Barker an intriguing hire

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

With the soon-to-be official hiring of Jim Barker by the Argonauts as head coach this morning, a large question remains.

Why Barker, a man with solid Canadian Football League credentials, but not a lot of experience patrolling the sideline?

Twice Barker has been a head coach in the CFL, and neither short tenure produced a bucketful of great memories.

In 1999, Barker coached the Argos to a 9-9 record and was fired when Sherwood Schwarz bought the team. Four seasons later in Calgary, Barker had a 5-13 mark with the Stampeders and was canned.

One cant help but wonder whether Barker, the vice-president of football/director of player personnel with the Stamps, will hold down the Argos coaching job for a year and be promoted to general manager when Adam Ritas contract expires. After all, within the past few weeks, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers thought enough of Barker to interview him for their GM job, which went to Joe Mack.

Who knows? Maybe the Argos will name Barker as their GM as well and give Rita a personnel job.

The choice of Barker is intriguing, simply based on what has happened in the past couple of weeks. The Argos initially offered the job to Scott Milanovich, who has a history with Barker. Milanovich turned the Argos down to remain with the Montreal Alouettes as their assistant coach/offensive co-ordinator, but there was the general belief that had Barker been hired by the Bombers, he would have turned to Milanovich as his head coach.

It might seem like a stretch now, but it would not be a surprise if that scenario plays out in Toronto in a year. In 2003 in Calgary, Barker hired Milanovich as an assistant.

What made Barker more attractive than former Bombers head coach Doug Berry or Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall? Argos president Bob Nicholson, who also has a history with Barker, refused all queries on the matter on Monday.

Barker had a solid string of procuring offensive talent in Calgary, from getting Joffrey Reynolds on the Stamps negotiation list years ago to being responsible for the additions of players such as Ken-Yon Rambo and Jeremaine Copeland.

One bonus of bringing Barker into Argoland is that he will require no time to brush up on free agents, who become available in a week, and he should have plenty of material for the 2010 draft, in which the Argos hold the first pick. However, Barker wont have a lot of choices to fill out his coaching staff, though many will not be shocked if defensive co-ordinator Peter Kuharchek is re-hired.

There might not be the same confidence in the futures of assistant GM Greg Mohns and Canadian scouting co-ordinator Miles Gorrell. Bart Andrus was bad in his only year as Argos head coach, but he had zero to do with the 4-14 record in 2008. Could a club that is 7-29 in the past two seasons combined really only change the coach? No. More moves have to be made personnel-wise for the Argos to advance. This group has had its chance, and for the past two years, failed.

Fluid offence

Barker helped build the 2008 Grey Cup champion Stamps.

Only assumptions can be made of what kind of team Barker will put on the field. With a combined mark of 14-23 in two seasons that were four years apart, there is not a lot to draw on. But if Barker wants to bring to mind his days as an offensive co-ordinator with the Argos and later the Als, expect an offence that is fluid and has the ability to score.

With Kerry Joseph all but officially done in Toronto, Barkers first job will be to acquire a capable QB.

All told, few could argue with Barkers experience in football. Its vast, and he has been at it for more than three decades, just not as a CFL head coach. And when someone goes seven years between head-coaching jobs? Thats rare in professional sport, and it makes the impending hiring a bit puzzling.

As for the ownership, David Braley on Monday was not yet comfortable with putting a deal for a sale before the CFL board of governors for its approval. His taking over of the team, however, from David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski could be just hours, if not days, away.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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