Argos can't get QB wrong

Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris reacts after a reciever misses a pass during a game against the...

Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris reacts after a reciever misses a pass during a game against the Eskimos in Calgary, Alta., Nov. 13, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:29 PM ET

TORONTO - Scott Milanovich has work to do and he wants to get to it as soon as possible.

Milanovich, the Argos’ new head coach, while saying all the right things about his new team — “They’re not that far away,” and “There’s plenty of talent here”— knows changes have to be made and the sooner he gets at those changes, the sooner those previous statements aren’t met with eye rolls.

First on his agenda is filling out his coaching staff. That process is well underway. Expect former Calgary defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones to sign on sometime soon and potentially half of Marc Trestman’s old staff in Montreal to join soon after. Here’s hoping Mike O’Shea sticks around to handle the special teams, but there is every chance that opportunities to advance will take him elsewhere.

However, the very next — and, from this corner, the most important — decision Malinovich has to make is on his quarterback. And on that front, he is going in with a completely open mind.

Officially, Steven Jyles has not yet received a contract extension until the Argos announce it. But as with the Milanovich hiring, sometimes the team’s agenda and the leak of information don’t jive.

So, taking the published reports that Jyles has already been extended to the tune of between $200,000 and $250,000 US a year, it would appear Milanovich already has his starting QB.

But ask the new head coach, and that has yet to be determined. Milanovich isn’t prepared to say anything about Jyles because he knows next to nothing about him at this point.

“I really don’t have an answer for that,” Milanovich said when asked if he thought Jyles still had plenty to show. “I’ve got (staff) digging up tape of every game he has played in the last two years and I’m going to watch every one of them. After that, I will have a better feel.

And of course I need to speak with him. I’ve not even met him. My understanding (from people who do know him) is his mental capacity and grasp of the game is phenomenal, so that’s going to help. But until I sit down and watch and see how he anticipates and how he gets rid of the ball, I really can’t answer that.”

So, yes, perhaps Jyles has had his contract extended at a price that would seem to suggest bringing in another quarterback — well, hello there, Henry Burris — is unlikely, but next year isn’t like any other year for the Argos. The push is on, not just to put a dreadful 2011 behind them, but to build a team that can possibly host and play in the 100th Grey Cup here in Toronto next November.

Owner David Braley has already taken on a bigger budget for the Argos front office and coaching staff. Jim Barker, who carried two jobs last year, will be solely GM this year and if he is taking a pay cut, only he and Braley know. But even if he has, it will not be anywhere near to what the team will pay Milanovich, so last ear’s budget has already been exceeded.

Throw in the expected high-profile hiring of Jones from Calgary — who is expected to earn more than either Chip Garber or Orlondo Steinauer were making last season — and you’re looking at another payroll bump.

What we’re saying is that the Argos look at the opportunity next season as one they have to jump at. And if it means throwing more money at it, then so be it.

All of which is our way of saying that Burris is not out of the quarterback picture just yet.

Milanovich knows the importance of a QB to a team and is making it his No. 1 priority once he does get around to the roster. If there is going to be an area the Argos pull the purse strings a little tighter on, it’s not going to be at quarterback.

Already, by getting out of the box early and grabbing the cream of the coaching crop, the Argos have managed to amp up the hope in not just their fan base but among the veterans on the team.

Argos defensive line stalwart Rickey Foley has seen first hand what Milanovich’s offences are like and the prospect of having that offence working for him and giving him a breather rather than working against it is music to his ears.

Ultimately, which quarterbacks show up in training camp will be Jim Barker’s decision. The general manager will now have all his attention on the procurement and signing of personnel for the team and on that front he is confident. The quarterback depth, as it is for Malinovich, is priority No. 1 for Barker.

“Those are things I am currently working on and I think I do this well,” Barker said. “It’s my job to make it work. To get us a team that, when we line up, people don’t look at us and say: ‘Wow, they need this’ or ‘They’re really weak here.’ I understand we have some issues in terms of some positions and it’s my job to go out and fill those.”

Identifying talent is not a perfect science and Barker, like the rest of us, is not perfect. He’ll make his mistakes, but he can’t make a mistake on his QB.

He’s got Malinovich in-house to make the best use of whatever talent he brings in, but if the Argos are to start making real strides towards respectability, he has to provide Malinovich with a good one.

Whether that’s Jyles or someone else, we should know soon enough.


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