There is no doubt that Jim Barker is to blame for the fact that the Toronto Argonauts are off the sports radar screen. Both he and club president Bob Nicholson are on record as saying we’ll know whether it’s Barker the general manager or Barker the head coach who takes the fall, but it’s clear there will be no more dual titles.
Getting it done properly is absolutely vital, because there is only one way that the Argos can make their mark in a city that shows signs of a sports renaissance. That’s by winning a title, and surely to god it can’t be that hard in the biggest market in the freaking eight-team Canadian Football League. Yep: all the Argos can do is win faster than the other teams in this market. That’s it, that’s all.
This has nothing to do with Toronto playing host to the 2012 Grey Cup, the 100th anniversary of the game. It’s the Grey Cup that will help market the Argos this off-season, not vice-versa. The Grey Cup sells itself. Of concern must be the sense of upward momentum here with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Blue Jays. Hell, given how poor the Raptors were going to be, the NBA lockout counts as reason for optimism, too, because tanking for a lottery pick is going to be easier in a 40-game regular season. Easier still with 35. Or 30 …
Look: this is a big city with an NHL team, an NBA team, a Major League Baseball team and an NFL club just down the road that considers the 416 and 905 to be part of its turf. The Argos are never going to be able to “out-name” any of these teams or “out-face” them because Toronto’s too big for anybody who’d be interested in playing in the CFL.
And it seems especially obvious at a time when the CFL is experiencing a quarterback drought. Honestly, the cupboard is more bare now than it’s been in some time. There are few, if any, pivots who excite the imagination.
Just ask the folks in Hamilton. The Tiger-Cats are a mess at the position and after another .500 season will await the weekend’s results to find out who they play in the East Division semi-final. They are in third place once again and no Eastern team has made the Grey Cup from third place since the 1970 Montreal Alouettes – and, remember, that’s what this season was all about for the Ticats.
Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille threw his team into a turmoil last weekend when he started Quinton Porter against the Saskatchewan Roughriders after suggesting his two-quarterback rotation for the playoffs – gamble that it is – would be based on the notion that Kevin Glenn would be the nominal starter. The Hamilton Spectator reported that the decision had created confusion, and there were repeated suggestions that the players preferred Glenn.
This has been a tough three weeks for Bellefeuille: a team playing poorly that has essentially had its playoff fate decided must find an offensive identity knowing it is most likely too late; that all that awaits is a brick wall in the playoffs.
So what does Bellefeuille make of Thursday’s game? With running backs Avon Cobourne and Marcus Thigpen active but not dressed, Bellefeuille started Glenn, who went 14-for-19 for 150 yards and a longest pass of 16. Meh.
But at least the Ticats live to play another game. Not so the Argos. For the second season in a row there is not enough top-end talent at the skills positions, starting with quarterback where it took Barker a year to figure out what most CFL people detected in a couple of weeks: that Cleo Lemon was a stiff. So who is at fault: the GM or the head coach?
Welcome to the Argos, where it’s both easy and difficult to know where the blame lies, all at the same time – and more permissible than ever to wonder just how many people care and how many more are about to stop caring.
Barker was in a playful mood after Thursday's game and may have tipped his hand about his future when he said, "There are things our GM needs to make happen, and I think he's a pretty good GM."