Dinwiddie: ‘The last two years were unacceptable for this organization’

TORONTO — Legendary head coach Vince Lombardi once said ‘The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel are the things that endure. These events are so much more important than the events that occur.”

Toronto Argonauts general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons echoed that sentiment when talking about Ryan Dinwiddie, who was named the 45th head coach in franchise history on Friday.

“His obsession with excellence and his desire to prepare to win is the big thing,” Clemons said of what stood out to him when it came to Dinwiddie. “He’s a workaholic. He’s in early, he’ll beat me there every day, and almost every day, he’ll leave after me. So it is that exhaustive desire to win, to be great and to prepare to win.”


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New Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie (Middle) poses with general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons and president Bill Manning at his introductory press conference. (TorontoArgonauts.com)

Following their second consecutive 4-14 season in 2019, the new Argos GM pulled the trigger on a coaching change, relieving Corey Chamblin of his duties and quickly naming Dinwiddie as his replacement.

“The concept here isn’t that we didn’t have coaches who were competent or those kinds of things,” Clemons said. “The idea is that the conversation would always be about what happened last year. This decision is just an opportunity for everyone to move forward.”

Dinwiddie first came to the CFL back in 2006 while still playing as a quarterback. He started with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he stayed until 2008. After a year away, he signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, where he served as a backup to Darian Durant.

After being released following the 2011 season, Dinwiddie opted to retire. He wouldn’t be away from the game for long, as he joined Dan Hawkins’ staff in Montreal for the 2013 campaign. He served as the team’s QB coach and offensive coordinator during his three seasons with the organization. From there, he made the jump to Calgary to become the Stampeders’ QB coach, a role he had held since 2016.

Dinwiddie has worked with the likes of Drew Tate, Nick Arbuckle and 2018 Most Outstanding Player and Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell. He’s been able to get the most out of each of those individuals. However, the status under centre in Toronto for 2020 is a little less clear.

The future of the team at quarterback looks certain, with Canadian pivot Michael O’Connor being bred to become the man that takes the reins down the road. However, he just has a handful of quarters worth of pro experience under his belt, making it very unlikely that the team makes him the starter in 2020.

The same goes for Dakota Prukop. The 26-year-old also featured at times down the stretch, however, he also needs more reps. He’s headed for free agency and could opt to head elsewhere for a bigger role. At the same time, this could be the chance for him to at least be the backup for the Boatmen.

Both McLeod Bethel-Thompson and James Franklin — the two men that had the most reps at quarterback for the Argos — are also headed to free agency. It’s unlikely that Franklin will be back. Bethel-Thompson, on the other hand, could re-up for another run with the double blue.

Because of his background when it comes to grooming quarterbacks, Dinwiddie is the perfect individual to work with whoever the team has under centre. But who will that individual be?

With all the pivots mentioned above, Arbuckle is also a pending free agent, and after a solid showing while Mitchell was out with injury, he’ll likely be looking to go somewhere that will allow him the opportunity to be able to start.

“I think we’ve got to look at all avenues, who we want to bring in if that’s an opportunity, and obviously look at the guys we have in the building right now,” Dinwiddie said. “We’ll look at everything we can to find the right guy. In myself, getting the right guy in here, I’ll develop him.”

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Michael O’Connor warms up ahead of a game against the Ottawa REDBLACKS. (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

The offence does have some extra work that needs to be done. The Argos granted James Wilder Jr’s request for a release and promptly signed Karlos Williams to fill that spot in the backfield. The Argos’ top three targets in the receiving game — Derel Walker, S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards — are also all free agents.

Regardless of what the personnel looks like, the first-time head coach already knows how he wants his team to look.

We’re going to be an exciting football team, we’re going to be aggressive but we’re going to be sound,” Dinwiddie said. “Like I said in my interview, you’ve got to have a mirror. You’ve got to know that you’re sound and teaching the right things.

“So we’ll have core concepts, but we’re going to be explosive and we’re going to build off that each week.”

Dinwiddie said that he’ll likely play a big role in the offensive playcalling, but he’ll also look to bring in an offensive coordinator to help out with the duties. As for the defensive coordinator position, Dinwiddie said he wants to look for an individual who will deploy and aggressive defence that goes out and attacks the opposition.

“I want an experienced staff,” Dinwiddie said. “I don’t want a young group of guys. I’ve told many friends no in the last few weeks that have heard some things about this, which is tough to do in this business. I want to have guys who care about their players, teachers who are organized and will get as much out of their meeting time as possible and do the right things.”

“Right now, we’re looking at quality coaches and not just friends who are young,” he continued. “I want to have a variety of old and young and we’ll get the right guys in the building.

“I’ve talked to a couple of guys, we haven’t finalized anything yet, but we’re going to get it done here soon.”

This will be the third head coach in as many years. The team is still just two years removed from hoisting the 105th Grey Cup, however, wins have proven difficult to come by. Dinwiddie will be the latest man tasked with getting the double blue back to the postseason. Whether he can do that remains to be seen, but he’s going to start to work alongside Clemons and the rest of the Toronto football ops department to give it their best shot.

“I obviously know the challenges that we’ve had,” Dinwiddie said. “The last two years were unacceptable for this organization. Wins and losses are how you measure success and I think we’ve got to start getting in the win column and building this thing the right way.

“I feel like we can get that done with our leadership; I look forward to that challenge and hitting the ground running.”