The list of hardware earned by the Riders in 2007 already includes the Most-Outstanding Player Award, the West Division Championship and of course the Grey Cup. Well now you can add one more to the list...
In what is no doubt the biggest surprise since that scientific study found that exercise is good for your health, it was announced Thursday that Kent Austin was the winner of the Annis Stukus trophy as 2007 Coach of the Year. Truthfully, this announcement could have been made back in November when the voting was conducted since there was never any doubt as to who would win. Here's a brief summary of Austin's season.
He managed to win a Grey Cup despite:
* Being a rookie head coach with a new offensive coordinator
* His starting QB taking a huge pay cut, being forced to compete for the starting spot in training camp and being pulled twice during the season for poor performance
* Last year's starting RB, who happened to be the team MVP, leaving for the NFL
* His replacement RB being acquired after the final preseason game and completely missing training camp
* That same RB also missing the last 4 games of the season due to injury
* His FB cutting the tips off 2 of his fingers
* His receiving core going like this: #1 got hurt and missed half the season, #2 was traded halfway through the season, #3 had family emergencies on 2 consecutive weeks and missed practice both weeks, #4 got temporarily benched, #5 missed the first half of the season with injury, #6 missed the end of the season with injury
* The starting safety playing himself out of a job halfway through the year
* 3 of his 5 O-linemen being brand new (and one of the other two contracted mono)
* No defensive back playing all 18 games, including his best DB who missed 9 games
* The rookie starting at defensive end wearing an insulin pump on the field
* His punter recording 7 special teams tackles
* His team leading the league in both CFL-imposed fines and league-issued apologies regarding blown calls
* His team also leading the league in man-games lost due to injury
Not too shabby.
Austin joins some elite company as 1 of only 5 Rider coaches to win the award. He joins John Gregory (1989), Joe Faragalli (1981), Eagle Keys (1968), and Steve Owen (1962).
Austin received 21 of the 42 votes, which isn't surprising given the competition he was up against. However, Austin overcoming 2 great opponents pales in comparison to Doug Berry overcoming not being nominated to garner 1 vote. This is what you get for letting people in Manitoba vote. Obviously the instruction "Place an X beside 1 of the 3 following names" was too complicated. To be fair, the balloting method is a relatively unknown process in Manitoba. The preferred method is, of course, to grunt once to vote for the first guy, twice for the second guy and so on. So it's hard to fault a guy for voting incorrectly when the CFL doesn't respect local voting practices.
Now the nominees themselves created a slight controversy that I would like to address before we put this Coach of the Year story to bed. Many people were shocked that Doug Berry was not nominated and equally as shocked that Pinball and Buono were nominated. Allow me to compare these 3 (bare in mind voting occurs prior to the playoffs).
Buono - Led his team to the best record in the CFL despite missing his #1 and #2 QB for most of the season.
Clemons - His team went from competing with Edmonton for the final playoff spot in the East to finishing 1st in their division fueled by an amazing 9-1 run to end the season.
Berry - His team went from being pretty much a lock to run away with the East to finishing with only 3 wins in the last 7 weeks of the season, landing in 2nd place.
I'm not taking anything away from Berry's coaching ability or the season the
Bombers had, I'm just saying the right people were nominated for the award.
Speaking of coaches it appears Jamie Barresi will be joining the Riders as our new Running Backs coach. Barresi spent last season as the receivers coach in BC and was also the offensive coordinator in Hamilton in '04 and '05. Just when you think Tillman has run out of former Ti-cats to recruit he proves you wrong again.