Coming up might be my favourite two weeks of the CFL regular season: the home-and-home series on Labour Day weekend and the following weekend. Most years, we get three great rivalries and BC vs. Montreal (no offense, but that series doesn't hold a candle to Toronto-Hamilton, Calgary-Edmonton and Winnipeg-Saskatchewan). I love the back-to-back games. It also kicks off the unofficial drive to the playoffs, which means things will start to get even more intense as we see who emerges from the pack to claim the ultimate prize in Canadian football. But before we get too far into future, let's look back on the week that was in the Canadian Football League.
(1) Bombers firing LaPolice feels like a bad move
It is impossible to say whether or not the decision to fire Paul LaPolice was a good or bad one by Winnipeg, but it feels like it was a bad one. I think GM Joe Mack takes as much blame as any for the problems in Winnipeg. The fact of the matter is Winnipeg is hurting at the game's most important position, quarterback. It is almost impossible to win in pro football without a reliable quarterback and up until the last two games, the Bombers have not had a reliable quarterback. The timing also feels odd. Winnipeg beat Hamilton and narrowly lost to BC, the league's best team, so it did look like Winnipeg was improving. As big a fan of Tim Burke, LaPolice's replacement, as I am (I wanted him as Hamilton's head coach after the team fired Marcel Bellefeuille), I just don't think he is in a position to succeed this year. Changing coaches at mid-season pretty much means you're giving up on the current season. It looks like it is going to be 22 years and counting in Winnipeg.
(2) Bombers should stick with Elliott
Sticking with the Bombers, and being a bit more positive, I think they should just stick it out with Joey Elliott regardless of Buck Pierce's health. Elliott has shown he can lead Winnipeg and I think it is time for them to just give him the ball and let him run with it. At some point, they are going to have to make a decision anyway, so they might as well make it now. The coaching change, as I said above, means they've pretty much given up on this year; if that is the case, then name Elliott the starter for the rest of the season.
(3) Helmet rule needs tweaking
The Edmonton-Toronto game was the first time I saw the new illegal participation rule called. Toronto's Armond Armstead was called for it when his helmet popped off and he continued to follow the play. The rule sounded great when implemented back in the off-season, but seeing it in action makes me think the rule took things a bit too far because telling a player to stop playing because his helmet comes off goes against his instincts. I'm fine with calling the play dead if the ball carrier's helmet comes off, but that's as far is it should go.
(4) Als not missing Jamel Richardson
The Als have been without Jamel Richardson the past two weeks, and even when he has played he hasn't been the player he was last year, so the Als have been forced to rely more on other receivers and both S.J. Green and Brandon London have stepped up to fill the void left by Richardson. Both players have been great for most of the season and, in a way, are making Richardson expendable. With his contract up at the end of the season, what seemed unfathomable last year could become reality next year: Jamel Richardson could be in another uniform in 2013. London and Green have been that good during the first half of the season.
(5) Will Geroy Simon come out of his funk
To continue talking about underachieving receivers, Geroy Simon has done virtually nothing since breaking Milt Stegall's yards record back in Week 1. He's on pace for just 981 yards, which would be his lowest total, and the first season where he doesn't break 1,000, since 2002. He has also yet to score a touchdown. I am starting to wonder if this might be the beginning of the end for one of the best receivers in the history of the CFL.
(6) Kerry Joseph could be the short-term answer for Edmonton
While I know that Kerry Joseph has never been an elite quarterback – his 2007 MOP season notwithstanding – and he makes a lot of mistakes, but I can't be alone in thinking he looks like the short-term answer at quarterback for the Eskimos. Call me a fool, but I still believe in Steven Jyles (less and less with each passing week, mind you), but the way that Joseph plays could be what the Eskimos need. They have a great defense that can overcome any mistakes that Joseph makes, and Joseph will likely make fewer mistakes than Jyles. I think it might not be crazy for Edmonton to consider starting Kerry Joseph from here on out.
(7) Chad Kackert might not be the upgrade the Argos sold him as
When the Argos released Cory Boyd, they said the move needed to be made because Boyd wasn't as good in the passing game and in pass blocking (never mind that he was the league's leading rusher when he was dumped which, last I checked, was the primary job of a running back). The Argos sold Chad Kackert as being able to do everything Boyd couldn't. Well, against the Eskimos, Kackert sure didn't look like the upgrade that the Argos told people he'd be. He caught just five passes for 31 yards (Boyd caught two for 30 for the Eskimos in limited playing time) and he missed more than a few blocks, one of which lead directly to a sack of Ricky Ray. Kackert looks like he could be a good player, but he doesn't look like the massive upgrade over Boyd that the Argos said he'd be.
(8) Calvillo continues making his case as the greatest ever
I'd be remiss if I didn't at least touch on Anthony Calvillo overtaking Warren Moon for the No. 2 spot on pro football's all-time touchdown list. I'm not big on combining records between the NFL and CFL because the game's are different, but the way Anthony Calvillo is moving up the ranks has me starting wonder if he is the greatest quarterback in CFL history. I said before that Doug Flutie would always be my pick, but the more Calvillo plays, the more I question whether or not my mind will be changed.
(9) Riders losng streak hits five
I'm not the world's biggest fan of the Riders or their fans. I think some of them (make note of the use of the word "some") can be arrogant and rude when it comes to anyone questioning their beloved franchise. That said, I do feel for them right now. They got their hopes up after that 3-0 start and to have to endure a five-game losing streak takes its toll. I hope most of them realize that this was to be expected and that their 3-0 start was a bit of a mirage. Saskatchewan is a young team with a young head coach and immediate success was never going to happen. The ceiling for the Riders at the beginning of the year was nine wins and that was a stretch. They still might hit that number, but next year is the year fans will see major improvement from the Green & White.
(10) Players of the Week
The race for Offensive Player of the Week was a two-horse race between Montreal teammates Anthony Calvillo and S.J. Green. Calvillo threw for over 300 yards for the seventh straight game, while Green hauled in 10 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown. Calvillo has been honoured many times over his career, so I'm giving this one to Green.
You could pretty much give J.C. Sherritt the award every week and I doubt you'd get many complaints, but another defensive player stood out and that was Charleston Hughes. Hughes forced two fumbles and picked off Darian Durant in Calgary's win on Saturday. That's pretty impressive for a defensive lineman.
Just like Sherritt, I could give the top special teams award to Chris Williams pretty much every week and with no one else doing much of anything on special teams this week aside from Williams, he gets the award again. He had another punt return for a touchdown and has now tied the CFL's single-season record for kick returns in a season with five... and he's done it in eight games. He now has 10 games to score one more time on special teams, so unless teams decide to kick it away from him on every punt, he will end up in sole possession of the record before too long.
Top Canadian for the week was a toss up between Jon Cornish and Andrew Harris. Cornish picked up an impressive 159 yards on the ground, while Harris 88 total yards and two touchdowns. Despite not scoring, Cornish gets the awards. Rarely does a running back rush for nearly 160 yards, so when one does he should be recognized.