Despite still basking in the afterglow of a Grey Cup victory, Toronto Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie isn’t resting on his laurels.
“We got a chance to run it back,” Dinwiddie told The Rod Pedersen Show when asked about the Argos’ chances for a second straight CFL championship next season.
“We got a good nucleus of Canadian talent, we got some youth there. I feel really good about our o-line, probably the best o-line we’ve had since I’ve been there. We get Peter (Nicastro) back, which will be great. We got Ryan Hunter. So I feel really good about that. Receiver-wise, we’re good. Get A.J. (Ouellette) back if we can and add another back as well.”
If there is one question hanging over the double blue like the sword of Damocles it is what they will do at the quarterback position. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is scheduled to be a free agent in February and it was backup Chad Kelly that led the Argos to their come-from-behind victory in the Grey Cup. Dinwiddie knows a decision at the game’s most pivotal position needs to be made.
“We’ve got to figure out what’s going on with the quarterback situation. We’ve got to sit down with Chad and McLeod and go from there,” said Dinwiddie.
The Argos bench boss also knows his team cannot simply return as they did last season and additions will need to be made. He indicated that the team needs to get better along the defensive line and “add a little bit more” to the secondary.
Despite the season ending with the franchise’s record 18th Grey Cup title, the path to championship glory was not the smoothest of sails for the good ship Argonaut.
The team dealt with its fair share of ups and downs in 2022, including an infamous sideline altercation between receiver Brandon Banks and offensive lineman Trevon Tate during the team’s Week 4 loss to the Blue Bombers.
At the time, Dinwiddie was none too pleased with what transpired but with hindsight sees how those difficult moments may have helped his team reach the mountaintop.
“We had some turmoil early as you do in professional sports but you got to overcome that,” Dinwiddie said. “It’s your job as a head coach to make sure your locker room can understand that. I just felt like our guys came together. You look at that last 11 games, we went 9-2 — that’s pretty impressive.”
Toronto’s impressive run followed a loss to the Calgary Stampeders at BMO Field in August. It was a defeat that the coach believes was the catalyst for their season getting turned around.
“We had a big lead on (Calgary) early. They made some adjustments at halftime. We didn’t adjust as well as we thought we should have in the second half,” Dinwiddie said of the team’s loss to the Stamps.
“I think our guys probably understood what it’s like to be a professional ball club and how hard it is to win.”
The Argos did a lot of winning after that Week 11 setback and while that did not translate to an overabundance of fans in the stands, the organization was able to pack more than 20,000 into BMO Field to watch the Argos defeat the Montreal Alouettes in the East Final and punch their ticket to the Grey Cup for the first time since 2017.
According to Dinwiddie, the Argos can “build a little fan base and keep building the brand” in the hopes of making those 20,000-plus games more common. The double blue also have the built-in advantage of playing in Canada’s largest city and one of the country’s most vibrant metropolises, something Dinwiddie knows is attractive to players.
“Players love Toronto, they love the city of Toronto. Players want to come here, especially the kids, they look into the music of Drake and the hype of the city. It’s a great city.”
The Argos will need to keep winning if they are going to capitalize on their latest championship triumph but with Dinwiddie at the helm and a championship roster still intact, there is no reason to believe the Argos can’t sail to another championship in 2023.