Football mercy killing

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 5:41 AM ET

TORONTO -- There is only one thing clear in the rather muddy world of the Toronto Argonauts: Bart Andrus has been relieved of his coaching duties.

That wasn't so much a firing as it was a football mercy killing.

On the list of inept all-time Argo coaches, Andrus will take his rightful place alongside Willie Wood, Dennis Meyer, John Huard and the third coming of Don Matthews.

But at least the coaching situation is known. Hardly anything else about the Argos is what you would call certain.

The owners, Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, may or not continue on. They have been about as clear about their football future in Toronto as Andrus was with his last-minute decision-making in games. We don't know whether they will a) stay on; b) sell the team to David Braley; c) find another sucker (buyer) for the team.

Sokolowski and Cynamon were rather prominent in the hiring of Andrus and were front and centre at his hiring press conference. Yesterday, which is never a good sign, they were nowhere to be found. Sokolowski did not return messages left for him to return both by telephone and e-mail, which is unusual by his standards of decency.

And that, by itself, seemed telling enough -- if only we knew what they were telling us.

So if we're keeping score, we know that Andrus isn't coaching the Argos anymore but we don't know 1) Who will own the team; 2) Where they will play their games; 3) Who the general manager and personnel man will be; 4) Who the next coach will be; 5) How in heck they are going to find someone not named Kerry Joseph to play quarterback; 6) What the timeframe will be to get any of this done?

Other than that, all is well.

Under normal circumstances, the firing of a coach is handled by the general manager, but these are anything but normal circumstances for the Argos. Adam Rita, the general manager for the moment, wasn't at the firing announcement, but he did announce the hiring. Team president Bob Nicholson, who didn't hire Andrus, was left to announce the coach firing. Rita, Nicholson says, remains the GM. For how long, we don't know. We don't know because Nicholson wouldn't say and Rita didn't return the telephone message left for him yesterday.

So the co-owner isn't talking, the GM isn't talking, the coach has been fired and Roy Halladay has apparently been traded away, but other than that we're not sure.

It's either Rogers Centre or BMO Field and small end zones. All of that is under consideration. Nicholson says he definitely wants a head coach with Canadian Football League experience (how's that for a novel approach?) and preferably one with head coaching experience.

This from a team trying to remain relevant while behaving as vaguely as possible.

A truth about these Argos: Vince Lombardi couldn't have been successful coaching this year's roster. They were that thin, that undermanned on offence. Andrus might not have had a clue about ratios, the value of Canadians players, three-down football, the significance of special teams in the CFL, trading away stars or what to do with your kicker in the final minute of close games, but he was almost as exposed by players who just weren't good enough as he was by his own failings as a head coach.

Rita and Greg Mohns were responsible for the roster. Firing the coach and not firing the people who brought the players in renders yesterday's decision somewhat meaningless. The Argos have won three of their past 26 games since firing Rich Stubler one year and two months ago. Three of 26? Those players brought to you by Rita and Mohns: Why would a coach of any consequence take a job with the Argos with those fine gentlemen in charge?

The Argos had a chance to clear the deck yesterday. They had no choice but to punt the coach. But they had two more kicks left in them with the clock still running -- and as usual, fumbled away the opportunity.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


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