Argonauts roll the dice

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

The selection of Bart Andrus as the next coach of the Argos is curious, indeed.

So is the timing.

In a sport in which copying success has become the norm, Andrus may well turn out to be the next Marc Trestman, but then again, he could be the next Kay Stephenson.

The thing is, nobody, including the Argos, can be certain at a time in their history when they need to be certain.

They need Andrus to succeed where Rich Stubler and Don Matthews -- two legendary Canadian football figures -- could not. They need him to turn loser into winner, to captivate the public, to make people believe again.

And what this is, more than anything else, is a roll of the dice.

This is gambling, and that doesn't mean going for it on third down and one.

This is gambling with their names and their reputations.

The unfolding of the Argos coaching search has been, politely, quite unique.

Adam Rita, the general manager, and Greg Mohns, his trusted sidekick, came up with a list of 20 names before finally settling on Andrus.

Well, they didn't exactly settle on Andrus. Some coaches they wanted had no interest in being interviewed: See Tom Clements and Jim Fassel.

Some coaches, such as B.C. assistant Mike Benevides of Toronto, came in for three interviews, showed all kinds of enthusiasm, and when presented with a verbal offer decided after accumulating all those airlines points, that he didn't want to come home and coach the Argos.

The Argos had interest in Doug Graber, who, like Trestman, had taken a break from coaching, but Graber chose to become the assistant head coach at Ball State rather than the head coach in Toronto.

So today, the Argos will introduce Andrus as their head coach of choice -- only after a whole lot of other circumstances went awry.

They will call him an offensive genius. They will talk about how he made Steve McNair better in Tennessee when McNair was just a kid.

They will talk about his coaching in NFL Europe, where he won a World Bowl.

They will talk about Andrus being a players' coach and how well-regarded he is. They will say all that.

What they won't say is he wasn't going anywhere in the NFL.

He was an assistant offensive coach in Tennessee, which isn't as highly regarded a position as offensive co-ordinator or quarterbacks coach.

A RUNNING TEAM

He was an offensive assistant on a team that primarily ran the ball. The Titans were the 27th best passing team in the NFL. They were 21st in total offence, even with the best won-lost record.

Wide open and creative they were not. And while Andrus may have played a part in the development of McNair, what if any impact did he have in the lack of development of Vince Young?

None of this will be known until he takes over but we do know a few things:

* Steve Buratto, who has run poor offence's in recent years as Argos' offensive co-ordinator, will be back with the team. It will be Andrus' decision, though, whether Buratto holds the same position or a lesser position on the coaching staff next season.

* Finding staff with CFL experience won't be easy in mid-January. The majority of quality coaches already have jobs. Aside from a Dave Ritchie coming out of retirement, the head coaching changes in Hamilton, Winnipeg and Edmonton meant all three teams had the ability to add assistant coaches before the Argos did.

This is not easy stuff Andrus is inheriting.

There are few sure Argo things anywhere. The jury is out on Kerry Joseph as a quarterback and the Argos could use another running back and at least one quality import receiver.

That said, they need to revamp their offensive line, need to find a Canadian middle linebacker to replace Mike O'Shea, need safeties to play in their secondary, and that's just what's obvious.

The job is immense: And all this will be new to Andrus, the unique nature of Canadian football, the daily cadence of being a head coach in a major media market, a new game with new rules, new roster restrictions, new everything.

We wish him luck. He will need it.


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