Back in 2009 or so (the memory is a little hazy), a veteran CFL writer mentioned moments before a McMahon Stadium game how he believed John Hufnagel was going to eventually be regarded as one of the best coaches, not only of his time but all eras.
It seemed premature at the time, seeing as it was Hufngel’s second season, but maybe he was projecting forward based on what he saw. Certainly now credit has to be given to Graham Kelly, the longtime writer for the Medicine Hat News and author of a book on Grey Cup history. Seven seasons into his tenure as head coach, Hufnagel has put together an impressive resume, and it’s something Kelly predicted would happen. Even if you forget about his contributions as an assistant coach (he’s credited with the five-receiver sets the Stampeders started using in the early 1990s), Hufnagel’s time as the head man in Calgary might be worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Early in Hufnagel’s tenure, I didn’t fully appreciate what Hufnagel was doing. He turned the Stamps around from a 7-10-1 group into 13-5 division winners, but that in itself wasn’t that impressive. The building blocks were there, and in 2007, the Stamps were a respectable 7-6-1 when quarterback Henry Burris started games. Teams respond positively to new blood, and it seemed that was a normal situation with the Stamps.
By the 2012 season, it was clear Hufnagel, as both GM and coach, was driving the Stamps every season. He pulled the team together with veteran QB Kevin Glenn (getting the best performances of Glenn’s career) and overcame myriad injuries to reach the Grey Cup.
It’s been a great ride, but his time on the sideline will end in 2015, at eight years as the bench boss.
Consider some of these stats:
- With a 15-win season in 2014, Hufnagel joins three other coaches to lead a team to that many victories in one campaign. Those other three happen to be Joe Faragalli, Wally Buono and Don Matthews. Nice company.
- Currently sitting at a .702 win percentage, Hufnagel is fourth all-time behind Hugh Campbell, Frank Kush and Ralph Sazio. If you throw out Kush (being that he only had one season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in 1981), he joins another impressive group.
- If the Stamps win 11 games this season, Hufnagel would equal the win total of the legendary Cal Murphy at 99 for his career. Murphy currently sits 10th in all-time wins. The difference is Murphy recorded his 99 wins in 182 games, while Hufnagel is headed towards finishing out his tenure at 144 total.
- During Hufnagel’s tenure, the Stampeders have never lost three straight games. In recent years, he’s managed to stifle all losing streaks at one game. The last time the Stamps lost back-to-back was in Weeks 2 and 3 of the 2012 season. Since then, every time they taste defeat, they wash it away the following week.
- Hufnagel’s Stampeders are undefeated coming off bye weeks. Give the coach more time to prepare, and he will exploit your weakness.
- Hufnagel’s team finished first four times in seven years, a higher percentage than all coaches in charge six or more seasons other than Campbell (who finished first in six straight years) and Buono (13 of 22 seasons).
- It would be fitting for the Stamps to win 12 games in 2015, meaning Hufnagel would finish out at an even 100 regular-season wins. Of course, if the Stamps are 12-2, expect them to make a run at Faragalli’s record of 16 wins in a season, which was threatened in 2015.
Some might point to the lack of Grey Cup wins during Hufnagel’s tenure and say his team underachieved. It was the same criticism levelled at Buono during his run in the 1990s. There was a five-year dry spell for the Stamps between their ’92 and ’98 championship teams, exactly the same as the one between the 2008 and 2014 victories for the Hufnagel’s teams.
Hufnagel’s record is 7-5 during the post-season (2-1 in Grey Cups), but one team has a lot to do with that. The Stamps had a stumbling block with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, losing three times to them in Hufnagel’s tenure and only winning once.
It can be tough for media to appreciate Hufnagel’s methods. He’s not overtly friendly in post-practice sessions, and he doesn’t like talking to big groups, mostly due to hearing impairment that leaves him wondering what reporters are asking him. He doesn’t want to ‘look like a goof’ by constantly asking people to repeat themselves, which is one of the reasons he always took a liking to former beat writer Allen Cameron and his booming voice. Hufnagel can often be cryptic in his answers, and he doesn’t make for great soundbites. The players love him though, and it seems to be because he tells it to them straight.
Here is the straight truth though: When Huff retires from the CFL (and there is no telling how long his reign as GM might go), cast a bust for him in the Hall of Fame. He deserves it.
STAMPS SHAKE UP ROSTER (SLIGHTLY)
The Stamps pulled off a minor trade on Tuesday, sending newly signed international DB Ryan Mouton for international OL Zebrie Sanders, who figures to compete for a backup spot with Edwin Harrison expected to be the team’s starting left tackle. With some roster moves in order to get under the capped number of players, the Stamps released DL Brandon Jordan and DB Brandon Underwood. Both international players, Jordan played three games for the Stamps while the biggest news Underwood made was being named in a New York Times article on domestic abuse in football. The Stamps also released a handful of international players: Defensive lineman Risean Broussard, Brandon Denmark, Andrew Mahan and Chris McAllister, defensive backs Freddy Griggs and Arthur Hobbs, receiver Stephen Burton and running back Timothy Flanders. All six players had been signed earlier this off-season.
Latest posts by Ian Busby (see all)
- Mitchell facing long rehab as Stampeders reload for 2018 - December 31, 2017
- New Calgary fieldhouse part of Olympic bid - November 22, 2017
- Stamps silence doubters by beating Eskimos - November 20, 2017