'My job was to try to fix the team'

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

In Don Matthews' world, winning with the Argonauts in 2008 hasn't been everything, never mind not coming anywhere near to being the only thing.

An 0-6 record since he returned as head coach hangs around Matthews' neck as the Argos head into their penultimate game of the season tomorrow night in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions, and there will be no Argos presence in the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

But Matthews, who has four fewer wins than Rich Stubler, the man he replaced, said he will not consider his return a failure if Toronto doesn't win before the season is done.

"No, hopefully that is not what happens," Matthews said yesterday. "My job was to try to fix the team as best I could. There were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made. Maybe it took someone from the outside to do it because there were so many people with long histories."

If the Argos lose to the Lions and on Thursday to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Matthews, who has more wins (231) than any other coach in CFL history, will become the first Argos coach since 1981 to get no wins, when Willie Wood was fired after starting 0-10. Matthews likes to talk about making changes and seeing improvement, but Stubler had started the process prior to being axed. He let safety Orlondo Steinauer go in August and had started to phase out linebacker Michael Fletcher, and had began to make adjustments to the defensive schemes when he was fired on Sept. 9. Under Matthews, there has been no upgrade offensively -- the Argos are last in most of the categories -- and the opposition has averaged 412 yards a game on offence. That's a shade higher than the 406 yards the Argos allowed on average under Stubler.

So maybe Matthews, who said the Argos approximately are "90%" in place for next season as far as players are concerned, sees something that an untrained football eye can not. But a couple of wins would have been a nice way to prop up the argument that good things are just around the corner.

Matthews said his history speaks for itself when he was asked again if he wants to come back to the Argos sideline for 2009.

"Whether I coach more or I don't, my resume is what it is," Matthews said. "I don't have any regrets on anything I have ever done. I don't have to worry about what I am going to do. I have 30 years in, so whatever I do is not going to impact the last 30 years very much."

The Argos might have one thing going for them against the Lions. In their previous meeting, a 24-20 Lions win at the Rogers Centre on Oct. 3, Toronto was able to contain CFL sack king Cameron Wake for much of the game, and he recorded just one sack. Wake has a league-best 20 sacks, and teammate Brent Johnson is tied for second with 10.

"We played well against him, but we did not win," Argos tackle Brian Ramsay said. "We have to play him better. You can give up no sacks and lose and it does not mean anything. We're not a numbers group. We want to win, and stopping him is a part of it."


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