An appealing selection

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

All dressed up in shirt and tie--"they made me" -- and Rich Stubler still looks like hell and sounds like hell.

He is not a tie guy.

"I have two suits and three ties," the new Argos coach said yesterday. "I just bought a new shirt yesterday. My closet is basically blue and white, T-shirts and shorts."

Stubler will replace Pinball Clemons as coach. He won't replace the wardrobe.

There is this nasty gash above his left eye and his voice barely was working (victim of a Monday laser treatment) at yesterday's news conference.

LOSE THE TIE

His first piece of business is to lose the tie. His second piece of business is to heal his throat and get his stitches out. His third, maybe the most difficult, is to begin the healing process for a football team fractured and hurting.

Here is the rub. Stubler is a defensive wizard, probably the best defensive coach on the best defensive team in the CFL. But he is moving to become head man of a team badly divided between defence and offence, between Stubler's boys and an offence that no one wanted to claim.

"That's the challenge," said Michael Fletcher, the all-star linebacker. "Bringing this team together. I know the offence doesn't go out there and try to try to screw up on purpose. We had guys who didn't understand the playbook. Things like that ... That's what's frustrating. We didn't think everybody was pulling their weight.

"When you have one or two units (defence and special teams) that totally understand what they're doing and the other side is a bit more challenged ... That's been the norm around here for the previous five years."

This is the new Argos dilemma: They've hired a defensive coach to fix an offensive problem. That can work sometimes. Bill Belichick, who is now just about the best coach there ever was, grew up on defence and, in New England, has operated as successful an offence as football has ever seen. Don Matthews, a defensive coordinator in Edmonton, went on to become one of the great offensive coaches in CFL history.

Now it's Stubler's turn to find his place, the first real shot for a coaching lifer, who has been doing this for only the past 38 years at almost every level and every league. His defensive players adore him. Many of them filled the back of the trailer where they made the announcement official yesterday. A few of the offensive players showed up also, almost as a sign of good faith, hoping some of his magic rubs off on them.

For Stubler, who was passed over by the Argos memorable hiring of Gary Etcheverry seven years ago, there is much fence-mending to be done. And it could get more complicated if long-time friend (isn't everyone in the CFL friends?) and offensive coordinator Steve Buratto heads to Montreal to become head coach.

"If we get our offence (going), we could go 17-1," Fletcher said. "Why shouldn't we expect our offence to score 25 or 30 points a game? Everybody else is doing it? Our personnel is just as good."

Stubler wants to win. He doesn't care by how many points. He doesn't, like Belichick, want to prove something to the world. He wants one more point than the opponent at the end of every game: Coach Pragmatic.

And he wants a team continuity. He had it on defence, didn't have it on offence. The offence was rarely the same from game to game. The Argos used four different starting quarterbacks, four starting running backs, about a dozen different receivers overall.

Also to be put on hold, Stubler's lifelong love affair with golf. "My golf game," the new coach said, "is about to go down the toilet."

If his football team works out fine, the rest he is willing to live with.


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