Barker might shed coaching cap
By BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency
|Argonauts head coach Jim Barker reacts on the sidelines in the dying moments of their game against the Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ont., Aug. 13, 2011. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)
TORONTO - Jim Barker hinted Monday that he could step aside as coach of the Toronto Argonauts after the season.
As general manager of the 4-12 Boatmen, Barker indicated the next few weeks of a lost season will decide whose jobs are on the line. While saying the club has built a foundation for the future, he also said nobody’s job — including his own — is safe.
The Argonauts threw up another offensive cowpie in a weekend loss to Edmonton. Quarterback Steven Jyles says he’s still trying to get on the same page with receivers, but meantime looks like he’s not even reading from the same book.
The offensive line has had so many injuries, Barker’s next step may involve pulling names from a hat. And, 16 games into the season, the club is still looking for a go-to receiver, although if Mo Mann ever stops finding ways to hurt himself he might turn out to be the guy.
This is a team that has gone from nine wins to four, further alienating a fan base that has grown skeptical and absent.
“Maybe going through this forces you to make decisions that are tough to make when you’re winning. (Finding out) who can do what and where we need to improve,” said Barker. One of those decisions may involve stepping away from coaching to concentrate as GM on upgrading talent.
“We need to look at our entire organization, starting with me. We need to look at the head coach and the things he did,” said Barker, who was noncommittal when asked if he would be back as coach.
There has been speculation that Mike O’Shea could move into the top job after making an impressive debut as special teams coordinator. He is respected by the players, young and enthusiastic. The one question is whether he’d believe he could handle the job just two seasons removed from playing.
“I need to look at the coordinators and the assistants. The players. I need to look at the entire organization. My job is to take a step back as a coach and look at it as the general manager. I promise, every decision we make in the off-season will be about winning the Grey Cup next season and the general manager will evaluate everything including the head coach.”
Barker was the CFL coach of the year when the club won nine games in 2010. So, obviously it’s not a matter of being unable to coach. The team has won 14 games the past two seasons; double the number it won the previous two seasons.
So, progress has been made. Just not enough.
“It’s tough right now (to decide what to do) because we’re in the middle of the season. Once its over and I have time to reflect on everything; if I feel (giving up the coaching job) is the best course I’ll sit down with (owner David Braley and president Bob Nicholson).”
Building a foundation is nice. “I believe it takes three to five years. It’s been two years. We’re similar to where Winnipeg was last year and now they’ve got a chance to go to the Grey Cup. It’s not that far between top and bottom,” said Barker.
But he knows the football public wants more than a foundation.
“Fans are about winning games ... when the fans are unhappy, there’s an uproar and it’s blow it up and start over. That’s what it’s all about with fans. It’s the nature of what we do. I get that.”
So, he needs to build a team with more consistency everywhere, from quarterback to the offensive line, and it needs Barker to find someone who can be a big-play receiver. That guy can no longer be Jeremaine Copeland, and as great a guy as Mike Bradwell is, let’s face it: he’s no Arland Bruce.
“We need guys who can make big plays. Mike Bradwell played a great game (against Edmonton) and you know, he’s an example of a guy, ahhh, he made some great blocks,” Barker said. “We had the one throw in the end zone, was it Steven’s fault, yeah, it could’ve been a better throw. Could (Bradwell) have made the play. I’m sure he could have. It’s those kind of things. Bradwell is going to be here. He’s a good player. We, across the receiving board, need to find guys who can make plays. That’s the No. 1 thing.”
Finding players who can do that No. 1 thing in Double Blue might seem a full-time job. Barker loves coaching and the interaction with players. Question is, if becoming just GM makes this a better team, does he love winning more?