Jim Barker has something in common with his predecessor after all.
Bart Andrus, fired after a 3-15 season as head coach of the Argonauts, used to talk about wanting his team to become like the Montreal Alouettes, a club that was solid in every spot in the roster and seemed to have an annual appearance in the Grey Cup.
For Barker, the Alouettes remain the standard-bearer in the Canadian Football League.
“They’re the defending Grey Cup champs, and until they’re dethroned, they’re the best team in the league,” Barker said. “For us, it’s a great opportunity to again see if we can play toe-to-toe with the best in the league.”
The Alouettes are 5-1, and if the Argos are able to pull off an upset victory on Saturday night at the Rogers Centre, the teams would be tied atop the East Division with 10 points each. But where the Als have enjoyed some lopsided wins, the Argos’ four wins have been decided by seven points or less.
At a time when the Als are fairly sure of what they’re about, the Argos continue to grow into themselves as they rebound from a couple of horrific seasons.
“They’re setting the tone for the East and now we have to model ourselves after them,” Toronto running back Cory Boyd said. “But at the same time, we don’t want to be them. We want to be greater and that’s our motivation, just to be better.”
Continuity would help, and in that regard, the Argos in two or three years might be where the Alouettes are now. Of the 46 players on the Als’ active roster, only nine have worn the colours of other Canadian Football League teams. By comparison, the Argos have 13 players who had been elsewhere in the CFL, and had 15 rookies on their 46-man roster.
It can take several years to build a champion, but it’s a process Barker began just six months ago.
And not every Argo will be looking over at the visitors on Saturday night and thinking of what the Double Blue could become.
“We have our own standards,” centre Dominic Picard said. “It’s all about us. I don’t have time to think about those guys. We’re 4-2 and what we’re building is good, but it’s not good enough. We couldn’t ask for anything more than getting the defending Grey Cup champs at our place. It’s going to be fun.”