Argos need Braley's guidance
David Braley, owner of the Toronto Argonauts. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency)
FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
, Last Updated: 8:17 PM ET
By the time the Argos are considered legitimate contenders, a process that is easily within reach in three-down football, Jim Barkerís finger prints will be everywhere. Coaching, quarterbacks, game planning, the team that eventually takes to the field will be hand-picked by Barker. By next year, itíll be make it or break it time for Barker, whose team created enough breaks last season to come to within one game of a Grey Cup berth. For those who watched the Argos closely last season, it was a year of smoke of mirrors, a year where everything that could possible go right went their way, a year when a CFL greenhorn quarterback in Cleo Lemon wasnít asked to win games, but simply manage them. It was all pleasant and at times romantic, but Torontoís 9-9 record provided a false sense of reality. In the end, the reality was that the Argos werenít that good. Itís why the pain and downright embarrassment needed to be experienced this season to gain a more proper perspective of the team that was assembled. Barker has to take the biggest responsibility, just like he was singled out last season as the CFLís coach of the year. At 4-11, the Argos are no longer in danger of being mentioned in the same breath of Bart Andrus or a Willie Wood, but the leash on Barker must grow tighter as next year approaches and as next season unfolds. For now, owner David Braley has been patient, watching and observing, much like he does when Barker makes his post-game media appearances at home games, which is what Braley did following last Fridayís 31-29 win over Calgary. Braley gave Barker the key to the franchise, but he must remain vigilant and be wary that too much change will take place. Clearly, the goal is next year and the 100th celebration of the Grey Cup. As Barker pointed out Friday night when he wasnít scolding a reporter for the audacity of raising a legitimate question concerning the teamís woeful attendance, the approach to the 2012 season is simple: ďNext year is vital.Ē But for the sake of the clubís long-term future, thereís no point in putting all of oneís eggs in one basket just because the Argos are bent on winning a title at home. It smacks of former owner David Cynamon pleading for a quarterback following a gut-wrenching loss to Winnipeg in the East final in 2007, the same year the Argos were set to host the Grey Cup like. The Argos got lucky in Cynamonís first year by winning the title when two of the gameís winningest head coaches in Don Matthews and Wally Buono made like John Huard. When Cynamon insisted on getting a new quarterback when Michael Bishop failed in 2007, the franchise took a step back. History has a way of repeating itself and Braley must ensure that the same missteps arenít taken. If Braley truly believes in Barker, he must maintain a more hands-on approach in how decisions get made and how players are held accountable. Braley simply must cut through the rhetoric and tough talk Barker invariably engages when he appears in post-game news conferences, especially at home when Braley is in attendance. It was a mistake to get rid of every quarterback he inherited when Barker took over the program last year late in the off-season. It was a mistake to hire inexperienced coaching assistants and the cloud he created when Lemon parted could have been avoided had transparency been exercised. Barker may or may not be the best guy to run the Argos franchise, but he is in charge and Braley has to do whatever is in the best interest of the club to ensure Barkerís ego doesnít get out of hand. Braley has a chance to leave a legacy and not just a trail of lost money when his ownership ends, likely following next yearís Grey Cup, assuming an owner surfaces or more likely a partnership involving the league and its main broadcast carrier in TSN. And while next year is a big year for the Argos franchise, a bigger issue is to establish a foundation for the future. Thatís where Braley must be more involved.