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Toronto Argonauts finally lay the foundation for the future

The Toronto Argonauts are no longer accepting applications. A new era has begun in Toronto, as Jim Popp and Marc Trestman have agreed to take the Boatmen’s general manager and coaching reins for 2017 and beyond. The duo behind a successful age of Montreal dominance, reunite in Toronto.

This move couldn’t come soon enough. Many in Argoland predicted that general manager Jim Barker and coach Scott Milanovich would be gone following a disastrous 5-13 season, and they were right. However, nobody predicted that it would take so long to find replacements.

The Argos sat in limbo for months, even going into free agency without anyone experienced steering the ship. The situation was just as worrisome for free agents as it was for fans. Outstanding players such as offensive lineman Derek Dennis were turned off by Toronto’s untenable situation.

“Toronto was appealing to me because it’s closer to home and easier for my family to get to me and it’s a beautiful city and a beautiful market to be in as a professional athlete, but that was really the only selling point they were giving me, just the market,” Dennis told the Toronto Sun in mid-February after signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. “There was nothing that was giving me the direction or who they’re going to hire as a coach or GM.”

And with so many questionable moves made by this organization recently, who wouldn’t think twice about signing in Toronto?

Additionally, rumours of who was in contention for the coaching and GM vacancies left many observers scratching their heads. There didn’t appear to be a vision. Argo president Michael Copeland stated that the organization was looking into a big NFL hire, yet somehow the team ended up with two established and recognizable CFL figures. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just baffling that this process happened the way it did.

However, it’s a relief that this mystery is finally solved. Now we can return to genuine discussion about the team on the field. Currently, Popp and Trestman have three options at quarterback: the veteran Ricky Ray, Milanovich’s QB of the future Drew Willy, and a slew of young, unproven talent.

But Trestman quickly put an end to the looming controversy, naming Ray as his main guy going into training camp.

“He’s excited to play and he will come in here as our starting quarterback,” Trestman said during the Argonauts’ introductory press conference Tuesday at BMO Field. “There will be no competition.” Case closed. Milanovich’s decree that Willy is Toronto’s quarterback of the future is old news. Popp and Trestman aren’t tipping their hand as to how they regard Johnny Manziel, but there is no real substance behind the rumours that Toronto is in his future, and they hold even less sway than the Vince-Young-to-Regina gossip.

So is this the start of a Trestman-Popp Montreal déjà vu? Could they channel an Anthony Calvillo-esque late-career resurgence through Ricky Ray? Don’t laugh. These two were the architects behind the Alouettes dominance from 2008-2012. And didn't 41-year-old Henry Burris just lead the Redblacks to their first Grey Cup championship? Let’s hear it for the old guys.

Some will point to Trestman’s foray in the NFL as evidence of incompetence, but the NFL is a different beast than the CFL. Some are also worried that Popp will get a little too hands-on with game plans. Sure, that could happen, but Popp is the GM, not the coach, and as long as he stays cemented in that role with Trestman mapping out the Xs and Os, the Argos have much to look forward to.

Bottom line is this: Trestman has two Grey Cups to his name while Popp has four. That’s no guarantee of instant success for the Argos, but now there’s a genuine vision and stability.

“We just want to be a team that’s fun to watch, and a team that our fans - all of our fans in the city of Toronto - can be proud of,” Trestman said.

Amen to that.

Image: Marc Trestman addresses Toronto media at press conference

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