Five challenges for Milanovich
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|New Argos head coach Scott Milanovich gets a hug from his wife, Jaime, at a press conference in Toronto, Ont., Dec. 1, 2011. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Scott Milanovich’s to-do list in the wake of his appointment as Argos head coach:
1. It’s as obvious as what ails the Argos, an area that doomed Jim Barker from the beginning of his second go-round as Boatmen boss. Assistant coaches. When Barker got hired two years ago late in the off-season process, he went with inexperience and discovered a gem when he made Mike O’Shea special teams co-ordinator. Now that Milanovich is officially on the job, he’ll surround himself with experience and familiarity, which always happens when timing does not become an issue, which it did with Barker.
Whether you like the smell of Chris Jones’ departure from Calgary, there’s no better man for an aggressive defence than Jones, whose system needs cover corners and halfbacks who’ll make plays in man coverage. Poaching is somehow perceived as bad, but it’s the way the game gets played, the only way a competent staff gets picked. Marcus Brady will get promoted to offensive co-ordinator and so much of Orlondo Steinauer’s fate will be based on whether O’Shea becomes a head coach, either with Saskatchewan or Hamilton.
2. Hopefully Milanovich, when he’s done reviewing film on the Argos, will realize there are no receivers worthy of go-to status. Hopefully Milanovich turns to Barker and tells him to bring in receivers who can make plays in the air, when a ball gets caught and yards are needed. If the Argos truly are committed to being Grey Cup contenders, then Jeremaine Copeland must be released and Chad Owens must see the field on offence in formations that get him the ball in space. Andre Durie, while evolving, should be a third option. Maurice Mann, who was acquired from the Ticats in a trade for Dee Webb, will make the occasional play, but he’s not a go-to guy. The trade option is the only way the Argos will address this need given how pathetic the franchise has been in actually identifying a receiver and developing him.
3. Cory Boyd will either be traded or be used as a legitimate featured back, which means he has to get a minimum of 20 touches a game, whether it’s as a running back or as a receiving threat. The Argos were simply incompetent in their use of Boyd, who wears his emotions on his sleeve and who clearly needs to be told he’s the guy by getting him the rock. We’ll see how serious Milanovich is when he said during his introductory news conference that he’s open to any ideas. Boyd can run routes and he’s pretty good as a receiver, but the Argos never utilized this weapon last season when Boyd missed a handful of games, giving Chad Kackert playing time. Boyd is both a force and an asset Argos must consider when reshaping their offence. If Milanovich deems it’s best to go with a Durie/Kackert backfield combo, then perhaps Boyd may fetch that long-awaited deep threat who can actually hold on to the football.
4. Changing a culture doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible and achievable. Barker was successful in his first year, but several players would later confide that the leash they were under became longer this past season when certain players were able to get away with indiscretions that were not tolerated in 2010. Obviously, this can’t be judged until training camp opens and when games get played, but insights will be gleaned by watching who gets signed and who gets released. A guy like Claude Wroten, who made an impact early in his CFL debut, is one player worth watching as the off-season unfolds. There was a lot of turmoil along the line of scrimmage for the Argos, who basically were dependent on their defence to keep them competitive. It’s no secret players had agendas that led to break downs in communication.
5. Anything is possible when a new coaching regime take over, including the guy who ultimately lines up under centre. It made no sense for Milanovich to engage in any speculation and he stayed clear of any potential problem whenever the issue of quarterback was raised. Anyone with half a brain can see that Steven Jyles is a run-first quarterback who has problems going through his progression. He makes all the throws, but playing quarterback is more than making throws. Milanovich knows that more than anyone and he has to find the guy to run Toronto’s new offensive system. It may turn out to be Jyles, but there’s plenty of work that awaits for a quarterback who appears best served as a change of pace pivot because of Jyles’ ability to make plays with his feet. If there’s one position Milanovich is most comfortable coaching, it’s at quarterback. In Montreal, Anthony Calvillo was the perfect guy for the CFL’s version of a west coast offence. Once Milanovich figures out what system to run, he’ll have a better handle on how Jyles or whomever fits.