Cam Cole: Regina rumour Huff’s and it puffs … and Stampedes all over the place

 

 
 
 
 
Don't go expecting Stampeders head coach and GM John Hufnagel to bolt from Calgary at season's end.
 

Don't go expecting Stampeders head coach and GM John Hufnagel to bolt from Calgary at season's end.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

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VANCOUVER — Under the Twitter handle @CFL_news, a plethora of tales are told daily — well, "plethora" may be stretching it, considering the amount of coverage the Canadian Football League gets once hockey season begins.

But there are quite a few items that pass for news, anyway, and a popular meme early Tuesday was the re-emergence of the John Hufnagel-to-Regina rumour.

Not to rain on the fantasies of Saskatchewan friends and relatives, but … really?

This canard first surfaced six weeks ago, and Hufnagel, the coach and GM of the Calgary Stampeders, finally got asked about it one too many times and shot it down in a statement that dismissed the "speculation and false rumours" and said, in part: "I'm under contract with the club beyond the 2015 season and I intend to honour that commitment."

So that was that, then.

Not in Regina, where the latest eruption was traced to a CJME radio show called Green Zone (sort of like Ground Zero) with Jamie Nye and Warren Woods, who were conducting a listeners' Election Day poll on who should be the Roughriders' next GM and/or coach, since all there is left to discuss about a 2-13 team is what's going to happen next year.

It was, in fairness, never called "news." It was talk radio, where Chris from Gravelbourg, or possibly Eyebrow, calls in to say: "Hufnagel wouldn't be a bad choice. I think (Montreal's) Jim Popp would fit in with us quite well. I also think we ought to get a new head coach like Kent Austin back, we can get him on a long-term contract so he doesn't leave right after a championship again."

You know, like in Toronto when the caller suggests the Leafs should trade Joffrey Lupul for John Tavares and a draft pick.

And then the CJME guys got Sportsnet's Jamie Thomas on the line to talk about the Blue Jays and the topic (inevitably) switched to the Riders, and Thomas said: "Something stinks in Calgary. We've seen this before with Wally Buono."

And Nye said: "Scott Mitchell (Calgary Sun) says John Hufnagel does not want to stop coaching. He loves it."

And the conversations ended up on CFL News, and we were off and running.

But let's stop and analyze this a bit.

What is it that Hufnagel could possibly be unhappy about in Calgary? He's in charge of a CFL football operation that finds more good players than any other, coaches them nicely, and sends them out to beat up on all comers with regularity.

He makes the personnel decisions, hires the assistants, and has the final word on everything.

If he is worried about the club's succession plan to replace him as head coach in 2016 with offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson … well, he's the one who groomed Dickenson after his playing career ended, put him in charge of quarterbacks and eventually made him coordinator.

Could Hufnagel suddenly be having a change of heart about giving up the coaching reins? Have promises been made that could cost the club Dickenson's services if they're not kept? These would at least plausibly explain the rumours, and force the Stamps' higher-ups to face a tough call.

Hufnagel is 64, after all, one year younger than Wally Buono, and both are getting to that tenuous age in the lives of CFL grand pooh-bahs when a franchise's thoughts turn to matters like succession and the long-term future.

From the other end, well, naturally the idea of bringing in an experienced, enormously successful former player, assistant, head coach and GM sounds unbeatable.

What 2-13 club with an interim head coach and GM wouldn't move heaven and earth to get Hufnagel?

But first he would have to want to leave Calgary, which he says he doesn't. And then, he would have to want to go to Regina, which is a whole other issue.

It's possible the idea of being the unquestioned No. 1 most loved/hated/scrutinized/important figure in the whole province, after being well down the list in Calgary, appeals to his ego. Maybe the Riders would be willing to throw a wad of money at him. A currently unemployed former GM seems to think so.

Or perhaps Hufnagel is tired of looking out on the Rockies every day, hates skiing, and is pining for amber waves of grain. Maybe he wakes up each day wishing he could channel Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now and say: "I love the smell of Deep Woods Off in the morning."

Possibly his two stints in Regina as a player and then player/coach were fond memories, and he longs to spend his 65th year wrestling a last-place team back to respectability.

But it doesn't make much sense from here.

No, it would require a considerable leap of faith — make that a Jonathan Edwards world record triple jump of faith — to see him in Regina in 2016, except on the visitors' sideline.

Or more likely in the press box, generally managing.

ccole@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Don't go expecting Stampeders head coach and GM John Hufnagel to bolt from Calgary at season's end.
 

Don't go expecting Stampeders head coach and GM John Hufnagel to bolt from Calgary at season's end.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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