The not-so-secret succession plan is now out in the open.
And it’s exactly what many expected it to be.
The 2015 CFL season will be John Hufnagel’s final campaign on the sideline and last in the dual role as GM and head coach, as the 63-year-old Pennsylvania native officially announced Wednesday that he’ll hand the Calgary Stampeders head coaching duties over to Dave Dickenson in 2016 and move upstairs to focus on the GM job.
Dickenson, who also has a dual role of offensive co-ordinator and assistant head coach, and Hufnagel both have contracts that run through the ’16 campaign.
The plan was set into motion last year as Dickenson, 41, was being eyed as a head coaching candidate in a couple of places across the CFL.
Hufnagel and Calgary Flames Limited Partnership president and CEO Ken King decided to put the succession plan in place.
“Ken and I came up with a nice plan that would, hopefully, give us a chance to compete for a Grey Cup but also solidify the organization, overall,” Hufnagel said.
It also puts to bed any talk of Dickenson being the next head coach of the B.C. Lions, even though he’s shot down those rumours a couple times over the past two weeks.
“I have one more year left on the field coaching, and then Dave, in Year 2, will become the head coach, and I’ll move up to just be the general manager,” Hufnagel said. “With that program in place, I don’t think that there’s a whole lot of talk necessary about (Dickenson going to) another team.”
Dickenson isn’t counting any chickens before they hatch.
Many a football plan has gone down the drain unexpectedly.
That’s the nature of the business.
“He told the guys (Tuesday),” Dickenson said of when he first found out. “I said, ‘Shoot, Huff, it would have been nice if you told me beforehand.’ I trusted him, and, I think, he’s done a great job. I’m not really going to get too far past next year. I know he says that stuff — and I believe him — and, I think, if the path remains consistent, that’ll happen. But in my opinion, there are no guarantees in life or in football.”
Dickenson and Hufnagel share many of the same philosophies when it comes to game-planning, as well as roster building, and the head-coach-in-waiting is excited to continue that next season.
“It’s Huff’s team, and Huff runs it,” Dickenson said. “I’ve already had some of the players jokingly have some questions that should be directed to Huff. It’s fun and games, but this is Huff’s squad, and he’s done such a great job. I’m glad he’s coming back. I told him after the game, ‘Don’t do anything crazy now.’ He’s a guy, to me, we can all lean on, and he showed what a great coach he is this year.”
While the GM/head coach, offensive co-ordinator and defensive co-ordinator, Rich Stubler, will all be status quo next season, there could still be movement when it comes to the position coaches.
Defensive line coach DeVone Claybrooks is a hot name in coaching circles right now, with opportunities both south and north of the boarder, according to multiple league sources.
Claybrooks is expected to be high on the Saskatchewan Roughriders list if they decide to officially move on from Richie Hall, which is likely to happen, and he has a strong relationship with Riders head coach Corey Chamblin.
Special-teams coach Mark Kilam and receivers coach Pete Costanza could also generate interest if an opportunity arises.
“I’m sure there may be some talk with my coaches,” Hufnagel said. “I’m optimistic that the staff won’t be affected, but you never know. There’s a lot more movement in the Canadian Football League, at this time, than I thought there would be. I’m sure some of my coaches will probably get some phone calls.”
The football season may be over, but the hot stove is just heating up.