the gameís premier young offensive brains, former Montreal assistant Scott Milanovich, to be his head coach.
It wasnít always pretty, as the Argos stutter-stepped their way to a 9-9 record.
But by then their offence had figured things out and was ready to roll through the playoffs.
Sunday Toronto looked every bit like the best team in the CFL, as it stopped a red-hot Calgary squad in its tracks, beat it up for 60 minutes and sent it back to Alberta in a box.
That Barker pulled all this off doesnít look good on a particular board of directors in Winnipeg, who ignored him to choose, first, Brendan Taman (he turned the job down), then Joe Mack to run the Bombers, three years ago.
If this were a poker game, Barker just matched Mackís and Tamanís Grey Cup appearances, and raised them a title.
Itís your turn, Mr. Mack. You all in, or ready to fold?
Since Mack seems to think heís found his sideline boss in Tim Burke, his second head coach, his focus must now be on the man running the huddle.
The polarizing choice would be to go after old friend Kevin Glenn, a 33-year-old walking contradiction still under contract to Calgary.
Had Glenn won Sundayís Grey Cup, chances are heíd have been traded this off-season. After all, his market value would have been as high as it could get, and the Cowboys have made no secret theyíre hitched to Drew Tate for the long haul.
Sunday Glennís price dropped like one of his wounded-duck passes. Good news for the Bombers, if theyíre interested.
I canít see Mack going that way. I wouldnít.
Glenn was in a perfect situation in Calgary, the experienced backup in a solid lineup. But heís a stopgap, not a guy you build a young team around.
Sure, he went 10-5 this season after Tate went down. He won 10 games here, in í07, too.
And if the Bombers are going to sever ties with Buck Pierce, theyíd need a veteran. In that case, they could do a lot worse than Glenn.
But that move would smack of desperation, too, of a GM not thinking past his nose in order to save his job.
What Mack really needs to find is a potential starter whoís not on the business end of 30. And who doesnít carry the big-game baggage Glenn does.
Maybe itís B.C.ís soon-to-be free agent, Mike Reilly.
Maybe itís Montrealís Adrian McPherson.
Maybe itís somebody else.
Itís Mackís job to figure that out.
Identify the guy you want, and go get him.
Just donít expect a Hall of Famer to fall in your lap.
The Bombers are a year late and a few dollars short of landing someone like Ray. Or Henry Burris, traded by the Stamps to Hamilton last year.
Besides, Tillmanís not around anymore. That mistake wonít happen again.
Mackís going to have to work the phones and make something happen.
We know it can be done.
And it doesnít have to take years for it to pay off.