Offence not holding up it's end

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

On a cold, autumn day at Erindale College, Kent Austin stands outside the Argos office wearing a track top and a T-shirt and feeling all kinds of heat.

"I don't view this as pressure," said the former quarterback who co-ordinates an Argos offence that does not seem all that coordinated.

"I have a job to do and all the questions are fair and valid."

The questions about why the Argos have two-thirds of a team capable of winning the Grey Cup seem everywhere these days. They have a defence that can play. They have winning special teams. And then, there's is Austin's offence: Two plays, a penalty, a turnover or a punt.

Or in the words of gifted wide receiver Tony Miles: "We mess up a lot."

This is difficult to explain for Austin, the longtime all-star quarterback, and seemingly it's just as difficult to execute for his charges.

The Argos have John Avery, who has called himself one of the best backs ever. They have the legendary quarterback Damon Allen, whose legend may be as much about longevity as it is about victories. They have a cast of receivers so skilled that, in Andre Rison football speak "the greatest of all time" has been shuffled off the roster.

They have all of that. What they can't do is score.

Austin tries to explain what hasn't happened in his first Argos season in control. How Avery was hurt, then Allen got hurt, then Miles got hurt, and others had to be shuffled from position to position in order to find their way.

Some of the reasons are legitimate. Some of them not. All of them are basically meaningless for Sunday's Eastern final in Montreal.

"We want everybody to say this is a mismatch," Austin said jokingly with a crooked smile. "That's the way we like it."

So far, the Argos talk a better offensive game than they play. There has been little rhythm this season, little reason to believe. When your biggest weapons on the football field are your kick returners and your punter, your offence isn't hurt, it's basically broken.

The Argos have practiced this week by turning the noise up to get used to the sounds of the Big O on Sunday and they played the part of paranoid football team, eliminating cameras from their sessions. That may all be sound preparation for the opportunity in Montreal but it is somehow reminiscent of a line attributed to the late, John McKay, the first coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

When asked about his team's execution, McKay retorted: "I'm all in favour of it."

By now, Austin probably feels the same way without saying so. His competence comes under question when so few touchdowns are scored. He knows the Canadian game, played it well, now feels what every coach feels sometime in their life.

The system is fine. It's now up to the players. Pinball Clemons rigorously defends his offensive coordinator. "The key is, he's got us to a point where we have a chance to win one game to go to the Grey Cup and that's what we've been talking about...Damon has to manage the game (better) and not turn the ball over."

If truth be told, Kent Austin would probably feel better if he was playing instead of coaching.

"As a quarterback, you're going to touch the ball 50-60-70 times a game," he said. "You have control of your destiny. As a coach, your destiny is in the hands of other guys."

Your destiny and sometimes your employment.


Videos

Photos