In an era when top quarterbacks are routinely playing into their forties, 39-year-old Ryan Dinwiddie is a young man entrusted with a CFL franchise.
The former signal caller for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders is a decade removed from his playing days but finds himself at the helm of the good ship Argo. Some have questioned whether he’s ready for the challenge and Dinwiddie understands those criticisms.
“I’m definitely unproven. I mean, I haven’t called a game since 2014. Dave [Dickenson] was doing that in Calgary. I feel comfortable doing that, I’ve been preparing for it, but it’s unknown and I get that,” he told The Rod Pedersen Show.
“It doesn’t scare me from being able to do the job and the skeptics out there that don’t understand what we’re doing in our building, that’s great. We just have to do what we need to do and if you don’t do it well, you’re going to get fired. That’s just part of the business.”
Dinwiddie had spent the previous four seasons as the Calgary Stampeders’ quarterbacks coach. He joined the Stamps in 2016 after three years on the Montreal Alouettes staff as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He’s worked closely with Bo Levi Mitchell and Nick Arbuckle, who has since joined him in Toronto.
Arbuckle is unproven too, but the head coach has complete faith in his new pivot.
“I always tell everybody, what sold me was when we went to Saskatchewan and dealt with all the crowd noise. He played well and proved himself to me. I know I can count on him. Week in, week out, he’ll be dialed in,” Dinwiddie said.
“Does he need to improve? Absolutely. We all do. But I think the leadership that he’ll bring to the table, the understanding the offence, it’s going to help us out tremendously.”
Arbuckle isn’t the only free agent prize the Argos have brought in for Dinwiddie to use. CFL stars like Charleston Hughes, Cordarro Law, Eric Rogers and Cameron Judge are now in the building and there are a handful of former NFLers who stick out as well.
On offence, former Buffalo Bills’ running back Karlos Williams, former Pittsburgh Steelers’ receiver Martavis Bryant, and 2012 first-round NFL Draft pick, receiver Kendall Wright.
Over on defence there are 2014 second-round NFL Draft pick, defensive lineman Kony Ealy, 2015 first-round NFL Draft pick, defensive lineman Shane Ray, and 2015 third-round NFL Draft pick, defensive lineman Eli Harold.
That spending happened for a reason. Over the last two seasons, the Argos have an 8-28 record, worst in the CFL. That’s why the old regime was fired and a new one brought in to point the Argonauts in the right direction, led by general manager Michael “Pinball” Clemons and personnel man John Murphy.
It was Murphy’s presence and reputation for talent evaluation that brought Dinwiddie on board.
“You know, he’ll talk your ear off and you almost want to get off the phone once you’re on there for an hour and a half, but you appreciate his work ethic,” he laughed.
“The information that he gets from agents and how much time he spends researching these kids, I appreciate that. When I first took the job, I said I know one thing: Murph’s going to have enough talent for me to win.”
Even with the talent Murphy’s helped assemble, the Argos remain underneath the CFL salary cap, contrary to fan speculation.
“The quarterback salaries article from [3DownNation] last week, that should tell you a ton,” Dinwiddie said.
“Nick is eighth or ninth in pay and that allows us to spend some money other places, but I don’t think we’re nowhere near as much as other teams and what the media portrays.”
Even if some big names end up as surprise cuts, the high level of projected talent on the roster should turn into exciting football and winning results. Dinwiddie believes it will bring fans out to BMO Field in droves.
“I’m not much of a social media guy, but they seem excited about the potential that’s there. The buzz has kind of been created around the city,” he said.
“I think it’s across the board, the whole Canadian Football League, this whole country. We’re going to have a great attendance once the season gets going. Guys and gals miss football, it’s going to be great and I’m looking forward to it.”