Monday 29 August 2011

Fire Sale: Everyone Must Go!

The Ti-Cats lost this weekend, so you know what that means: time to bench Kevin Glenn and fire Marcel Bellefeuille.

It's becoming a bit of a joke. Every time the team loses, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the loss, there is a vocal section of the fan base that calls for both Glenn and Bellefeuille's heads. Personally, I'm getting a little sick of hearing it because nothing new ever gets brought up. It's the same arguments over and over again and, frankly, it's a little tiresome.

With Glenn, the issue is he's not a winner. His regular-season record – which is an unimpressive 57-58-1 – gets brought up, as does the "can't win the big one" card. I can't defend Glenn's regular-season win-loss totals. But I also don't have access to all 116 games he's started, so I don't know in how many games his play was the main reason, or one of the main reasons, his team lost. I do know that this past week's loss was not his fault. Yes, he threw an interception that was taken back for a touchdown. He also threw two TDs of his own and passed for over 350 yards. There was also a plethora of mistakes made by his teammates, which Glenn is not responsible for. To say that the Cats lost this past week because of how Kevin Glenn performed is moronic.

But the one that really bugs me, and I just about tune out at this point, is the idea that he "can't win the big one." I've heard that about a lot of Quarterbacks over the years, but none more so in the CFL than Henry Burris. Burris was dogged for years by the same label that is now affixed to Glenn. Burris played great football in the regular season in 2005, 2006 and 2007, but was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs each year. (Sound familiar?) Then, finally, it all came together and Burris led the Stampeders to a Grey Cup championship in 2008. But prior to that, fans and media said that Burris didn't have it in him to lead a team to a championship. Then he did, and you don't hear people say Burris can't win, because he's won. In the NFL, the same was said of Steve Young and Peyton Manning (who was the poster boy for "can't win the big one" going back to his days at the University of Tennessee)... until they won. You only can't win the big one until you win the big one. Once Glenn wins a Grey Cup, this talk goes away. (I'd also make the argument about the 2007 Grey Cup, and how had he played he could have easily led the Bombers to a championship, but I've already made that point so often in the past that I'd begin to sound like the broken record.)

After Glenn (actually, more like "in tandem with Glenn"), fans call for the firing of Marcel Bellefeuille. Bellefeuille is 22-22 as the Ti-Cats Head Coach since taking over on a permanent basis, which is admittedly mediocre. But what needs to be taken into account is the dismal records of the coaches that preceded him (minus Ron Lancaster's interim stint in 2006). Charlie Taaffe was 5-23 in his one-and-a-half playoffless seasons with the Cats in 2007 and 2008, and Greg Marshall was 14-25-1 with one playoff appearance (an East Division Semi-Final loss in 2004 to the Argonauts) in his two-plus seasons at the helm. That playoff loss in 2004 was the high-water mark of the Bob Young era until Bellefeuille was named coach. Since then, the Ti-Cats have made two straight playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010 (and hosted both games), the first time the Cats have made the playoffs in back-to-back years since 2000 and 2001. And even if the Cats finish at 9-9 again this season, they are likely headed back to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

However, this is where I might be convinced to join the group calling for Bellefeuille's head. Now I don't think he should be fired during the season – in my opinion, that is never a good idea – but if the Cats stumble to another .500 finish and first-round playoff exit, it might be time to make a coaching change. Sometimes a coach helps to get a team on track, but can't be the one to take them over the hump. Once again, I look to Calgary from 2005-2007 and then in 2008. For three seasons, Tom Higgins was the head man for the Stamps, and as talented as that team was, he couldn't get them out of the first round of the playoffs. So Higgins gets fired and is replaced by John Hufnagel. In Hufnagel's first season, he takes pretty much the same team Higgins had to the Grey Cup and wins it. A new voice in the locker room got the same group of players where they needed to be in order to take home the most coveted prize in their sport. The story of Tony Dungy and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is pretty similar. While Dungy is a great coach (and would win a Super Bowl with the previously mentioned former poster boy for "can't win the big one" Peyton Manning in Indianapolis), the Bucs needed a new voice to motivate them to excellence. Enter Jon Gruden and a Super Bowl victory.

Perhaps this is the same scenario that needs to play out for the Ti-Cats. Perhaps Bellefeuille has taken them as far as he can. Perhaps a new voice is needed. Perhaps.

Are Glenn and Bellefeuille the men to lead the Cats back to the top of the mountain? I don't know. But I do know that I'm not ready to give up on them yet. Unlike the louder members of the fan base, I don't believe it is time for a fire sale. Everyone doesn't have to go, especially the starting Quarterback and Head Coach.

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