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November 23, 2017

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

OTTAWA – Sunday, they go call-for-call, adjustment-for-adjustment, decision-for-decision.

As mano-a-mano as it gets when you’re stapled to the sidelines modelling official club outerwear and sporting headphones.

The scenario for the 105th Grey Cup, though, could’ve turned out far different.

For scrolling back to 2008, when Marc Trestman had only just been hired by the Montreal Alouettes to launch what would be a five-season, two-Grey Cup run that would eventually land him back in the NFL, he set about identifying candidates to assist in implementing his vision.

One of the names that seemed particularly intriguing was that of a cerebral quarterback blessed with a rich CFL pedigree but ongoing injury issues: Dave Dickenson.

Nine years later, Wednesday morning, the two men shared the stage at the Shaw Centre for the annual Grey Cup head coaches media availability.

There’s karma for you.

“Well I was certainly familiar with Dave when I got into the league, his history as a player,’’ acknowledged Trestman.

“I knew his brother, Craig. And we spent some time talking over the years.

“To my recognition, we did have a discussion, didn’t we?”

A quick nod from Dickenson, seated to his right.

“It worked out the way it did and here we are. It says a lot for who he is. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished, how he handles his team, how he handles the media.

“Every part of his game is something that we all in the league can be proud of.”

Dickinson admits Trestman’s option at least tempted him.

“Yeah, it happened after I was cut by B.C,” he said. “I was impressed that Mark reached out to me. I wanted to meet with him, see what I could learn. I knew I could learn a lot. But I just hadn’t, at that point, given up the dream of playing. So I told him: ‘Hey, I’m going to try and keep this going.’

“As it turned out the career was pretty much over as a player, but then I stayed in Calgary with Huf. We’re kinda competing now but I’d love to be able to sit down with him, to see how he handles things as a head coach.

“I think he’s probably as proven as any guy we’ve had in our league in a long, long time.

“Football people like talking football. Both of us just enjoy the game. Both of us would enjoy sitting down, comparing notes and seeing where we’re at.

“Not this week, though.

“We’ll keep it for another week.”

Dave Dickenson and Toronto Argonauts head coach Marc Trestman, two guys with a lot of respect for each other, leave the stage following the head coaches news conference Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

You have to drift back 23 years for the last time the title game was contested here in the nation’s capital. Old Frank Clair Stadium was the venue and Dickenson received the nod as starting quarterback for the B.C. Lions over Casey Printers, a controversially call from Leos’ head coach Wally Buono factoring in that Printers – nursing a shoulder problem leading up to the Cup clash – had thrown for 5,008 yards and 35 touchdowns during the regular season.

The 2004 incarnation of the Toronto Argos would go on beat Dickenson and the Leos that afternoon, 27-19.

“I remember Wally (Buono) making the right decision – starting me,’’ joked Dickenson on Tuesday.

“No, a weird week. A weird, weird week. Casey was the MVP that year. He threw the ball underhand during practice to save his shoulder.

“Now that I’m a head coach – I think Marc would be on board with this – I want to see what I’m going to get in the game, in practice. When you can’t do that, it makes it very difficult to have faith that that person can get the job done.

“I had a tough year that year. More knee problems. I was glad to get the opportunity. I felt I gave it my all. Didn’t turn out in our favour.

“We did a lot of things wrong: Strategy, players. We had a fight on the bus the day before the game.

“It wasn’t the type of situation that I’d want to happen for our team this year.

“And ultimately we lost. When you lose you look back in a different light and wish you could’ve done things differently.

“’04 stings. It really does.”

A victory Sunday in the Cup’s return to Ottawa would doubtless alleviate at least some of that long-standing sting.