CFL Pass

Cauz: Which coach has the highest 'I'm rooting for you' factor?

I suspect the majority of football fans who did not have a direct rooting interest in the Super Bowl woke up happy after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers.

The Chiefs were the more fun team to root for. Patrick Mahomes is about as easy an athlete as there is to cheer for. He is wildly entertaining to watch and just keeps producing remarkable post-season comeback wins. However, subtract the quarterback and the reason so many of us were hoping for a Kansas City win was because of Andy Reid.

One of the game’s best coaches, Andy was just missing a Super Bowl from his lofty resume. Throw in his cheeseburger references, the fact he does not scare you like Bill Belichick or Chris Jones and his general cheery demeanour and it is easy to see why Coach Reid was the people’s choice going into Sunday’s championship game.

This got me to wonder, who could be the Andy Reid for the 2020 CFL season? Which head coach will have the highest approval rating? Who will the majority of us be aligning ourselves with once our respective favourite team is knocked out?

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Let us start by eliminating the obvious candidates.

Mike O’Shea, you just won the Grey Cup. You won three as a fierce run-stuffing linebacker for the Toronto Argonauts and one more as their special teams coordinator. O’Shea’s Grey Cup rival and former Argo teammate Orlondo Steinauer is also out. Yes, he is a likable fella but he was also a part of the 2004 Damon Allen led Argonauts team who beat the BC Lions 27-19 in the 2004 Grey Cup. Orlondo also was a part of Hamilton’s last Grey Cup victory and has a third as an assistant coach.

Paul LaPolice never played professional football but was a key part of Winnipeg’s win as the team’s offensive coordinator. The same story applies for the Lions’ new head coach in Rick Campbell, who was patrolling the sidelines for Ottawa in that magnificent 39-33 win in the 2016 Grey Cup.

Ryan Dinwiddie deserves to be on the Andy Reid radar as his only Grey Cup win came as the quarterbacks coach for Calgary but the fact that he is now in charge of Toronto automatically disqualifies him from consideration. There is no set of circumstances where the rest of Canada is rooting for Toronto. Dave Dickenson is a former Grey Cup MVP so he’s gone. Scott Milanovich has three total Grey Cups and his 2012 Cup win as Toronto’s coach earned him a CFL Coach of the Year award.

So, we are left with two head coaches, the Montreal Alouettes’ Khari Jones and Craig Dickenson fresh off a successful first year with Saskatchewan Roughriders going 13-5. Time to make the case for both to see who gets the Andy Reid loveable title for the upcoming season!

Was there a better head-coaching story in 2019 than Khari Jones? To go from Montreal’s offensive coordinator during the pre-season to suddenly the head coach after the dismissal of Mike Sherman with the regular season just over a week away to delivering a playoff birth to a franchise who had missed the post-season since 2014 was such a crazy story.

Jones should get plenty of love from Winnipeg, where he spent the majority of his career during his playing days. I am awarding him bonus points for his 2002 season that saw him throw for 5,334 yards with 46 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Listen, the modern CFL is truly an efficient masterpiece with low interception totals and high completion percentages. However, I do miss the days when teams did not fear the turnover as much and you just let it rip. Finally, if you want to be pumped up, check out the opening of this Khari Jones video and then head over to the 2:53 mark where we get to see Jones dancing during pre-game warmups. I think it is safe to say that a dancing coach is going to win over the hearts and minds of many CFL fans.

On the other side is Coach Craig Dickenson, who has two Grey Cup titles as the special teams coordinator for Calgary and Edmonton. Craig has the benefit of coaching the team with arguably the largest fan base so that certainly helps his chances. Of course, being in charge of the Roughriders is a double edged sword when it comes to popularity as many other fan bases can’t stand seeing invading green clad Saskatchewan fans storming their stadiums, so it’s a mixed bag on this front.

What does work in Craig’s favour is the older brother/young brother dynamic. His older brother Dave has had more success on and off the football field and really, who doesn’t enjoy rooting for the younger brother to stick it to his older and more successful bro? Craig also has the “grinder” factor working in his favour. As sports fans, we love the narrative of the individual who finally is rewarded after paying their dues. Dickenson has been a part of nine different team’s coach staffs from 1995 until he got his first head-coaching gig last year.

This is a tough call as both make for excellent candidates but in the end, I am going to choose Coach Jones. Maybe it is the image of Shakira dancing during the Super Bowl halftime show but Jones’ hips have given him a slight lead.