The shoe drops in Argoland

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

TORONTO - Jim Barker can't recall the exact moment, can't identify any specific game or a precise drive by the opponent's offence that led him to make a move many will interpret as a panic move.

As he tried to sleep following Thursday's 36-23 loss to the visiting Montreal Alouettes, a loss that marked Toronto's fifth straight, it dawned on Barker that something had to be done.

"I was going to sleep on it,'' Barker would begin as he discussed the dismissal of defensive co-ordinator Chip Garber, who was immediately replaced by defensive backs coach Orlondo Steinauer on Friday. "But I didn't sleep much.

"I don't know if it was three in the morning, four in the morning, I can't tell you the exact time, but there was a time when I said: 'I have to do this.'

"It would have been so much easier not to."

Something, clearly, had to be done with the Argos, who are a major disappointment at 1-5 following last season's remarkable turnaround under Barker.

The timing of Barker's call makes sense in that it comes with the Argos in the midst of a three-day break, at least for the players, before they next play a week Saturday in Hamilton.

It's hard to see, at least for now, how Steinauer will emerge as an improvement from Garber, but a new voice and a new beginning can't hurt.

Schematically, the Argos aren't going to all of a sudden change overnight in the way they play defence, but Steinauer has been groomed by coaches who loved to attack, play on an edge Garber's crew embraced on occasion.

Like Garber, Steinauer has limited coaching experience, brought in by Barker last season in his first CFL gig.

But Steinauer's knowledge of the CFL is deeper, his understanding greater and his appreciation of getting guys to make plays more pronounced.

Admittedly, Barker wanted to see his team play what he termed as the Argos' defence, which is to say Rich Stubler's defence of bending but not breaking, yielding yards but not points, forcing turnovers and ultimately scoring.

No player is as versed in the system as Steinauer, who lists Stubler as one of his primary teachers, though the two did have a falling out when Stubler was elevated to head coach.

Barker insisted during his availability that personnel is not an issue, which is why the Argos have basically lined up the same players from last year, give or take a few, injury related or otherwise.

"It's a change in leadership,'' Barker said. "It's a change in how we approach game planning and how we call games and some of the things we do, which may be foreign to Chip."

Garber was not Barker's first choice, just like Barker did not emerge as the team's first choice as head coach.

According to Barker, he was eyeing two other candidates to oversee his defence, the decision to go with Garber made on a recommendation from one of his coaches.

Given his background on the offensive side of the ball, Barker did not get involved in any of the team's defensive concepts, but he understood that his rebuild of the Argos had to begin with a strong defence to compensate for inexperience at the all-important quarterback position.

When leads weren't maintained, when stops had to be made on defence, Barker realized something had to be done.

The Montreal setback wasn't the final straw, but it provided yet further evidence of a defence that wasn't moving in the right direction.

"I just haven't seen that next step,'' Barker said of his defence. "I felt this was the right time to make this move.

"I don't even know how to put it. Orlondo will energize the group and bring in different ideas. His time has come."

Just as Barker came to the conclusion that the time had come to make a move.

If the Argos don't show any improvement in upcoming games against the Ticats and Saskatchewan, the time will be right to start making more moves as the team enters its two-week break.

Garber, when all is said and done, becomes the first shoe to drop.

Barker won't like to hear it, but Garber became a scapegoat because so much was expected from a defence that simply had little margin for error given the team's offensive shortcomings.

Chip Garber, by all accounts, is a good man, a hard-working coach who put in the necessary time in Argoland.

But something had to give.


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