May 2, 2024

Hogan: Argos Double Up on Defensive Coordinators

It took some time for the ink to dry, but the Double Blue has gone double DCs.

During a media session prior to the CFL Combine in Winnipeg, Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie confirmed a story that had been circulating around the league for several weeks; that defensive backs coach William Fields and linebackers coach Kevin Eiben would take over as co-defensive coordinators from Corey Mace, who left to become the head coach in Saskatchewan.

So, what will the new look defence look like? Fields says it will be much of the same that fans were treated to a year ago. While he’s soft spoken, the coach says the defence will be anything but.

“We want to fly around, have fun, tackle by population, and be nasty,” he told Argonauts.ca, uncharacteristically raising his voice when he said the final word in that sentence. “We want people to know it. We want that to be at the forefront of things.”

Eiben concurs.

“We have to build off what we did last year,” he told Argonauts.ca. “We have some players that departed to other teams, but that doesn’t matter because we’ve got new talent coming in that’s going to be just as good or even better. I’m excited to see these guys at camp fight for a position on the top 12.”

For Eiben, his coaching career has been a slow, steady climb. After a stellar 11-year playing career with the Argos and another with Hamilton, he’s paid his dues. He started at McMaster as the defensive coordinator, then moved to the University of Toronto as the Varsity Blues DC. For the last seven years he’s coached the Argos, first as the special teams coordinator, and for the past five seasons as the team’s linebacker’s coach.

His promotion to co-coordinate with Fields was welcomed with open arms by Eiben, who will handle signaling the plays from the sidelines, just like he did last year.

“I have a great relationship with Will, so I knew we’d work well together,” said Eiben. “Right now we’re working out how it’s going to come together, but Will’s used to being in the box (upstairs in the coaching spotter’s box) and I’m used to being on the field, D-Max (new defensive line coach Demitrious Maxie) will have the D-line,  I’ll have the linebackers, and we have a new coach in Myron Lewis who will handle the DBs.”

Fields ascent has also been steady. A talented defensive back with Calgary and Winnipeg for six seasons, the native of Houston, Texas coached in the CFL with BC, Montreal, Hamilton, and Edmonton, with other stops at Simon Fraser University, Peru State College, and the XFL’s Vipers under former Argo head coach Marc Trestman. He joined the Boatmen in 2022 to work with Josh Bell as a defensive secondary coach. With Mace and Bell joining the Roughriders, Fields takes over for Bell as the defensive backs coach and as the co-coordinator with Eiben.

“I feel like we always work together, so it doesn’t matter who gets the title,” said Fields. “I’ve always been the one to not want too much notoriety for whatever reason, maybe it’s not my personality. I always want to play good defence and contribute to playing good defence and winning games.”

There has been much speculation from outside the organization about the lack of announcement about the replacements for Mace, but the plan was implemented in-house in January. When players outside the organization were approached by the Argos during free agency, they were aware of the Eiben/Fields tandem.

It’s a duo that has faith in one another.

“It’s all built on trust,” explained Eiben. “Will, me, Mace, and Bell had a great relationship over the last two years, and we built this defence to succeed. The CFL knows that we’re an aggressive, attacking type of defence that likes to make plays. We’re physical and we like to bring the pain. That’s going to continue.”

Fields agreed with his co-coordinator that trust in one another is imperative to making this situation work.

“It’s very important. We want to be on the same page, but it’s the same as us trusting the players and the players trusting us to do the right things. Trust is huge in football in general and in teamwork in general, but in this case more so because this is one of the first times the CFL has seen co-coordinators.”

The biggest training camp question for Fields surrounds the personnel in the secondary, the group he will work most closely with. Gone are Adarius Pickett, Jamal Peters and Qwan’Tez Stiggers, a player that new Argo coach Myron Lewis coached in high school.

CFL veterans Quincy Mauger and Tunde Adeleke join a group that returns several veterans and more than a handful of incoming Americans, several of whom have NFL experience.

“I feel like it’s always good to have a good mixture of young guys and veterans,” said Fields. “The veterans put everything at ease and help reiterate what I’m coaching and what I’m teaching, but I’m used to working with new guys, that’s one of my strengths. Training camp will be important, we’re going to have to teach our butts off, but the personnel department has done a great job of bringing in talent.”

There is zero question that the Argos have a group that is talented enough to contend for the Grey Cup, something Eiben knows how to do. He has won three championships over the course of his career in Double Blue and he’s hungry to add to the collection.

“I’ve won a Grey Cup as a player, I’ve won a Grey Cup as a special teams coordinator, I’ve won a Grey Cup as a linebackers coach; now it’s time to get a DC Grey Cup, so I’m excited about the opportunity.”