CALGARY – Dave Dickenson says he doesn’t mind waiting another year to get his first opportunity as a CFL head coach.
John Hufnagel announced Wednesday he will be back on the sidelines next season as he tries to guide the Calgary Stampeders to a second straight Grey Cup title, but he said he will hand the reins over to Dickenson, the team’s offensive co-ordinator, in 2016.
“I have one more year left on the field coaching,” Hufnagel said on Wednesday afternoon. “Then, Dave in Year 2 will become the head coach and I’ll move up to just be the general manager. With that program in place, I don’t think that there’s a whole lot of talking necessary about another team.”
When asked if he’d still consider talking to B.C. general manager Wally Buono about the vacant head coaching position with the Lions, Dickenson said he’s not even considering that option.
“I’m not leaving,” said Dickenson, who was announced as a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame’s 2015 class last Friday. “I’ve said that a million times. I’m staying here. I don’t know if he’s planning on calling or not. I respect Wally, love what he’s done. He’s been really good to me, but I’m locked in here in Calgary. I’m very happy to do that.”
The Stampeders are coming off a 20-16 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Sunday’s Grey Cup final. It’s Calgary’s second CFL title since Hufnagel took over as head coach in 2008.
“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this one man and (it’s great) for Huff to finally get one again,” said linebacker Keon Raymond, who referred to Hufnagel as “probably the best coach I’ve ever played for.”
I appreciate and I admire coach Hufnagel so much,” Raymond added. “To have this opportunity to make this run with him – seven years – I’m overjoyed with.”
When told of Raymond’s comments, Hufnagel said he appreciated the compliment.
“It was very flattering,” he said. “One thing I try to do is build a relationship within the locker-room of trust and part of that trust is them trusting me and it goes from there.”
Dickenson also had high praise for the man he referred to as one of his coaching mentors.
“This is Huff’s team and he’s done just such a great job,” Dickenson said.
“I’m glad he’s coming back. I told him that after the game, ‘Don’t do anything crazy now. Come back here.’ He’s just really, to me, a guy that we can all lean on and he showed what a great coach he was this year. I want to keep working with him for many, many years.”
Running back Jon Cornish wasn’t shocked to hear of the plan to have Dickenson to take over as coach in 2016.
“I think that a lot of players were surprised,” Cornish said. “I wasn’t. He’s been the associate head coach and has sort of been the No. 2 guy here for quite some time now, so it’s just nice to see it official.”
Now that he’s had time to celebrate the Grey Cup win with his staff and players, Hufnagel said he’s going to turn his attention to more pressing matters related to helping the Stamps defend their title next season.
“Right now it’s full steam ahead and trying to get some players signed up and talking to their agents,” Hufnagel said. “Hopefully we can have some good luck with that over the next couple weeks.”
Among the list of prospective free agents on the Stamps is Brett Jones, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.
“Brett has a lot of things on his table right now,” Hufnagel said.
“He is getting NFL interest. He wants to try to pursue that. That’s going to be a wait-and-see game. If things don’t blossom down south, then hopefully he’s wearing the red and white next year.”
Defensive end Shawn Lemon confirmed that he already has a dozen workouts scheduled with NFL teams, the first on Friday with the Washington Redskins.
“I wouldn’t play for another CFL team but Calgary, so we’ll go from there,” said Lemon, who could test the free-agent market. “I’ve expressed that to the management already. I want to do those workouts and see what happens.”
Other potential free agents include Stanley Bryant, Brandon Smith, Micah Johnson, Edwin Harrison, Keenan MacDougall, Glenn Love, Simon Charbonneau-Campeau, Brad Sinopoli, Matt Walter, Hugh Charles as well as 11-year veteran receiver Nik Lewis.
“Obviously we’re not going to have everybody back,” said quarterback and Grey Cup MVP Bo Levi Mitchell. “We wish we would. We have a great team, we have a great mesh and we have a great locker-room. There’s going to be some surprises for sure – none that I know of yet. When they come, I’m sure they’ll hurt, but I’m sure we’ll go out and get people too.”