Argos assistant first to go?

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

The defence is hoping to rest.

As the Grey Cup champion Argos cleaned out their lockers yesterday, the possibility existed that several key members of their stellar defensive unit may not be back because of possible opportunities with other clubs or leagues.

Defensive co-ordinator/assistant head coach Rich Stubler has been rumoured as a possible candidate for the vacant Edmonton Eskimos' head coach position -- although the early frontrunner appears to be the team's offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia.

Stubler has previous assistant coaching experience with the Eskimos, but was bypassed in 1999 when Edmonton searched for a head coach and settled on Don Matthews. As of yesterday Stubler had not been contacted by the Eskimos, who need permission from the Argos because he's under contract.

"I have a great job, being in the best position in the entire world, working for the best owners and the best head coach in the league," Stubler said. "I have the best job in the world. I'll leave it at that."

The defensive players want Stubler back.

"For us, he's everything," defensive tackle Noah Cantor said. "He kept this team together; he kept our defence together. If we talk about family (the defence's motto), he's the leader of that family. I think a lot of guys would be very upset if he left."

Defensive back Clifford Ivory said Stubler is the "daddy" of the team and the players are the "children."

"Without him we don't function," Ivory said. "He brings home the money, he brings home the bacon. He brings it all. We've got to have him."

Linebacker Mike Fletcher, who first played for Stubler in college at Oregon, said the coach means more to the team than just the defensive unit.

"Guys really respect him," Fletcher said. "(But) I know it's a great opportunity if he has that opportunity to take that role (in Edmonton)."

Stubler aside, the Argos have several key free-agent players including Ivory and fellow defensive backs Kenny Wheaton and Chuck Winters, cornerback Adrion Smith, defensive end Eric England and linebacker Kevin Eiben.

"I'm an Argo for life now," Ivory proclaimed.

Eiben may have the most marketability because he has proven himself as a starting Canadian, which matters in the delicate balance of the import/non-import ratio.


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