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Naylor’s Kickoff: Argonauts turn back to Pinball

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TSN Football Insider


No one has been more closely associated with the Toronto Argonauts over the past 30 years than Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons.

He was a star player, a Grey Cup-winning head coach and, for a short time, team president.

Now, a decade removed from last working in the CFL, he’s giving the general manager role a whirl, trying to right the ship for a team that has won just six games since an unlikely Grey Cup victory after a 9-9 regular season in 2017.

Though his team’s popularity may never have been lower, Clemons remains as recognizable a face as there is in Toronto – someone who is respected and highly thought of among sports fans and beyond. So it’s no real surprise a team that enjoys so little currency with the public would turn once again to someone who has a lot.

How that translates into winning more games or filling more seats, however, remain critical questions.

Clemons’ time away from football is extremely unusual. Most general managers are neck-deep in their sport when they ascend to the role. Clemons has never held a full-time scouting or player recruitment job, so this would seem to be, on the surface, a significant challenge.

That’s why the Argos are teaming him with John Murphy, a player personnel grinder who worked for Winnipeg, Calgary and Saskatchewan before joining Toronto last off-season.

Murphy is a bull-in-a-china-shop type who is a sharp contrast to Clemons in almost every way. He doesn’t lack experience when it comes to finding players and negotiating contracts, although he hasn’t held this much authority since he worked with former Blue Bomber head coach Mike Kelly in Winnipeg back in 2009.

Within the CFL, Murphy has his supporters and his detractors.

In the best-case scenario, the arranged marriage of Clemons and Murphy could fall into the so-crazy-it-just-might-work category. Or at least that’s what the Argos have to hope for, or it could be another difficult few years ahead.

Tuesday’s moves also marked the end of the Jim Popp era in Toronto, with a regular-season........