Along with marking the official beginning of a Texas Two-Step designed to lead the Renegades to the CFL's Big Dance, yesterday was also the 13th anniversary of Southern Methodist University's great revenge -- a 41-16 victory over the Houston Cougars -- for what SMU still refers to as "one of the poorest displays of sportsmanship in college football history."
Ninety-five to twenty-one.
That was the final in a 1989 game between a Cougars team offensively co-ordinated by John Jenkins and a freshman-filled SMU squad coached by Forrest Gregg, who was brought in to rebuild his alma mater's program after it had received the NCAA "death penalty" for recruiting violations. Immediately after the beating, a disgusted Gregg refused to shake hands with Cougars coach Jack Pardee, who left his starting quarterback (the same Andre Ware who would go on to win the Heisman and play for the Rough Riders) at the controls well into the fourth quarter.
On the bus ride back to Dallas, however, Gregg expressed his admiration of Jenkins to an assistant coach.
"I said, if this S.O.B. ever becomes available, I'm gonna hire him," he remembered. "John is an offensive football coach."
Sure enough, the S.O.B. is now the Renegades coach under Gregg, the officially appointed GM, and the two Lone Star State natives are determined to build Ottawa a team that consistently contends for the Grey Cup. More than six months before training camp begins, the only thing people around here might find offensive about Jenkins is the pair of cowboy boots he wore to his press conference.
"Some red and black animal," he said with a shrug and a chuckle when asked what they were made of. "Some endangered species."
Jenkins is a unique dude with Ric Flair hair who Gregg says is "comfortable in his own skin." Along with the stompers, that skin was covered by a blue pin-striped suit he called "high style continental."
Similar fashion statements were made this season by Bo Rogers, a mediocre cornerback Ottawa signed to a landmark five-year deal yesterday, and Kerry Joseph, an error-prone quarterback who currently stands to earn between $300,000-$400,000 if he's back in 2006.
The Texas Two-Steppers are both big on Joseph, who is fleet of foot and strong-armed and thus capably equipped to direct the run-and-shoot offence invented by a high school coach named Tiger Ellison and since adopted and modified by the likes of Mouse Davis and Jenkins. Under Joseph guidance, though, the Renegades could turn the run-and-shoot into the stumble-and-misfire.
Jenkins has worked with an impressive list of quarterbacks during his 30 years of football. He had Doug Flutie and Jim Kelly in the USFL. He had Ware, David Klingler and Jimmy Klingler at Houston. He had Matt Dunigan, Anthony Calvillo, Kerwin Bell and Flutie again in the CFL. But never has he had a 32-year-old who turns the ball over as often as Joseph, the CFL's top interceptions thrower (23) and most- frequent (14) fumbler, of which six wound up in enemy hands. Asked if he could teach a dog Joseph's age the trick of making better decisions, Jenkins said in this case he "would be more concerned with the pass protection."
The Renegades gave up a league second-worst 63 sacks this season. Gregg, one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play, might be more inclined to offer suggestions now that the coaching change has been completed. Under the old regime, he refused to interfere, nor was he ever asked for advice.
So determined to be better in that area, the Renegades are prepared to use three Americans on the O-line in 2006. That won't stop them from trying to re-sign non-import starters George Hudson and Pascal Cheron, neither of whom are in a hurry to climb aboard.
"I'm going to be very patient," said Cheron, who spoke contract with the team yesterday. "I'm in my seventh year, I know how it works. I'm not going to jump at the first offer, even if it was a good one. I'd say (the one made) was average.
"I left Hamilton because I was looking for respect. Money is respect in the CFL."
Indeed, the big cash is spent on veteran Canadians. Donnavan Carter, who is projected to be a starter but wasn't this year, will make six figures a season through 2009 after the deal he inked yesterday. A rookie in Toronto when Jenkins was the Argos offensive co-ordinator, Carter says the new coach knows what he wants and makes it clear to everyone.
"He's very confident," says Carter, who now plans to move from Mississauga and buy a house here.
Like Carter, DB Da'Shann Austin said he's also tired of moving, which is one of the reasons he became the fourth Renegade to forgo a shot at free agency yesterday.
"I didn't plan to get famous or rich rich in this league," said Austin, who signed for five years. "Money is overrated in life, period. It's about being happy. I feel I will be happy here."
Following the Texas Two-Step, hoping it leads to the Big Dance.
THE JENKINS FILE
Following is the coaching career of new Renegades coach John Jenkins:
1974-75: Offensive coordinator, Nacogdoches High School (Texas)
1976: Defensive coordinator, Arkansas High School (Arkansas)
1977-78: Secondary coach, University of Arkansas
1979-83: Linebacker coach, Mississippi State University
1984: Special teams/running backs coach. Houston Gamblers, USFL
1985: Offensive co-ordinator, Houston Gamblers
1986: Offensive co-ordinator, New Jersey Generals, USFL
1986: Offensive co-ordinator, University of Pittsburgh
1987-89: Offensive co-ordinator, University of Houston
1990-92: Coach/offensive co-ordinator, University of Houston
1993-94: Secondary coach/U.S. scout, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
1995: Offensive co-ordinator/U.S. scout, Birmingham Barracudas (CFL)
1996: Offensive co-ordinator/U.S. scout, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
1997-98: Offensive co-ordinator/U.S. scout, Toronto Argonauts
1999: Offensive co-ordinator, Milwaukee Mustangs (Arena Football League)
1999: U.S. Scout, Edmonton Eskimos
2000: Coach/offensive co-ordinator, Arkansas Twisters (AFL)
2001-02: Offensive co-ordinator/U.S. scout, Toronto Argonauts
2003: CFL scout (various teams)
2004: Offensive co-ordinator, Calgary Stampeders
2005: U.S. scout, Ottawa Renegades