REGINA - The Grey Cup arriving in downtown Regina via horse-drawn carriage. Baltimore Stallion jerseys. Easterners adapting to mind-numbingly low temperatures. Almost everyone and every building in the city dressed up in green.
These are some of the memorable sights in and around the Grey Cup host city this week, but perhaps the most unique and curious visage of them all is something that is considered blasphemous to many fans of the Hamilton Tiger Cats - one of their coaches is wearing an Argonaut Grey Cup ring.
The coach is defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer, who was Toronto's defensive backs coach a year ago. The reason for donning the bling of the Ticats sworn mortal enemies?
"I wear it because I'm super proud," Steinauer told TSN.ca "It's a festival here, other people want to see it, some people have never seen it, so you just bring it out."
The Ticats signed Steinauer on January 3 this year, a little over a month after the Argos' Grey Cup win over Calgary. The Steeltowners hired Kent Austin as their head coach a couple of weeks earlier, and he quickly interviewed several people about becoming his defensive coordinator. He said that Steinauer's philosophical viewpoint was similar to his, and that was a big selling point.
"Not just about the game," said Austin, when talking about what he liked about Steinauer's approach. "Schematically how (Steinauer) views the game, specifically to the CFL, but overall (his) philosophical viewpoint on how to build a football team, how to build a defence, what type of players you want to attract and to have on your team, because the players are going to carry your culture and keep each other accountable."
One of the players Steinauer attracted was Brandon Isaac. The linebacker was an integral part of the 2012 Grey Cup champs before being unceremoniously dumped by the Argos early this season. The coach pounced on the opportunity to bring 'B.I.' aboard.
"The reason Brandon was brought in is that we were a little too finesse and not quite enough killer," said Steinauer. "We were still trying to find those guys who were going to impact football games and that's what Brandon brings, a little bit of tenacity, a little bit of nastiness, overconfidence, that kind of thing, and we needed that."
Isaac relished the opportunity to be reunited with the Ticats DC.
"He's a players coach. He's a phenomenal coach, he does a great job of explaining things and putting you in position." Isaac continued about Steinauer's strengths, "His explanation of X's and O's, his preparation before the game. A lot of times we know what a team is going to do and we're prepared for it. He's a great motivational speaker. He's not a 'rah rah' guy, he doesn't yell at you, he's just a calm guy who is passionate about the game."
Steinauer was asked by TSN.ca to describe his defensive philosophy in one word. The one he chose tells you everything you need to know about his approach to the game.
It makes sense because there's not one defence he throws out there on a regular basis. You may think that as a player who thrived under Rich Stubler's 'match coverage', that Steinauer would use that as a base defence. The Ticats employ it, but last week in their East Final win over the Argos, that coverage was not used once in the second half. Instead the team brought pressure on every down, something the Argos didn't expect.
That made defensive tackle Brian Bulcke, working with Steinauer for the first time, a very happy man.
"He empowers us" said Bulcke, who played for the Stampeders in last year's Grey Cup. "He actually puts a lot of responsibility back onto the players. He's got no ego in the game, he just loves developing a simple scheme that we can execute and actually take on as our own and that's just awesome."
And the 'multiple' aspect of Steinauer's defence is something he wears as a badge of honour.
"A lot of coordinators come with the M.O. that they're going to bring pressure, or they're going to be a 'bend but don't break', or they're going to be soft, or they're going to stop the run, but give up big pass," Steinauer continued. "We're going to do whatever it takes to win that week."
Steinauer's word to describe his defence is 'multiple'. His head coach wasn't able to be as succinct when talking about the job done by his right-hand man.
"I don't think one word can describe it to be honest with you," Austin told TSN.ca. "The coaching job that he and his staff have done this year has been nothing short of outstanding. He has done just a marvelous coaching job. He's extremely bright, he's very, very hard working, unbelievably organized, he stays on point, he doesn't let the little things distract him, he focuses on the big picture, and getting to that big picture by putting tangible things in place to achieve those goals. He's just a really, really, really talented coach."
Occasionally Steinauer's name is mentioned when openings arise for a head coach in the CFL. If it doesn't happen this year, it won't be long before Steinauer is no longer Austin's assistant...he's his peer.