Jim Barker doesn’t want to hear about the Argos past.
In that regard, he is exactly 180 degrees opposite of the Maple Leafs, who keep trying to sell the “glorious” past to the hockey-loving droves in this city.
And for that, the Argos head coach should be applauded.
The Argos recent past, like the Leafs recent past, is something both franchises should be ashamed of and reticent to bring up lest some of that bad karma from those failed seasons spill over on to the current regime.
But while the Leafs would have you ignore those years and skip right back to the sixties when they were actually winning Cups, Barker isn’t on board with looking back of any sort.
He wants his Argos judged on what they are doing now.
Barker chastised a reporter for even asking if it was getting a little old watching the defence have to carry this club as it has in the past and, which was suggested, was the case Friday night against Calgary again.
Barker pointed out, that in his opinion, it was his defence that stepped up against Calgary but the week before it was the offence shouldering the load in Winnipeg in the first win.
Agree with him or not, the point is these Argos are not last year’s Argos or any other years.
Three games into the season, they’re slowly starting to make the suffering Argos fans of the past few years forget about the seven wins versus 31 losses in the last two regular seasons.
In fact, the Argos head into Week 4 of the regular season in the unfamiliar position of looking down on most of the rest of the Eastern Conference.
For the first time since the end of the 2007 season, which also happens to be the last time before this past weekend that the Argos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won in the same week, the Argos are in first place, although it’s a spot they share with Montreal for the time being.
Barker has this team not just prepared to win football games, but believing they can as well, two distinct jobs.
He’ll be the first to tell you his job has barely begun, but the signs to this point are encouraging.
He has a running game thanks to the tireless Cory Boyd and a rejuvenated offensive line. He has a special teams unit that is not just giving him field position, but providing scores as well. Mike O’Shea has that department well in hand.
Even the gamble of going with an NFL castoff in Cleo Lemon at quarterback is showing signs of progress.
Lemon, while raw to the CFL, has the basic skill set that bodes well for quarterbacks in this league. He has a strong arm and he is mobile, although he has yet to really utilize that area of skill to any great advantage.
Still, in Lemon, Barker has not just a willing student, but one eager to embrace this game north of the border. He is a hard worker, a quick learner and a good teammate, all of which has made the transition easier.
One needs to look no further than Wednesday’s game against Calgary to know Lemon is still a work in progress, but there’s no doubt progress is being made.
And it’s going to have to continue if Barker’s plan is to come to fruition.
The East appears headed for a very tight finish. The Ticats, off to slow start, showed signs on Friday night that they are indeed a club worthy of pre-season first-place predictions.
The Alouettes, the team the Argos currently share first with have been the class of the division for years, but showed signs of vulnerability in going 2-1 to start the year on a West-coast road swing.
Winnipeg appears to be in a bit of trouble with Buck Pierce unavailable for at least the next game and likely more. He strained his right knee Friday in Hamilton and will be replaced by Steven Jyles until he heals. That’s a setback but you know a Paul LaPolice coached team isn’t going to stay down for long.
All the more reason for the Argos to keep looking forward.