Ryan Dinwiddie warned players of possible hostile postgame environment if Argos lost

Photo courtesy: Argonauts.ca

The Toronto Argonauts were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday in a 27-19 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Final. An altercation following the game that allegedly involved players and front office staff has overshadowed what was ultimately a productive season for Toronto on the field.

Head coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the media on Monday that he cautioned his players about the hostility they could face if they lost Sunday’s game.

“I tried to warn our guys all week that if we didn’t get it done, that was going to be the environment we were going to have to come off to. I got myself off the field and I didn’t really see what happened afterwards, I was already out of there. [Hamilton] beat us on our home turf. What else do we expect? We didn’t get it done and they earned the right to celebrate and do those things,” said Dinwiddie via videoconference.

“It hurts and guys handle it in different ways. I just look right in the mirror. We got beat at home and our season’s over with. How are you going to react to it? Me, personally, I’m focused on next year.”

Players are required to walk through a narrow area near the stands at BMO Field to access the locker room from the field area. A video was posted to Facebook on Monday in which Hamilton fans can be seen throwing debris at Toronto players, which appears to have fuelled the alleged postgame altercation.

“They’ve gotta understand that you’re hurting but there’s certain ways to react and certain ways not,” said Dinwiddie. “Some of the terms that were used towards some of these players aren’t acceptable in any avenue of life. Should we have handled it better? Probably. But I think that everybody’s got a hand in this thing and figure out a better way to handle this thing. We could have been better, absolutely, and we understand that.”

General manager Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons didn’t comment on the details of the alleged altercation as it remains under investigation, but suggested that it arose as a result of passion — not malice.

“When you look at the passion that’s involved and the energy that was in the stadium, many times these things happen out of passion, they’re not out of intention or hurt,” he said. “Our fans are passionate and they’ve supported me from the very day one both home and away. It’s been remarkable and so I’m grateful for them.”

Dinwiddie, 41, recognizes that he has lots to learn going into next season, which should be his second as the head coach in Toronto.

“I’ve got a lot of growing to do still. I think anybody in any avenue of life, you still grow each day and learn to get better. I had my faults — we all know the B.C. game, I totally screwed that one up and I’ll learn from that. I’m sure I won’t make that same mistake or I won’t be coaching at this level,” he said.

“I’ll review everything — every decision I made throughout the year — and I’m sure I’ll get better for it. I’m not disappointed in myself and I’m not disappointed in our team, just unfortunately we didn’t get it done the other night. That’s the bottom line.”

Clemons spoke glowingly regarding Dinwiddie’s first season at the helm, which included earning the East Division’s nomination for Coach of the Year.

“He’s growing and learning and winning all at the same time. When you can grow and learn from what your job is and you can win at the same time, we’re really excited about what tomorrow brings,” said Clemons.

The Argos faced a number of obstacles this season despite finishing atop the East Division with a 9-5 record. A player tested positive for COVID-19 upon their arrival to training camp, two defensive coaches were placed on leave in September, three offensive starters entered COVID-19 protocol just prior to Labour Day, and five players were at risk of missing the East Final after violating protocols to attend a Toronto Raptors game at the request of the team.

“These guys were resilient,” said Dinwiddie. “Those guys have a lot to be proud of. Not a lot of people thought that we would even be at this stage and we’re disappointed because we didn’t get to our end goal and that’s professional football, man. If you’re not going to win a Grey Cup … you’re going to be disappointed at the end of the year.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.