Austin holds no grudges

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

The scapegoat returns to the scene of the firing, only Kent Austin isn't about to blame anyone.

Not Ricky Williams. Not Pinball Clemons. Not Adam Rita. Not anybody, for gosh boring sakes.

The man is that humble. The man is that nice. A year ago yesterday, Austin was fired as offensive co-ordinator of the Argonauts, ostensibly because a certain high-priced NFL drug exile wasn't panning out.

"It's pretty clear that blaming Kent for their lack of productivity in 2006, especially after Damon (Allen) was injured in the opening series of the first game, was scapegoating in its purest form," said Eric Tillman, the general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who wasn't unhappy that the Argos fired Austin.

At the time he said that, Tillman was working on television and Austin wasn't working all. One year later, Tillman is running the Green Riders and Austin, the first-year head coach, will be on his way to Toronto for Friday Night Football.

"It was the ultimate example of: 'I confess ... it's his fault,' " Tillman said of Austin's firing. "It was an attempt to absolve others of their responsibilities for bringing in Ricky Williams and (quarterback) Spergon Wynn. Given those two have taken zero snaps this year, I think it's pretty clear what happened."

Austin would like to thank the Argos for the opportunity, which tells you a lot about Kent Austin. He lists Pinball and Rita and Keith Pelley and the Argos owners as his friends. He loves just about everybody.

"I didn't leave with any animosity," Austin said. "You can talk to anybody. I felt like I gave a lot to them, and they gave a lot to me.

"It has been a year. A lot of time has gone by. Life doesn't always work out the way you think it should or think it might. It doesn't mean that it's a negative."

This is the second consecutive Argos offensive season that almost defies logic. A year ago, Allen got hurt on the third play of the season and Ricky took the money and didn't run. This season, Allen, Michael Bishop and Mike McMahon already have started games and Rocky Butler, traded away by Tillman, makes it four different quarterback starters in seven games for the Double Blue.

The difference in the two Argos seasons: There is no high-profile running back making huge money with out-of-control expectations.

"I knew it was a tough situation," Austin said. "When Ricky came in, there were wild predictions. He was going to run for 2,000 or 3,000 yards. The way our offence was constructed, the way our team was constructed, that just wasn't going to happen.

"We had built a finesse team with Damon being the key. We couldn't change that."

So, Austin was sacrificed in mid-season, only to emerge in the hottest seat in Canadian football. At least as an Argos coach, he could hide in Toronto. Especially as an assistant coach.

But there is no hiding in Regina. It's too small and too absorbed.

It's Green Bay without the charm. It's Buffalo radio after a Bills game. It's 24-hour consumption of minutia, and who might back up Wes Cates at running back.

"The entire community is invested in this team," Austin said. "Sometimes, the pendulum swings too far in one direction or too far in the other. They're either too excited or too negative. At the end of the day, we're all pulling for the same thing."

This happens to be a good week. The Riders are coming off an impressive win over the previously unbeaten B.C. Lions. The teams below them -- the Stampeders and Eskimos -- are playing like they are going to stay below them. The 4-2 Roughies are coming to Toronto to play the 2-4 Argos and a quarterback they had no use for.

Austin likes Rocky Butler, but why not? He likes everybody. He'll like him even better if he passes the ball to both teams, the way he did against Montreal. At 5-2, and with the Argos dropping to 2-5, Austin would have the last laugh.

If only he were that kind of guy.


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