Dickenson brothers meet as head coaches for the first time in the CFL
Family pride will be on the line when Craig and Dave Dickenson meet on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
The regular-season game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Calgary Stampeders marks the first time in CFL history that brothers will oppose one another as head coaches.
Craig, 47, is the first-year head coach and incumbent special-teams co-ordinator of the host Roughriders. Dave, 46, is the head coach and offensive co-ordinator of the defending Grey Cup-champion Stampeders.
“We’re one year apart (in age) and we’ve always competed for similar jobs, girlfriends and those type of things,” Dave said on Friday. “It’s who we are and we wish each other the best, but definitely both of us will go after the win.”
Craig and Dave are more focused on their respective teams than the significance of Saturday’s game. That’s why whatever takes place Saturday may be more a topic of conversation later in their lives.
“Hopefully, we have a lot of memories of us coaching against each other,” Craig said with a laugh. “It’s a neat thing and it’s neat for our families. It doesn’t say a lot about us. It says a lot about the people we have worked with and have helped us do this over the years.”
John Hufnagel, the president and general manager of the Stampeders, is among that select group.
Dave was a quarterback, coach and co-ordinator for the Stampeders during Hufnagel’s eight-year stint as Calgary’s head coach and general manager. Craig was a member of Hufnagel’s coaching staff for two seasons (2008-09).
“It’s definitely unusual (to have brothers opposing one another), but it’s well deserved by both,” Hufnagel said. “They’ve both been in the game a long time and they’ve earned their stripes. It’s pretty neat that you have brothers facing each other as head coaches.”
Dave spent the 2008 season as a quarterback with the Hufnagel-coached Stampeders. He graduated into the coaching ranks in 2009 and took over as head coach in 2016 after Hufnagel moved into his current roles with the Stampeders.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to bring Dave in towards the end of his (playing) career was because I thought that he would want to become a coach,” Hufnagel said. “From the little bit of experience that I had with Dave, I thought that he would make an excellent coach.
“I knew that Craig had a great understanding of Canadian football and obviously his forte was special teams. He has been involved with the game for so long and worked with so many other people that he gained a wealth of knowledge from all of that experience.”
Defensive tackle Micah Johnson has had the experience of playing for both Dickensons. Johnson spent six seasons with Calgary before signing with the Riders as a free agent during the off-season.
“People think that they are similar in a lot of ways, but they are different in how they approach things,” Johnson said. “Their temperament is different, but Coach Craig definitely gets his message across to everyone in the locker room.”
Hufnagel feels there is a trait the brothers share.
“They are true to themselves and that’s really what you want to be when you’re a coach,” said Hufnagel, who was a Riders quarterback from 1980 to 1983 and a player-coach in 1987. “You don’t want to put on any false impressions because on game day people will say “What’s going on?’ ”
The Dickensons have faced each other on numerous occasions as assistant coaches and co-ordinators. They even squared off as head coaches during a pre-season game in Calgary on May 31. The Stampeders won 37-1, but the stakes will be higher Saturday.
“It’s different because they are definitely trying to get wins,” Johnson said. “Now is when it counts and you’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”
The Dickensons are taking Saturday’s game in stride. That’s easier to do because of the aforementioned pre-season game.
“The first time always gets the most attention,” Craig said. “There was a lot of attention in Calgary because of the two brothers coaching against each other. There is a little bit now, but I’m glad to see there is more focus on the players because that’s where it should be.”