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What’s Next For The Argos After Defensive Coordinator Corey Mace Leaves To Become Riders Head Coach?

Defensive Coordinator Corey Mace was always destined to become a head coach. Only the Argos were hoping it would happen after winning another Grey Cup with him. In 2023, Toronto, despite matching the greatest regular season record in CFL history, fell short of that goal.

In case you missed it, The Saskatchewan Roughriders have hired now-former Toronto Argonauts defensive coordinator Corey Mace to become their new head coach. The star DC convinced the Riders brass to give him the shot. Everyone in CFL circles, from Mace’s players to colleagues, are excited for him, and Saskatchewan is receiving a ton of praise for making the hire. The Riders have inked Mace to a three-year deal through the 2026 season.

Bittersweet Goodbye For The Argos

Everyone within the Toronto Argonauts football club knew this day was coming. Quite frankly, some within the Argos organization were surprised that Corey Mace didn’t get a head coaching job after the 2022 Grey Cup winning season. A Corey Mace departure was always going to be an inevitable outcome. It was just a matter of when.

But the Boatmen, just in case, gave Corey Mace an extension in October.

The Argonauts defence has one of the league’s best young staffs that has a former player flavor to it led by Corey Mace, who despite his latest extension, figures to be a target at head coach by other CFL teams down the line. Much like he was last Fall after winning the Grey Cup. The 37-year old coordinator should have plenty of suitors.

Excerpt from CFLNewsHub 10/13 Corey Mace Extension Article

The departure of Corey Mace is the byproduct of success. The innovative and inspirational play-caller will be missed.

Corey Mace, in his second season coordinating the Argonauts defence, captained a unit that led the CFL in sacks (54), interceptions (22), turnovers (42), opponent big plays (20, seven better than second place), opponent rush yards per game (79.6), and was second in offensive points allowed (20.2) and opponents yards/play (5.98) while ranking third in offensive touchdowns allowed (31).

But what The British Columbia native, who joined the Boatmen at the start of 2022, did best in Toronto was connect with his players. Replacing Mace will be an arduous task for the Argos.

Let’s look at some potential candidates to fill the shoes of Corey Mace now that he has departed.

In-House Options At DC For The Argos

Defensive Assistants Joshua Bell (Defensive Backs), Kevin Eiben (Linebackers), William Fields (Secondary)

The safe route for Toronto is to stay in-house for their next defensive coordinator. The Argos have three strong candidates for the role. However, there’s the very real possibility that Corey Mace could look to bring a lieutenant or two along with him to Saskatchewan. Although the early word is that Will Fields and Kevin Eiben are opting to stay in the Six.

From a seniority standpoint, former three-time Grey Cup champion Kevin Eiben has certainly paid his dues for Double Blue. The 44-year-old BC native has been with the Argonauts football club since 2017. He has coached special teams and linebackers. Eiben, a former three-time CFL All-Star linebacker, bled Double Blue in his veins as a player as well, playing for the Boatmen for eleven seasons from 2001-2011. He’s never been a coordinator in the CFL, but his time may have finally arrived.

Joshua Bell and William Fields are two of the league’s brightest young coaches. Two former players with extensive CFL experience. Either coach is destined to run their own defence. They are rising stars in the profession.

Joshua Bell has similar traits to Corey Mace, both coming from that Calgary pipeline. Fields has had a unique path in his journey from being a player to a coach. Both coaches have done phenomenal work with the Argonauts’ diverse group of defensive backs.

Look no further than CFL 2023 rookie of the year, Q’Wantez Stiggers. The 21-year-old Atlanta native, who did not play football at the collegiate level and whose only professional football experience was in the Fan Controlled Football League, emerged as a superstar under the coaching of Fields and Bell. Stiggers tied for second in the league with five interceptions while adding 53 defensive tackles and three special teams tackles in 16 games.

It goes beyond Stiggers, by season’s end, arguably the best defensive back in Toronto was halfback Mason Pierce. The undrafted Colorado School Of Mines defensive back was option D in the Argos secondary this season after being a late training camp pickup. The rookie Pierce only played half the season for the Argonauts, but his play was so strong that he finished with the highest coverage grade by Pro Football Focus of any player in the CFL at 90.8 on the season. Pierce had three interceptions and forced incompletions on 19.4% of his targets, the second-best mark in the CFL. He allowed just a mere 0.68 yards per coverage snap. Pierce also recorded an impressive seven pressures.

Stiggers and Pierce were two amazing finds by the brilliant front office of the Argos. But their immediate success is a testament to the coaching of Will Fields and Joshua Bell. Either one of them is deserving of a promotion.

Field and Bell have worked with all of the top CFL DCs in the CFL as players and coaches. For example, William Fields has worked with the legendary Wally Buono and Mark Washington in BC. Noel Thorpe in Montreal. Phillip Lolley in Hamilton and Edmonton, and of course, the iconic Jerry Glanville, who has brought Fields with him on multiple ocassions in his long winding football journey.

Outside Candidates For The Argos DC Job

An obvious candidate for the Argos DC job is former Toronto player and assistant Jason Shivers. The former Argo player and assistant has long been considered one of the best assistants in the CFL. And up until the 2023 season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders defence, coordinated by Shivers was considered one of the very best units in the league. He has a ton of coordinating experience at a high level.

DeVone Claybrooks is a CFL name some have forgotten in recent years. Once upon a time, Claybrooks was one of the league’s top assistants as a defensive coordinator and line coach for the Calgary Stampeders. The former defensive lineman parlayed his success into a head coaching spot with the BC Lions, but a tumultuous 5-13 season in Vancouver put him in the one-and-done category. Claybrooks was Corey Mace’s mentor in Calgary and spent time with Ryan Dinwiddie. He’s worthy of an interview.

CFL experience is an important criterion. It’s not the end all be all but one outside-the-box name that has been floated out there and is as grizzled as it comes is Jerry Glanville. The 82-year-old coaching icon is out there and willing, but his time in Canada was short-lived in 2018 with the Ti-Cats. Glanville is as colorful as they come but not a suitable palate for the Double Blue.

No matter who the Argonauts hire to take the reins as defensive coordinator. That coach will be inheriting one of the league’s most talented defensive units. But there could be some changes along the way. The best bet for the Boatmen is staying with the captains they already have on their ship.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. David Tress

    December 1, 2023 at 11:18 am

    If Jeromy O’Day continues to try and build a team on-the-cheap, then Mace will likely have no better luck than coach Dickenson did. Both Derel Walker and Duke Williams were let go because O’Day didn’t want to pay them, and they weren’t the only ones.

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