Pinball helping to turn the tide for Double Blue
While he hasn’t been involved in a football operations role in years, the beaming smile and endearing personality and energy of Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons is synonymous with the Toronto Argonauts.
As he heads into a new challenge with the organization, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to work in the front office.
“I never really left the team and I still had a role with the team so I never really felt like I was gone,” Clemons said to CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson. “But this is a much more serious role, one that requires my full-time presence. From that point, it’s a change, and it’s something that my wife highly encouraged because she knows how much I love it, and now, she’s not so sure.
“It is a big lifestyle change more than anything but it is what I love.”
Clemons was brought in at the tail end of the 2019 campaign after the team dismissed Jim Popp mid-season. He and vice president of player personnel John Murphy were tasked with turning around the fortunes of the Boatmen, who finished each of the past two campaigns with a 4-14 record.
His first act in charge was a trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that saw Zach Collaros swapped a conditional pick that has now turned into a first-rounder in April’s CFL Draft.
Following the conclusion of the season, Clemons and the staff mulled over the status of the then-incumbent head coach Corey Chamblin. They ultimately decided to go in a new direction with the team relieving him of his duties after just one season.
Clemons’ first off-season at the helm of the Argos has been a busy one, as the team has seen several new arrivals and some departures as well.
The thing that Toronto addressed in abundance was the contingent of Canadians on the roster. They’ve added 10 National players to the roster up to this point, and the individuals coming in will either serve as impact starters — who will help tremendously with the ratio — or solid depth pieces for the Double Blue.
Toronto’s most intriguing off-season acquisition, however, may be new head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. This will be his first kick of the can when it comes to being the shot caller for the team. The former CFL pivot has been honing his craft as a quarterbacks coach under Dave Dickenson — considered to be one of the best offensive minds in the league — in Calgary.
The Argos took their time deciding on a coaching change, meaning Paul LaPolice, who was a hot commodity after helping Winnipeg to a Grey Cup in 2019, was scooped up by the rival REDBLACKS. With the team finally deciding to go in a new direction, Dinwiddie was a coach that Clemons and the rest of the Toronto front office was confident in from the outset.
“He’s been around the game. As a kid, his dad was a football coach and one of his earliest memories is being zipped up in the ball bag,” Clemons said of his new head coach. “He’s been around football forever, and I asked him ‘what other sports do you like? Who are your other teams?’ and he said ‘I only watch football.’
“As his friend, I said ‘c’mon man, have a life.’ He just loves the game and in this young man, you have someone who’s longed to do this. When they asked me to be the head coach the first time, I said no too. I never thought that I’d be a coach. But this is what he dreamed of and luckily for us, the timing is right.”
Dinwiddie has installed his new staff, featuring Jarious Jackson and Glen Young as the offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively — Jackson will also serve as the team’s QB coach in 2020.
With new faces in each phase of the game, the Argos are going to be pushing to get back into the postseason once again. Training camp will get going in just a few month’s time. At that point, Clemons and the rest of the Argos’ staff will see just what they have in-house. Until then, however, they just have to stay patient and plan ahead for the different challenges that come along with an 18-game season in the CFL.
“The thing I’m excited about most leading into this season is what I don’t know yet,” Clemons said. “There’s some things that we know now, but some things are yet to happen and shape up. So what I’m excited about is what I don’t know yet.”