Thursday 12 January 2012

It's Win Now for the Tiger-Cats

Amidst all the warm, fuzzy feelings following Tuesday's introduction of new Head Coach George Cortez and new Quarterback Henry Burris, the underlying truth of the matter is that the Tiger-Cats have now set a very high bar for their rookie Head Coach and hired-gun Quarterback.

It's Grey Cup or bust for the boys from Steeltown.

The decisions to part ways with Marcel Bellefeuille and Kevin Glenn were made because the team (namely Vice President of Football Operations – formerly General Manager – Bob O'Billovich) did not think those two men could get the Tiger-Cats to, and win, a Grey Cup.

The expectations are that both Cortez and Burris not only can, but will. They will not be given the same grace period that was given to Bellefeuille – who took over a terrible franchise that had managed to win 15 games the previous four seasons – and, to a lesser extent, Glenn.

Bellefeuille took over a team that treated winning like some sort of contagious disease; Cortez takes over a team that made it to the East Division Final last season. Any regression, or even stagnation, from what the Bellefeuille-led teams accomplished will be seen as an abject failure.

Much like Casey Printers, Jason Maas and Danny McManus, the Tiger-Cats brought in Burris because they think he's the guy they need to win it all. McManus was a success in that role, guiding the team to back-to-back Grey Cup appearances in 1998 and 1999, and winning it all in 1999. But I am sure we all still shudder at how terrible the Printers and Maas eras were. The 57 losses that accompanied those 15 wins came mostly with Printers and Maas at the helm. They failed as miserably as McManus succeeded.

Glenn, because he was not seen as a franchise saver, did not shoulder the same burden as McManus, Maas and Printers; Burris will. Smilin' Hank was acquired with much the same fanfare as McManus, Maas and Printers, and will therefore have the expectations of ending the second-longest Grey Cup drought in the CFL.

Burris also has a lot to prove, namely that the end of his 2011 season in Calgary was a small blemish on a stellar career résumé and not a harbinger of things to come.

Normally, these type of sky-high expectations come from a team's fan base, but the Cats put this pressure on themselves by making these moves. It was Bob O'Billovich himself who said that these moves were made to take the team to the next level. Better is not a repeat of 2011, 2010 or 2009. Better is doing what no Tiger-Cat team has done since 1999.

It is win now for the Tiger-Cats, and anything less than the ultimate success will be seen as the ultimate failure.

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