Argos look to the past

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Call it the Don of a new, old era in Argoland.

On a week the Argos were planning to unveil their retro look for Friday's game against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers to celebrate the 1950 Mud Bowl, the underachieving squad decided to dip into their past by hiring Don Matthews and dismissing first-year head coach Rich Stubler.

The move to replace Stubler with Matthews makes so much sense that is begs the question why it took this long for the Argos to finally take the plunge.

It was Stubler's defence that basically carried an inept offence for years and it was his scheme that essentially propelled the team to its Grey Cup triumph in 2004.

But Stubler, in the final analysis, was in over his head as head coach, someone who simply was given too much control.

Some would argue that Stubler was too much of a control freak who alienated the team's front office and who could not manage a team.

Enter Matthews, the CFL's winningest head coach who returns to Toronto for the third time.

The Argos, as currently constituted, were going nowhere and have turned to Matthews, whose history of turning around foundering clubs is second to none.

Admittedly, Matthews doesn't know much of the players, but his familiarity with the club's management team played a huge factor in his decision to unretire.

"I am behind,'' Matthews said at his unveiling. "But it's not rocket science and I will catch up."

Matthews has been around long enough to know it's not how teams start, but how they finish that determines Grey Cup champions.

At 4-6, the Argos can basically wrapup second place in the East with a win against a reeling Bombers team on Friday.

Barring some complete collapse, the Montreal Alouettes seem destined to play host to the Eastern final.

Ironically, the Als employed Matthews when he last presided over a team.

In the latter stages of his tenure in Montreal, Matthews suffered from an anxiety issue that required medication.

He says he's fine, but given Matthews' medical history and the Argos' thinking short-term, it's not likely Matthews will be back next season.

Then again, Matthews never thought he'd be on the sidelines after he announced his retirement 21/2 years ago.

Argos executive Mike (Pinball) Clemons, who handpicked Stubler to succeed him, stood on the sidelines for the team's past two games, including Sunday's blowout loss in Montreal.

Despite rumours and a published report that Stubler's job was in jeopardy two weeks ago, Clemons said the decision to axe Stubler wasn't made until late Monday night.

"It's never one game, one situation, it's a body of evidence in this case,'' Clemons said. "It was the direction and how fast we were getting there."

Stubler refused to comment on his firing.

"I have no statement," Stubler said in an e-mail.

Matthews, when he first coached the Argos in 1990, hired Stubler as an assistant.

Current offensive line coach Bill MacDermott was also on Matthews' 1990 staff.

Matthews has worked with offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto and coached defensive co-ordinator Kavis Reed and special teams coach Marcello Simmons.

Argos general manager Adam Rita, who replaced Matthews in 1991, knew Matthews was the right choice when his mentor and close friend spoke so passionately about possibly returning.

"His past speaks for itself,'' Rita said of Matthews. "But it's the future we're most concerned with."

Suddenly, that future is now as Matthews attempts to clean up the mess Stubler left behind and tries to restore the swagger the Argos once exuded.

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THE DON OF HEAD COACHES

1983-87

B.C. LIONS

1990

ARGONAUTS

1991

ORLANDO THUNDER (WLAF)

1991-93

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

1994-95

BALTIMORE STALLIONS

1996-98

ARGONAUTS

1999-2000

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

2002-2006

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

2008

ARGONAUTS

Won Grey Cup in 1985 (B.C), 1995 (Baltimore), 1996 and 1997 (Argos), and 2002 (Montreal).


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