Barker scrapes 'coach' off his plate

Argos GM Jim Barker, head coach Scott Milanovich and President & CEO Bob Nicholson at the news...

Argos GM Jim Barker, head coach Scott Milanovich and President & CEO Bob Nicholson at the news conference in Toronto. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:14 PM ET

The unveiling of Scott Milanovich as the Argos’ latest head coach was an important step in the club’s return to credibility at a time when so many have lost touch with three-down football.

Milanovich said all the right things, projected an image of leadership and accountability, qualities that must be embraced in his new post, spoke on how everything will be explored and how nothing will be taken for granted or given.

It would turn out to be the perfect introductory news conference for a guy who needs to establish so much in such a short period of time.

But what can’t get lost is how Jim Barker put aside his ego and basically took one for the team.

Barker came back to Hogtown refreshed and energized, his infectious style helping restore life into a lifeless team, his message so inspiring Barker was able to summon everything out of a roster that had more holes than many realized.

And now that Barker has relinquished one hat, he’s about to kick-start the franchise by beating the bushes, wearing his full-time hat as general manager and making moves.

Thursday’s official announcement of Milanovich represents the first of many that will reshape the franchise and if all goes according to plan, reinvigorate a market that simply demands both the sizzle and the steak.

It’s not enough to have a winning product in Toronto, not enough to simply come up with catchy slogans that walk the thin line of taste and decorum.

Three-down football in Toronto is such a different beast that even if the Argos provide all that is necessary to win over an audience, it still may not be enough.

Barker will now try, or at least try to provide Milanovich with all the pieces that are necessary to win and win over fans.

What was encouraging about Milanovich’s opening was how open he sounded in how he’ll handle his duties, how willing he is to understand the roster that gets assembled and how to put every piece into their right slot.

On his first day, at least in the public domain, Barker had that bite and that look he had when he came back to Toronto for the 2010 season.

The hope is that he continues to stir the pot, make enemies and do whatever is necessary to make the Argos a winner.

What Barker proved in Calgary when asked to procure talent is that he has the eye for players suitable for the CFL.

His time in Cowtown ended when John Hufnagel and Barker began to feud, which is all one needs to know when trying to make sense of the Chris Jones to Toronto affair.

Barker knows how to play the game and now his game is to find players, trade for players, scout players on offence, defence and on special teams.

“I wasn’t going to go through another year when I basically brought (too much) on to myself,’’ Barker said. “I knew there had to be changes.”

It began with Barker, who basically decided it was in the best interest of the Argos to not have Barker coach.

And now that the air has been cleared, the Argos can begin anew with Barker as general manager.

There’s a clear separation, a clear mandate, a clear message every player will see and notice.

No longer does Barker have to be the face of the franchise, no longer does he have to be part salesman, part coach, part general manager.

It became so obvious as the Argos were playing out the string that the load Barker had to carry became too onerous, too much when so little was being produced.

Now, he doesn’t have to appear on radio, go on television, be involved in some made-for-TV documentary.

Now, his job is be in the background, allow his rookie head coach to grow and surround Milanovich with players that give the team a chance.

Barker needed to step back, a move not many believed Barker was willing to make.

“It was towards the end of the season when I started to seriously evaluate where we were,’’ Barker said.

Some soul searching later, the realization was made that a new head coach was necessary.

Hats off to Barker, for turning in one hat and putting into action what he’s been preaching.

There are no guarantees in pro sports, but Barker has now guaranteed that all his efforts will be in player procurement, a move he simply had to make in order for the Argos to be relevant again.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca

 


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