Argos create buzz and irk rivals

Argos defensive coordinator Chris Jones (left), head coach Scott Milanovich (centre) and offensive...

Argos defensive coordinator Chris Jones (left), head coach Scott Milanovich (centre) and offensive coordinator Jonathan Himebauch walk to their offices after a press conference in Toronto, Ont., Dec. 5, 2011. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:26 AM ET

TORONTO - Ultimately, the Argos will be judged on wins and wins alone when the off-season house cleansing makes way for the regular season.

Ultimately, the team’s rebirth will only begin to take shape when fans buy into the product and the entertainment provided.

Short term, one can’t help but applaud the aggressive nature the Argos have embraced in trying to change a culture and image that both needed makeovers.

If feathers get ruffled in the process, so be it.

It’s never a big thing for the CFL’s biggest market to be reviled, an image the Argos gladly accepted when they were trying to buy their way to a Grey Cup title. In today’s era where every penny is accounted for, money becomes an issue.

Scott Milanovich was barely one day into his tenure as head coach when news began to leak of an apparent transgression that would surely land the Argos in hot water.

When perception and optics begin to rule the day, fines such as the $5,000 hit the Argos were forced to endure are mere inconveniences when the big-picture goal must always be first and foremost.

“I know what happened,’’ Milanovich began on Monday, a day when he officially introduced his co-ordinators to the fold. “You talk to a friend, you talk to a friend.

“I have a ton of respect for the Calgary Stampeders and John Hufnagel, but it wasn’t anything more than that.”

Suddenly, Hogtown has a rival in Cowtown, at best a lukewarm arrangement over the years that would occasionally feature the Argos and Stamps hooking up in the Grey Cup.

Given his relationship with the Als, there’s a built-in rival with Montreal.

There’s no point in stating the obvious by throwing Hamilton into the mix, but any time both teams are able to field competitive teams it can’t help but stoke the flames of hatred even more.

When Milanovich introduced both Chris Jones, recently of the Stamps who was at the centre of the tampering fine, and Jonathan Himebauch, the rookie head coach and his new right-hand men were so similar in their football philosophy it was hard to separate one from the other.

There’s experience and a proven track record in Jones, whose simple approach to defence is very much the same as the language Rich Stubler often used when he ran the show, at least on defence, in Toronto.

Himebauch has earned the promotion to offensive co-ordinator, a guy who not only talks the same gridiron language as Milanovich but he also bears a striking physical resemblance.

Three guys who want to push the envelope and excite players and fans, three guys whose paths were destined to meet at this point, the only question being which guy would serve as head coach.

Jim Barker was nowhere to be seen on Monday, which is one of the best things Barker has done since he decided to step aside from head coaching and concentrate his full-time efforts to get players.

Barker must stay in the background, create splashes through trades and allow Milanovich to grow into his role and establish his identity on the Argos.

So far, so good, every step the Argos have made being received favourably, even the decision to sign free-agent to-be quarterback Steven Jyles, who may or may not be Toronto’s opening-day quarterback, if all the whispers are to be taken seriously.

Even with the Jyles signing, the Argos were aggressive, a method that must continue until every cent gets spent and every option to surround Milanovich and his staff with the best players gets explored.

It’s way too early in such a long process, but the Argos have gone about their business in the right way, the only way that will help them become credible in such a fickle market, where even having the best record and the best player doesn’t guarantee box-office success.

The team, though, is trying and it’s apparent the Argos will take whatever steps are necessary to be in next year’s Grey Cup, the 100th milestone kickoff that will be played in Toronto.

If enemies are made, so be it.

It’s long overdue, a path that must be maintained, where everything, including trades that may upset a few, has to be entertained.

It’s the new Argos’ way, which still has a ways to go, but it’s the only way.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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