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Steinberg’s MMQB: Dickenson seals status as CFL’s best

Steinberg's MMQB: Dickenson seals status as CFL's best

I’m an enormous Marvel nerd, so I’ll be trustworthy; when Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson led his workforce to a Gray Cup triumph final weekend, the very first thing that got here to thoughts was Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet. Dickenson was lacking one jewel on his spectacular resume that included a Gray Cup ring as a participant and as an assistant. Now he’s received one as a coach, which seals his standing as the highest coach in Canadian soccer.

Take into consideration the unprecedented nature of what Dickenson has completed since taking up the reins from John Hufnagel in Calgary. The listing is fairly spectacular: three straight primary general finishes within the common season, three straight Gray Cup appearances, and now a strong victory within the huge recreation in 2018. Except for two extra rings, it doesn’t get a lot better than that.

Dickenson was born to teach, for quite a few causes. Greater than something, although, the man understands the sport at a savant-like degree. As a former quarterback, Dickenson’s bread and butter is offence. That’s illustrated plainly by the 1,631 complete factors scored by his groups in three years as head coach; no staff has scored extra in that body.

However it goes past creating an incredible offensive scheme for Dickenson. As a result of his soccer IQ is so excessive, we’re speaking a few head coach with an awesome eye for what occurs on the opposite aspect of the ball. Sure, DeVone Claybrooks has been defensive coordinator for the final three years (extra on him later), however he and Dickenson work as a group. When you’ve heard Dickenson speak defensive X’s and O’s, you’d concentrate on how nicely he understands that aspect of issues, too.

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Ja’Gared Davis is pictured driving Stamps landing horse Fast Six after the Gray Cup (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

When you speak to anybody within the Calgary locker room, one thing else turns into clear: Dickenson is nice to play for. That doesn’t imply he’s straightforward to play for, although. Dickenson holds gamers accountable, has extremely excessive requirements, and doesn’t accept something however one of the best. He’s onerous on his guys and stands by his selections, even when they’re not well-liked.

There’s one thing to be stated for a coach who might be onerous to play for but in addition nice to play for. Why do gamers universally say they’d undergo a wall for Dickenson? It’s easy: he treats them with respect as a result of he’s been of their footwear. This provides Dickenson the distinctive potential to narrate to his guys whereas nonetheless commanding respect. It’s not that way back Dickenson was enjoying at excessive degree, so gamers can’t assist however take heed to his message.

I keep in mind one thing Dickenson advised me a couple of years in the past that has caught with me to today. Previous to the 2014 season, he turned down quite a few head teaching jobs throughout the league to stay as offensive coordinator with the Stampeders underneath Hufnagel. Understanding he was the “head coach in ready,” I requested about his philosophical beliefs.

Dickenson’s message was fascinating, due to how trustworthy it was. To paraphrase, he stated “I deal with my participant truthful, however I perceive they’re not equal. And I talk that to them.” At first, which may sound counterintuitive, however when you consider it, it makes a ton of sense.

In fact Bo Levi Mitchell and his backup aren’t going to be handled equal, as a result of one man has earned much more leash. One dangerous recreation can imply a seat on the bench for one man however might imply elevated enjoying time for an additional. For me, that realization is essential, however much more necessary is how clearly that’s communicated to his gamers. It units the usual for honesty, even when the message isn’t all the time a cheerful one.

Let’s put what Dickenson has executed in his first three years as a head coach in perspective. He’s averaged slightly below 14 wins per season, which places him on an unimaginable tempo. Wally Buono’s profession wins report is 282 and he averaged simply over 11 wins per season within the 25 he was on the sidelines. I’m not making an attempt to recommend Dickenson goes to interrupt that report, however it exhibits you ways remarkably constant he’s been.

In fact, common seasons wins imply a lot much less with out playoff success. Dickenson now has a Gray Cup ring as a head coach to go together with his unimaginable common season report. Nobody can take that away from him, and I really feel prefer it’s robust to argue he’s not the most effective coach within the recreation proper now. Let’s see what number of extra jewels he can put in that gauntlet earlier than it’s all stated and executed.

Hop on the carousel

We’re simply over every week into the low season and the teaching merry-go-round is already in full rotation. With vacancies in BC and Toronto, names are beginning to get tossed round and it’s no shock the aforementioned Claybrooks is entrance and centre for each jobs.

The Stampeders have given permission to each the Argos and Lions to speak to Claybrooks, and you may guess he’ll be a robust candidate for each positions. Moreover, I do know Calgary’s defensive coordinator has nibbles from NFL and NCAA groups, which suggests he’s going to have a busy winter forward of him.

What’ll be very fascinating is how Claybrooks approaches his excessive inventory. Keep in mind, he was one of many huge names out there one yr in the past however elected to stay with the Stamps. All of it got here down to suit, and the top coach place in Montreal wasn’t engaging sufficient for Claybrooks to go away an excellent state of affairs in Calgary.

DeVone Claybrooks (left) is taken into account the highest candidate for any teaching emptiness this low season (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Now that the Stampeders are Gray Cup Champions, although, I’m wondering if Claybrooks modifications his strategy slightly bit. After two losses within the huge recreation, 2018 was seen as unfinished enterprise in Calgary, they usually went out and completed final weekend. Maybe that makes it slightly simpler to make the leap to a head teaching job even when the state of affairs isn’t good.

The opposite scorching identify is Winnipeg offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice, and TSN’s Farhan Lalji studies he’s already been contacted by the Argos. LaPolice’s offence has been extraordinarily environment friendly during the last two years and I’d be very intrigued by the slot in Toronto.

The best way the Bombers used Andrew Harris during the last two years elevated him to an entire new degree, which is tantalizing when you think about who resides in that Argos backfield. James Wilder Jr. has a really comparable skill-set as Harris and I’d be fascinated to see LaPolice work with that offence.

You’ll be able to cross one large identify off the listing, nevertheless. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats introduced on Friday Orlondo Steinauer can be again for an additional season, which is a big coup. Steinauer returned to the Ticats for the 2018 season as an assistant head coach beneath June Jones, however has been a particularly wanted identify for the final variety of years.

For Hamilton to maintain Steinauer within the fold for an additional yr says one thing about the best way the group is trending. You additionally marvel if Steinauer has been assured the highest job as Jones’s successor, just like Dickenson’s state of affairs a couple of years in the past in Calgary. Nonetheless, Steinauer staying put removes one big identify from the equation.

Unsure street

When Jonathon Jennings first burst onto the scene late in 2015, I assumed the Lions had a star on their arms. My opinion didn’t change the next season when he threw for over 5,200 yards in his first yr as a full time starter. Sadly for Jennings, although, issues haven’t progressed since 2016 and he enters very unsure waters this low season.

In response to Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal, Jennings has knowledgeable BC he intends to be a free agent come February. The factor is, I’m unsure how a lot alternative Jennings goes to need to discover a beginning job, at the least not a definitive one. Wherever he goes, Jennings goes to should show his value.

After dropping his job on benefit to Travis Lulay this season, I’m not stunned the 2 sides are going in several methods. Whereas the Lions might look to free company themselves, it was in all probability time for Jennings to hunt a change of surroundings. Maybe having to battle for a spot is strictly what he must get issues again on monitor.

Lions pivot Jonathon Jennings could possibly be a real wildcard come free company (The Canadian Press)

Assuming incumbents like Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly, and Trevor Harris keep put, which is an enormous if, there are some fascinating touchdown spots for Jennings. With Matt Nichols and Jeremiah Masoli underneath contract for 2019, that leaves Saskatchewan, Montreal, and Toronto with potential jobs up for grabs.

In all three instances, I can’t see Jennings getting into a coaching camp on prime of the depth chart. The Argos acquired James Franklin final low season to be their quarterback of the longer term, which doubtless provides him the leg up. In an analogous vein, the Alouettes invested so much in Johnny Manziel and I don’t see any means he’s not the starter come June.

In order that leaves the Riders, who’ve free agent selections to make on each Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge. No matter what they determine, it wouldn’t be loopy to see Jennings get a chance to battle for a job in coaching camp.

Jennings appeared like a celebrity within the making a couple of years in the past, which wasn’t a fluke; I nonetheless consider this man possesses elite expertise. All of it comes down as to if a brand new alternative permits Jennings to place all of it collectively once more. I’m fascinated to see the way it performs out.

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