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Argos name Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons general manager

TORONTO — Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons has been named the 20th general manager in Toronto Argonauts history.

The Argos made the announcement Tuesday morning at a press conference at BMO Field, confirming that Clemons will replace Jim Popp as the team’s general manager. Popp was informed on Monday that his contract will not be renewed, though he will remain available to advise in the transition until Dec. 31, 2019.

In addition, John Murphy was named vice president of player personnel and will work closely with Clemons on the roster.

“This season has made it clear that this team is lacking the identity and culture that have brought a record number of Grey Cups to Toronto and change was necessary to put the Argos back on the path to a championship,” said team president Bill Manning.

“Michael Clemons is the Toronto Argonauts personified and bleeds double blue. His passion for this team and this city, and his championship pedigree, will have a profound impact on the direction of this team moving forward.”

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Argos legend Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons was named the team’s next GM on Tuesday (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

Clemons and Manning both say they believe the move gives the Argos an early start on building a competitive team in 2020.

“This is for us an opportunity to get a head start on 2020,” said Clemons. “With that, having that opportunity to get a head start on 2020 puts us at a small competitive advantage. We would rather be going into the playoffs, but it does give us a small competitive advantage as far as assessing goes. It’s our duty to look at everything.”

Clemons is one of the most legendary figures in Argonauts history and his contributions on the field and in the front office are countless. Known affectionately as “Pinball”, Clemons played 12 seasons in double blue where he was one of the most prolific players in CFL history, setting a league record for most combined yards all-time in the regular season with 25,438 yards while winning three Grey Cup championships as a player.

Following a successful playing career, Clemons would serve twice as head coach of the Argos, earning the second most wins in team history with 67 while adding another Grey Cup Championship in 2004. He also served as Argos team president from November 2001 to September 2002 and chief executive officer of the team from December 2007 to November 2008 before being appointed vice chair of the team in May 2009, a role he has held since.

The 2019 season has not gone according to plan for the Argos, who were eliminated form post-season contention following a 55-8 loss to the BC Lions. Their 2-12 record is the worst in the CFL, as is their minus 220 point differential.

“When we were eliminated, I felt we needed to make a change,” said Manning. “I did not expect we’d be 2-12. People thought we had a good squad . . . But as the season has dragged on, clearly we’re not close. This is not going to be an overnight change of fortunes. We have to build a championship and building is a process. I’m going to trust Pinball, I’m going to trust John to build a winner.

“I’m going to entrust them with the leadership of the Argos to run this franchise,” he added. “You don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room. You need to surround yourself with the best people, and I think I’ve done that with Pinball and John.”

Popp joined the Argonauts in February 2017 and the team would go on to win the Grey Cup nine months later. The team’s regular season record during Popp’s tenure was 15 wins and 35 losses.

After serving in a consulting capacity for the team for the past several months, John Murphy was named Argos vice president of player personnel today. Prior to his work with the Argos in 2019, his 15th season in the CFL, Murphy served for three seasons as Saskatchewan Roughriders assistant general manager.

Prior to joining the Riders, Murphy served two stints with the Calgary Stampeders, most recently as director of player personnel from 2010-15 after serving as director of scouting in 2007-08. During his time in Calgary the Stampeders won Grey Cups in 2008 and 2014.