Jonathan Himebauch was expecting to emerge from his Atlanta bound airplane to sunny skies and 20 C.
Not a bad start to a trip in itself, but it got a whole lot better.
The Argos first-year offensive coordinator landed to a text from Argos new head coach Scott Milanovich informing him that the team’s efforts to land quarterback Ricky Ray had been successful.
Himebauch was well aware of the Argos’ desire to land Ray but when he got on the plane those hopes, like the offensive coordinator himself, were very much up in the air.
The text read: “Check out TSN. You might like what they have to say.”
But Himebauch didn’t have to check anything. He knew Ray had become an Argo as soon as the text arrived. And now he knows that his job immediately becomes easier, although by no stretch of the imagination easy.
“It makes it easier to get up in the morning knowing you have a guy like that with his experience and his credentials leading the charge,” Himebauch said.
Adding Ray to the fold has an immediate calming effect not just on the offensive coordinator and the head coach but also on the thousands of Argos fans who have looked on the position as a question mark since Damon Allen left.
Ray, the minute his name is mentioned, quells that concern.
For Milanovich, the stability a veteran quarterback brings cannot be underestimated, particularly with all the instability that comes in a guy’s first year on the job.
“I think when you are a new head coach for the first time there are going to be adjustments that need to be made,” he said. “You are installing a philosophy within your team. You’re trying to get to know who can do what and, at the same time, you’re bringing a new staff together and trying to get everyone on the same page. I think having a veteran quarterback like a Ricky Ray, it’s just one thing that you shouldn’t have to worry about. You don’t have to go through a quarterback controversy that can divide teams. It’s the most important position on the field and whether you’re a first-year head coach or a guy going into his 20th year, it’s a good start.”
Neither Milanovich nor Himebauch has a history with Ray other than what they have seen of him from the opposing sideline or on tape.
Milanovich talked with Ray the day of the deal and came away impressed, but there’s still plenty to learn. He’ll have tomorrow following a press conference to introduce Ray and part of Thursday to get a better read on Ray the person.
Ray the football player, Milanovich has a pretty good handle on already. He’s seen it since he arrived in the league back in 2006.
“Everyone pictures Ricky dropping that rainbow ball out of the sky and seeing a receiver run under it and I do too,” Milanovich said. “That’s great, but how is the guy going to react when he’s getting smashed in the face time and time again? For as long as I’ve been in the league I’ve watched this guy get blasted and get back up and plant his feet on the next throw and deliver the ball. It’s just disheartening for a defence when you can keep hitting a guy and he gets right back up and makes a play. To me that is one of the important things he brings. He obviously brings all the other things, but something like that is what can separate a good one from a great one.”
And you can hear in Milanovich’s voice the confidence that he does have one of those great one’s.
“To land a guy like him, you feel like hey, this is the first piece of the puzzle,” Milanovich said. “Now we have a great quarterback and we’re going to be able to do some things to help our offence and help our team immediately. Ricky is not going to make or break this team. No one person can, but he’s certainly going to go a long way to helping us.”
For the immediate future Milanovich will be seeing plenty of Ray. While the team does not have a quarterbacks coach at the moment, Milanovich, if he hires one or not, will be working hand in hand with his starting QB.
“We’re still working on that but whether we have a QB coach or not in title, I’m still going to work with them until I feel like it’s time to pass it down and hand it off to someone else,” Milanovich said.