Even before the Argonauts season ended last weekend, there was a strong feeling that Toronto would have a challenging time getting the band back together for the 2022 season.
It’s something that I chronicled here at CFL News Hub weeks ago. The likelihood is that despite a successful 2021 campaign, that there would be changes to Toronto’s coaching staff and front office.
And that feeling and knowledge existed before the craziness and controversy that took place last week involving Argos management, particularly that of now league suspended VP of Player Personnel John Murphy.
Every season is different from the last in pro sports, and change is inevitable. But the Argos in 2021 had a unique dynamic that extended from upstairs to the coaching staff and onto the field. The Boatmen took an all-in approach in all three areas this season.
Toronto rounded up a collection of big-name stars to their roster and their coaching staff. And the team in football management responsible for putting together a completely revamped football club may have seen their last days together working side by side.
The Argonauts went for broke, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what the team and organization did in the days leading into during and after their biggest game in years.
Let’s look at the areas where the Argos could experience significant changes in the coming weeks. Each area will impact every facet of the franchise heading towards the 2022 season.
Argonauts Player Personnel Department
The Argos are not the only CFL team that will be in the market for someone to head up their football scouting department. Both Edmonton and Ottawa are looking for someone to fill that role under the General Manager title.
However, the position the Argos will inevitably have to fill differs from the Elks and Redbacks. Because it is a de facto GM role, it’s a tricky position considering that the team’s General Manager on paper is Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons.
Also further complicating matters is that whoever comes onto the Boatmen’s ship, the move can’t be made unilaterally from another CFL team unless it’s a direct promotion. That’s unless Michael Clemons accepts a different position to help open up the GM spot for someone else.
For all intents and purposes, the main head of the Argonauts player personnel department has been John Murphy. With Murphy’s recent incident at the East Final and his subsequent suspension by the CFL pending further investigation. The writing is on the wall that Murphy will not be back with Toronto as the franchise heads into what will be a much shorter offseason than the two-year wait between 2019 and 2021.
- Update: After publishing this article on Saturday morning. Sources close to Toronto are confirming that the Argos plan to officially dismiss John Murphy from his position on Monday morning.
Quite frankly, even without John Murphy’s suspension. There remained a strong possibility that he would leave the Boatmen for an elevated role somewhere else. His future in the CFL is now in doubt. But perhaps an old friend might keep a seat warm for him in another CFL city. More on that momentarily.
Despite what has transpired with John Murphy. There’s no denying his resume and the work he did in rebuilding the Argos back into contention this season.
Many will point to the franchise’s willingness to spend on and acquire premium players as a reason for Toronto’s transformation in 2021.
There’s no doubt that trading for Boris Bede and signing the likes of Chris Edwards, Dexter McCoil, Dariusz Bladek, and others were great acquisitions. But after further inspection, a great part of the team’s success also came in hitting on first-year CFL players.
Look no further than the Argos starting roster in the East Final. Several key players like RB DJ Foster, LT Dejon Allen, DT Shawn Oakman, DB Jalen Collins, and DB Jamal Peters all had fantastic first years in Canada. The latter recently received some mention from NFL circles on social media. Although, Peters was credited with being on a different team in Canada.
Replacing John Murphy in the Argonauts football brain trust won’t be easy. But the team does have some different options to explore.
Potential Replacements For John Murphy
The Boatmen already have a quality in-house option to help lead their football operations department, should they decide to elevate someone to take on John Murphy’s role. The Argos have a talented young football executive in Director of Scouting Vince Magri.
Magri has been with the Argos for seven seasons. A former offensive lineman, he was a four-year starter at McMaster. After graduating, Magri remained in the sport as the Assistant Offensive Line Coach, Video Coordinator, and Recruiter for the University of Toronto.
The Toronto native Magri has taken on many roles in his time with Double Blue. He has prepared scouting reports on the personnel of each week’s upcoming opponent. He has been actively involved in all scouting areas, including visiting NFL training camps, US All-Star games, and NCAA Pro Days.
Not only does Vince Magri have great knowledge of the Argos, the CFL, and player prospects all abroad. But he has a superb track record in identifying talent in Canada. The evidence lies in the Argos’ recent success in drafting standout and emerging young national players like Peter Nicastro and Kurleigh Gittens Jr., among others. Magri knows Canadian players very well because he was one himself.
One of the key ingredients to success in the CFL is identifying national talent and building a strong team that puts the ratio to good use. Magri has earned the opportunity to try his hand in a more prominent role.
Several familiar names are being bandied about as potential GMs for other CFL teams at the moment.
Former Argos GM Jim Popp and Edmonton GM Ed Hervey are two veteran executives who are out there are possibilities. Despite his impressive resume, I sincerely doubt that Popp would make his way back onto Toronto’s shore.
Another familiar name to the Six is former Argonauts assistant GM and Director of Scouting, Spencer Zimmerman. He was most recently with the TigerCats, and Zimerman was a part of the Boatmen’s 2017 championship front office.
An outside-the-box candidate is TSN analyst and draft expert, Duane Forde. He certainly is one of the most liked and respected football minds in all of Canada.
Many rising stars in the CFL ranks would be logical choices to head up any team’s football department. Some of the names being discussed are Winnipeg’s Ted Goveia (Senior Assistant GM) and Director of US Scouting Danny McManus. Two strong choices from the league’s best team in the last two seasons.
Argonauts archrival Hamilton has two prominent rising executives in Shawn Burke and Drew Allemang. Both are senior directors of player personnel for the Ticats.
Some of the other names making the rounds as potential GMs are BC Lions director of U.S. scouting Ryan Rigmaiden and Calgary Stampeders director of player personnel Brendan Mahoney. The latter is one of the very best at his profession in Canada. Prying someone like Mahoney away from Calgary won’t be easy, but he is overdue and overqualified for an elevation in responsibility. Calgary’s track record of consistency speaks for itself.
Another possibility out of left field is recently fired Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins. The recent collapse of Ottawa has soured many on Desjardins. But once upon a time, he was considered one of the league’s best team architects.
The problem with many of these viable candidates is that the Argos already have a GM. So finding a way to make that work with Michael Clemons still in-house can be a tricky proposition for Toronto.
Argonauts Coaching Staff Changes
From the moment Chris Jones returned to the CFL to help replace Argos defensive coordinator Glen Young in midseason. You knew that Jones was a temporary hired gun for the Boatmen.
You also knew that Chris Jones would be in high demand once the 2021 season ended. For not only a head coaching position but also as a general manager. Considering the high level of success, he has had in both areas in the CFL.
So it’s no surprise that Jones is already linked with his old stomping grounds in Edmonton to assume both responsibilities.
CFL coach of the year finalist Ryan Dinwiddie had a successful campaign in his rookie year on the job. And he welcomed Chris Jones onto his staff with open arms. The experience of Jones helped Ryan’s staff this season during turbulent times due to the departure of Toronto’s two best assistants in Glen Young and Joshua Bell.
Veteran Rich Stubler was also brought on the Boatmen’s ship to provide wisdom and guidance. But Ryan Dinwiddie might have to revamp his entire staff in the coming offseason. There’s no guarantee that Jones and Stubler will be back. And there’s reason to question if special teams coordinator Mark Nelson should be retained, based on his unit’s inconsistencies throughout the 2021 campaign.
Dinwiddie would welcome back some of his handpicked coaches like Glen Young in a perfect world. But the ship may have sailed on the Boatmen and Young getting back together on board.
Whoever rules the roost up top in the front office needs to have a synergy with Ryan Dinwiddie. So perhaps someone from Calgary like Brendan Mahoney would be a solid choice in accomplishing that goal.
Argonauts Roster Changes
The bottom line is that whoever joins the Argos front office and coaching staff in the offseason, will have a trickle-down effect on Toronto’s roster. Especially if someone joins Toronto from another organization. The new leadership in the front office and coaching staff could jettison many of the handpicked players from the previous regime.
You’d like to see the Argos retain as many of their core players from the 2021 season. You’d expect McLeod Bethel-Thompson to be welcomed back as the team’s starting quarterback. But there are no guarantees that he will be given the reins again on the pivot. MBT will be a free agent and could have other options, not only in the CFL but with two pro football leagues in the USFL and XFL emerging.
Could Toronto make a push for a Dane Evans? The player who dashed their Grey Cup hopes. Anything is possible. Hamilton will do everything in their power to retain Evans and they should. But Evans would be a hot property on the free-agent market if he ever made it to that situation. The Ticats will be deciding between Evans and Jeremiah Masoli in the offseason. It’s clear what their preference and choice should be.
Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie would love to retain as many of his players on offence from last season. But that will be easier said than done.
A new defensive coordinator and system for Toronto could precipitate changes all across the board. There are several veterans like Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law, who might not be back in Double Blue.
The CFL is promising changes to their league and business model. The chances are that we are definitely going to see plenty of changes with the Argos in 2022.
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December 11, 2021 at 12:48 pm
Is there any concerns with the salary cap in Argoland? They signed a lot of top players which generally doesn’t come cheap.
December 11, 2021 at 1:16 pm
The Argos definitely ran up against the cap for sure. It’s the main reason they traded away Nick Arbuckle. With mounting injuries, the team couldn’t afford to keep both him and Bethel-Thompson. They almost went over the cap. A situation that developed because the Argos had so many injured players eating up space. It helped that Toronto had so many young and first year players step up as contributors. When so many of their high priced vets barely played. (Drake Nevis etc)
December 11, 2021 at 3:21 pm
Toronto will never be successful as a franchise in the CFL anymore–now they are asking the successful teams in the West to take part in a cost-sharing method to keep the Argos afloat (despite Toronto being the CFL’s largest market). There simply is no longer any interest in the CFL in Toronto anymore–team needs to be moved (?Halifax. Moncton, London)
December 12, 2021 at 9:31 pm
Not fair to assume the special teams coordinator wouldn’t be back based on inconsistency in his player performances. Coaches can’t perform miracles. They work with the players they have and if the players aren’t that good it makes it a lot harder to coach them. He brought the red blacks defence to 3 grey cups, winning one as DC. Hes a great coach!!