Don walks away

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The zero staring back at Don Matthews convinced him that his legendary CFL coaching career was done.

A rather quiet locker-cleanout day at the Argonauts' practice facility yesterday took on a new life when Matthews emerged from his final meeting with the players and revealed that he had resigned as head coach.

"I'm going to step down and let somebody take it from here," an emotional but controlled Matthews said. "My time here is done.

"My thought was to come up here and try to affect the team, try to get some wins and change the attitude. Half of that I believe I accomplished, the other half I did not.

"I don't know if I have the ability to affect the team any more."

Matthews' third stint as Argos coach produced no victories, as the 69-year-old was 0-8 after he replaced the fired Rich Stubler on Sept. 9. Matthews has the most wins in CFL history with 231, but he became the first Argos head coach to register no wins since 1981, when Willie Wood went 0-10 before he was canned. Simply, Matthews was not the great coach that he had been in the past.

The Argos' season ended Thursday with a 45-38 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Toronto was 4-14, its worst record since 1995, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

General manager Adam Rita had said earlier in the day that he could endorse Matthews as coach next season. That's moot now.

"To a certain degree I'm surprised (Matthews resigned)," Rita said. "Don had high expectations. He understands we needed to win games and we didn't. He needed to do what he felt he needed to do (in stepping down), and that's fine."

Among the people the Argos might look at to replace Matthews are Calgary Stampeders associate head coach/offensive co-ordinator George Cortez,

Saskatchewan defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall and Danny Barrett, the associate head coach of the University of Buffalo.

"I have a picture in my mind of who I'm looking for, but it has to fit into the Argos picture," Rita said. "I'll meet with our executives and see what our choices are. Hopefully in the new year we will have a new coach, but it definitely will be after the Grey Cup."

Matthews, whose 231 regular-season wins are a CFL record, slammed the door on a return elsewhere. He said he had no regrets about coaching again, two years after he left the Montreal Alouettes for health reasons. Matthews said he would probably have made the same decision even if he had won a few games with Toronto.

"Colour me toasted," said Matthews, who heads to his Oregon home today. "My time is done. I have had a long and successful career. I would have been going out with a happier heart (had he won a few games)."

For the most part, Argos players were supportive of Matthews.

"He could motivate a cow to run in the Kentucky Derby," tackle Adriano Belli said. "He's still the best coach in the league, in my opinion. Guys like that don't ride off into the sunset. He would only be happy if he died with his headset on."

Linebacker Willie Pile said Matthews was a solidifying force in the locker room after Stubler was fired. But defensively, the Argos regressed under Matthews and though the offence improved, it's because quarterback Kerry Joseph got comfortable more than anything Matthews did.

But defensive end Riall Johnson, who lost his job as a starter under Matthews, had little good to say.

"A lot of changes he made did not work," Johnson said. "We were in the playoffs (when Matthews took over). A lot of us put our blood, sweat and tears into this team, and he came in said we had no money in the bank with him. That was pretty disrespectful."


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