Friday, July 11, 2008

SPORTS: Mikey Does NOT Really Like It!

Michael 'Pinball' Clemons must be feeling an incipient case of deja vu getting ready to strike any second now.

The two-time coach of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League must be thinking that he either got out while the getting out was good, or that the owners of the club are just a matter of a few days away from tapping him on the shoulder and asking him to make it another encore. His plans for a graceful retirement from football might be falling apart.

When Clemons first made the move from the sidelines to the president's office with the club, it allowed the team to hire defensive whiz Gary Etchevarry. Etchevarry wasn't promoted, but HAD been the Argo defensive co-ordinator in the years before Clemons' ascendancy to the head coaching position. Etchevarry lasted until September of that first head coaching season. Just like that, Clemons was back, having traded the pinstripe suit for the coaching jack with Pinball embossed on it.

And that was a good thing. A Grey Cup and regularly competitive teams were the stamp of the Argos under Clemons' tutelage. But time marches on, and the personable Clemons thought it was the right moment to step aside and allow last year's defensive co-ordinator, Rich Stubler, to take over. With many CFL teams looking for new head coaches, it was likely a case of promote or lose the mastermind of the stifling Argo defence.

Three games into the season, still mid-July, the odds of Stubler reaching coaching length parity with Etchevarry seems vanishingly slim. The bend-not-break defence that Stubler oversaw the last few years has been lit up the last two weeks by Hamilton (!?!?!) and tonight, Edmonton. A largely unchanged squad, minus really only Jordan Younger, has become the leakiest sieve in the league. Granted, Younger was all-CFL, and the desired replacement, Willie Middlebrooks, was stellar in the season-opening win and missing for the two losses. But one guy should not make such a huge difference.

Then, there is the Stubler quarterback-on-installment plan. He wanted to play both QB's in each game because, "Then the other teams have to plan for both." Not horrible reasoning, unless both quarterbacks are basically the same kind of mobile, strong-armed guy, with more desire than wiles when it comes to throwing into double coverage. And of course, Stubler failed to do any switching at all in the second game, the loss to hated, and usually undreaded Hamilton. He stuck with arguably the worse of the two quarterbacks from the first week's game.

Stubler obviously communicates with his defensive players. But there is at least one quarterback who's confused right now. Mike Bishop got into the game tonight for two series. He didn't complete a pass, if you don't consider the one that was intercepted and then stolen away by an Argo for a shocking touchdown. That actually got him a seat back on the bench. It's good to see good deeds get rewarded. Oops. Never mind.

As for communicating with the media, Stubler comes across as an unfunny Bill Parcels. He isn't interested in talking to microphone-toting pains in the butt and can't really hide it. And he just doesn't have a funny bone that can be located without an autopsy.

Unfortunately, that might become available. I'd give him two more losses. At that point, the phone will ring at the Clemons Foundation.

"Michael, we need you!"

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