Barker, Argos flying high

Argonauts general manager Jim Barker (left) and head coach Scott Milanovich (right) introduced...

Argonauts general manager Jim Barker (left) and head coach Scott Milanovich (right) introduced Ricky Ray during a press conference at the CN Tower in Toronto, Ont., Dec. 14, 2011. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:26 PM ET

TORONTO - The longer Jim Barker is general manager of the Argonauts, the more certain he feels he made the right decision giving up the coaching reins.

Barker has been on a bit of a roll since the end of the season, nabbing the head coach he wanted to replace himself and now engineering the trade that brought stability to the quarterback position in Toronto for the first time since Damon Allen was under centre.

We’ve seen Barker smiling and in a good mood before, but Wednesday’s press conference to introduce Ricky Ray to the city was clearly one of Barker’s better days in some time.

Barker admits leaving the sidelines behind was a tough decision, albeit the right one. Looking back on it now, it’s more clear than ever that he best serves the team in the solo capacity of general manager, allowing him to focus all his attention on player procurement.

While the dual roll didn’t suit Barker in this situation, he pointed out it has worked before but only in perfect conditions.

“It depends on what you come into,” Barker said. “When Wally (Buono) went to B.C., he had Bobby Ackles there. I think it’s a difficult job if you don’t have that strong support person. I think if Scott (Milanovich) had come in here two years ago as a coach and GM into a situation like it was, it would have been difficult. The situation I came into was difficult. You have to get your whole organization set. You don’t have anything there.”

Barker was in Calgary when John Hufnagel came aboard and took over as head coach and general manager. Barker, who had been the GM was re-assigned as senior vice-president of football operations and acted as that support person for Hufnagel.

Still, Barker doesn’t see many situations where he would recommend a single person take on both head coaching and GM duties.

“It’s rare because there are very few Bobby Ackles (who passed away in 2008) out there and I feel there are very few Jim Barker’s that were able to help Huf in his transition,” Barker said. “You have to have that right guy there to make it work. I was fortunate when I came in that I had Adam. He was still the GM when I came in so I was able to transition into it a little easier. But with that being said, once Adam was gone, I found it a bit too much and that’s why I stepped aside.”

O’SHEA MIGHT BE ON THE MOVE

The Argos want their creative special teams coach — Mike O’Shea — back in the fold, but at the moment he’s got better opportunities elsewhere.

Both the Hamilton and Saskatchewan head coaching jobs remain vacant and O’Shea has already interviewed for both.

Obviously if either team wants him, Toronto will be looking for a new special teams coach and Barker is preparing for that possibility.

“He has interviewed in Saskatchewan and Hamilton and until we hear something there, we won’t know,” Barker said. “We have plan B and plan C in case he doesn’t return. As a general manger, I’m a big believer that you have to look three steps ahead, just like a coach does.”

For the Hamilton head coaching job, O’Shea is believed to be up against Stampeders’ offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson, Bombers’ defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke, Ticats’ defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin and possibly Buffalo Bills’ quarterbacks coach George Cortez.

In Saskatchewan, where Brendan Taman is being extremely thorough, the candidates’ list includes all five names on the Hamilton list in addition to Riders’ coaches Richie Hall and Craig Dickenson.

POTENTIAL CFL FREE AGENTS

The league has issued a list of potential candidates for the 2012 free agency period which begins Feb. 16. If the Argos have any money left at that point here are some potential targets given their needs.

• SSK receiver Andy Fantuz: Made one run at the NFL last season and when that didn’t work returned to the CFL to a sub-par performance. If he is not resigned and remains in the CFL, he would solve a lot of the Argos’ problems at receiver.

• MTL guard Scott Flory: OK, he’s a little long in the tooth but he knows Scott Milanovich’s offence and would be a huge help bringing the other vets up to speed. Point could be moot though as there is talk of retirement.

• WPG: Receiver Greg Carr: Again there’s every chance the Bombers re-sign this guy but if they don’t his combination of size, speed and hands should have most teams salivating, Toronto more than any other.

• EDM middle linebacker Rod Davis: Again, no spring chicken and unsure of what Chris Jones wants to do with his defence but Davis is coming off a great year with 79 tackles and five sacks and if Pottinger isn’t re-signed there would be an opening.

• SSK middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman is already checking out his NFL possibilities but if he is back, you can’t go wrong with 105 tackles and the league’s most valuable defensive player.

• FA receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux could wind up back in the CFL after spending the year on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice roster and not getting an opportunity. Areceneaux was a stud in 2010 with B.C., surpassing the 1,000 yard mark and, as you know, the Argos need receivers.

MAJOR ARGO DEALS FROM THE PAST

A look at some of the bigger trades for quarterbacks the Argos have made in their history going back as far as 1980.

March 5, 2008

Saskatchewan Roughriders trade 2007 CFL Most Outstanding Player Kerry Joseph and Saskatchewan’s third-round pick in the 2010 CFL Canadian Draft to the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for import offensive tackle Glenn January, import defensive lineman Ronald Flemons, Toronto’s first-round selection in the 2008 CFL Draft and Toronto’s second-round selection in the 2010 CFL Draft. Joseph was a bust here. No matter what was sent the other way, the Riders won this deal.

June 7, 2003

B.C. Lions trade quarterback Damon Allen to the Argonauts in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2004 CFL Draft and a third-round pick in the 2005 Draft. The CFL’s all-time leading passer goes on to defeat the Lions in the 2004 Grey Cup, and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2005. This was a clear win for the Argos.

January 28, 1993

Edmonton Eskimos trade 1989 CFL Most Outstanding Player Tracy Ham, defensive backs Enis Jackson and Travis Oliver, slotbacks Craig Ellis and Ken Winey, fullback Chris Johnstone, linebacker John Davis, defensive lineman Cam Brousseau and a draft choice to the Argonauts in exchange for quarterback Ricky Foggie, slotbacks Darrell K. Smith and J.P. Izquierdo, wide receiver Eddie Brown, cornerback Ed Berry, defensive tackle Leonard Johnson, defensive back Don Wilson and linebacker Bruce Dickson. The 16-player deal is the biggest in CFL history, and provides the Eskimos the nucleus for their 1993 championship team. Edmonton wins the trade.

March 20, 1990

B.C. Lions trade quarterback Matt Dunigan to Toronto for defensive tackle Jearld Baylis, quarterback Rick Johnson, linebackers Willie Pless and Tony Visco, slotback Emanuel Tolbert and safety Todd Wiseman. Dunigan would lead the Argonauts to a Grey Cup title in 1991. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. It was a steep price the Argos paid for Dunigan but by delivering a Grey Cup, it was well worth it.

April 27, 1981

Ottawa Rough Riders trade quarterback Condredge Holloway to the Argonauts in exchange for offensive tackle Kevin Powell. Holloway was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 1982, and is the Argonauts all-time leading passer. Holloway was a member of the 1983 Grey Cup championship team and is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Easy win for Toronto.


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