Almost from the day he was hired there was a sense Rich Stubler was the wrong choice to coach the Argonauts.
There was the belief he couldn't get along with those he worked with.
There was the belief that he stubbornly refused to listen to advice -- even from those who had been there before.
There was a belief that, as much as he was grand and in control as just about the best defensive co-ordinator in Canadian Football League history, he was not in any way up to the job of being a head coach and all that it entails.
The Argos brass and ownership suspected all this in training camp, were aware of it in early season, almost made the move before Labour Day and then finally pulled the plug yesterday on one of the shortest coaching reigns in modern professional sporting history.
Ten games. The Argos weren't willing to live another day with Stubler and yesterday was not a happy day for anyone. Stubler did not take his firing well. He had reason to be paranoid and it came to pass -- something his offence couldn't do.
He didn't, in the end, get along with Adam Rita, the general manager. He didn't get along with Brad Watters, the Argos chief operating officer. He didn't get along with Steve Buratto, the offensive co-ordinator he didn't choose. And outside of the Argos dressing room, where the long-time defensive players still hold him in high regard, there was almost no support elsewhere.
In a sad way, Stubler was sabotaged by those around him who couldn't help themselves, and in just as sad a way he was a co-conspirator of his own demise. The quarterback controversy that began his coaching reign was not of his doing. He didn't ask for Kerry Joseph, that was a David Cynamon-Pinball Clemons deal. Stubler had been told he was in charge of his roster.
IT WAS A LIE
Only that proved to be a lie.
When he couldn't make sense of the Joseph-Michael Bishop, two-men and-one-quarterback situation, rather than make a decision, he tried to appease both players and the team blew up around him because of it. It took almost nine weeks for Stubler to announce Joseph as his starting quarterback, the kind of decision normally made at the beginning of camp. But it took just as much time for him to settle on a defensive lineup and a defensive structure -- the kind of things that made him noteworthy as a coach in the first place.
But there was little noteworthy about this 36-year wait to become a head coach, and that, too, is so unfortunate. This is not a bad man or a bad coach. This is time and a team gone awry. Maybe, like some co-ordinators, Stubler never would have made it as a head coach. That much we'll likely never know. But here, he was thoroughly defeated, internally and externally. If a football team is supposed to take on the personality of its head coach, the Argos personality this season has been confusion.
The great Argos defence isn't a great defence anymore.
The great special teams -- Dominique Dorsey aside -- aren't so great anymore.
The troubled offence -- the one area he had to repair to move this team to championship status -- never was repaired.
And even in this, there are some mitigating circumstances that were out of Stubler's control. He wanted Tyrell Ebell to be his running back and traded a quality cornerback, Jordan Younger, to bring Ebell to Toronto. But Ebell tore his Achilles tendon in training camp and never did play a game for Stubler. He wanted the NFL reclamation project, David Boston, to be his go-to receiver and to have former NFL speedster Bethel Johnson lining up beside him. But Boston came to camp injured and may never play again. Johnson has done almost nothing, but his success was also tied to Boston being a load to cover.
The offence Stubler talked about in winter never did materialize in summer. The Argos staples -- heart and soul players like Noel Prefontaine, Younger, Orlondo Steinauer -- all were let go or sent elsewhere in an attempt to make the team better. None of it worked.
For now, until he mysteriously departs, this is Don Matthews' team again. He is the author of great beginnings and unexplained endings. With Rich Stubler, it was never quite so complicated. The beginning and the necessary end was well explained by anyone who watched the Argos play.