Argos GM Barker deserves contract extension | Football | CBC Sports

CFLArgos GM Barker deserves contract extension

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012 | 08:21 PM

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Toronto GM Jim Barker brought in both Ricky Ray, centre, and coach Scott Milanovich, left, with the Argos improving by three wins in 2012. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press) Toronto GM Jim Barker brought in both Ricky Ray, centre, and coach Scott Milanovich, left, with the Argos improving by three wins in 2012. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

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Jim Barker proved up to the job of turning the Toronto Argonauts around after a lousy 2011, bringing in about 30 players to leave his designs all over a credible Grey Cup contender.

GM Jim Barker was down in Hamilton on Saturday, scouting McMaster vs. Guelph and probably trying to stay away from what has been one of the stranger weeks in the Confounding Football League.

Back home, Barker's Toronto Argonauts were getting set to host the Edmonton Eskimos in Sunday's cross-over semifinal as the first of what could be three cherries on top of the best managing job in the loop for 2012.

Rather than enjoying chatting amiably with the scribes about this, that and the other linebacker, the Double Blue GM has had to put up with folks like me asking him if it's true that just-fired-by-Edmonton Eric Tillman was taking his job.

Or if it's a fact Barker himself was interested in the new Ottawa gig. Or that Toronto/B.C. owner David Braley somehow doesn't like him.

This is anything but unusual around the Crazy Football League, of course - an eight team loop is almost by definition an exercise in family inbreeding. The CFL once allowed players to be traded for themselves, after all.

But a story saying the Argos are thinking of dumping Barker? They'd have to be idiotic after this season.

"I don't get involved in those things," he said Saturday, from his car at the McMaster University parking lot. "I control what I can control, I have an organization that lets me do what I feel is in the best interest of the club."

Put another way:

"All you can do is bust your ass every day and whatever happens is going to happen."

We spent a lot of time here in 2011 bashing Barker for both coaching and generally managing because it was hurting both. But since he gave up the reigns to run the stable full-time, the former Calgary boss has put together a rather impressive list of 2012 accomplishments:

1. Hiring his good friend Scott Milanovich as head coach, and then he went after defensive coordinator Chris Jones, from Calgary.

2. Pulling off one of the most lopsided deals since Jan. 2, 1992, when then-Leafs' GM Cliff Fletcher sent Gary Leeman and parts to Calgary for Doug Gilmour and better parts, by convincing Tillman that Steven Jyles and Grant Shaw was terrific value for future Hall of Fame QB Ricky Ray.

3. Rebuilding the whole defence to reflect a philosophy change from read coverage to man coverage.

4. Putting together an all-Canadian offensive line to protect Ray, and then when it looked a little hole-y, bringing in import Tony Washington halfway through.

5. Replacing injured kicker Noel Prefontaine with Swayze Waters, a move he made standing in the sewer that was the visitor's dressing room in Hamilton, just minutes after a summer loss to the Cats.

6. Dumping Cory Boyd as his feature running back in favour of the unproven Chad Kackert.

And on like that.

Barker is careful to credit the management team around him, including the coaches, scouts, and even the medical staff, for a team that is 9-9, has a good chance to make the Grey Cup and is credited around the league for having a strong veteran base around a nice crop of youngsters.

Last year's 6-12 outfit was lousy, folks, and Barker set out to fix it. He's fixed it. More than 30 players on this roster weren't here in 2012.

Toronto's franchise didn't help itself this week when it called a presser to announce an extension for Milanovich, but not one for Barker, who has a year left on his deal.

GMs not named Buono or Popp don't normally get long-term contracts in this loop, but leaving the door open like that only led to more speculation, even with CEO Chris Rudge looking suitably annoyed that anyone would even consider such a thing as dumping Barker.

Rumours around Tillman, who seems a nice man but has now been through five CFL franchises (Toronto twice), had to have come from one of three places. Friends of Tillman tossing up a trial balloon. Creative writing. Someone in the Argo or Lion organisations has a big mouth.

I'd vote for No. 1 or 3. 

Barker is no saint. He can annoy people with an at-times flinty personality, but give the man his due. And a new contract.

This being the Cosy Football League, of course, it wouldn't take long for Barker to find work again. We hear Edmonton needs a GM.

Last thought. Try this conversation on for size:

Rudge: Hey, Ricky, guess what? We're bringing Eric Tillman in as GM!!

Ray: Really? The guy who traded me for nothing and suggested I was on the downside of my career?

Rudge: Yep.

Ray: Just a minute, I have to call my agent.

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