Grey Cup winner Ryan Dinwiddie turned down NFL offer before becoming Argos’ head coach

Photo: Curtis Martin/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie is basking in the glow of a Grey Cup victory but the former CFL quarterback nearly went south of the border before he could ever become the head man in the Six.

Speaking to the media last week, Dinwiddie revealed that he had an NFL coaching offer on the table from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2018 but elected to turn the deal down.

“I had an offer to go to the (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to be a quality control guy,” said Dinwiddie. “I didn’t feel like it was the right timing.”

“Dirk Koetter was head coach at the time and I had a feeling it might be his last year, so I wasn’t going to go there for one year and then look for a job again.”

Just as Dinwiddie predicted, Koetter was fired by the Buccaneers after that season, while Dinwiddie helped the Calgary Stampeders win the Grey Cup that year as their quarterbacks coach, assisting Bo Levi Mitchell to his second career Most Outstanding Player award

That success eventually led to Argonauts’ general manager Pinball Clemons choosing Dinwiddie to be Toronto’s head coach a year later. He has since led Toronto to back-to-back first-place finishes in the East Division and an upset 24-23 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 109th Grey Cup.

While Dinwiddie was wise to pass up his NFL opportunity when it came, it is difficult not to wonder what might have been given his connection to a couple of high-profile head coaches.

The 41-year-old famously made his first-ever CFL start at quarterback in the 2007 Grey Cup for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a game in which he was backed up by the tandem of Kliff Kingsbury and Zac Taylor. Both players have since gone on to become NFL head coaches; Kingsbury with the Arizona Cardinals and Taylor with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Reflecting on that bizarre factoid, Dinwiddie said he is not the least bit surprised that his two teammates from that Grey Cup loss to Saskatchewan are coaching in the pros 15 years later.

“It’s pretty interesting that in ‘07, when all three of us got together, we all talked about getting into coaching and that’s what we really wanted to do,” Dinwiddie said.

Despite their different paths, Dinwiddie still keeps in touch with one of the two backups.

“Yeah, I talk to Kliff (Kingsbury),” he said. “I haven’t talked to Zac (Taylor) in a few years. I ran into him at the Senior Bowl. Every once in a while, I will run into him but me and Kliff have always kept in touch. I used to go down to visit him when he was at Texas Tech. I’m going to try and find a way to get down to Phoenix this year.”

The Argos’ coach has never used that Kingsbury pipeline to recruit anyone to his staff but has had some help from his old teammate to find players.

“Kliff sent us a receiver this past year who I already knew about and was on my radar, A.J. Richardson, who is not with us anymore,” Dinwiddie recalled. “He called me and said, ‘Hey, this guy is a really good player, a great character guy, someone you’d want to have on your team.’ So, I got on the phone with A.J., we talked and then that’s how it came about.”

The big question remains, if the men backing Dinwiddie up as a quarterback got to be NFL head coaches, shouldn’t a Grey Cup champion like himself deserve that shot too? If the opportunity to go south were to arise, as it did for another Grey Cup-winning Argos coach in Scott Milanovich, Dinwiddie would consider it.

“It’s all about fit and circumstances,” he said. “I think anybody would love to coach in the NFL.”

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.