fired head coach George Cortez today after just one season as head coach.
So raise your hand if you thought this would happen. Anyone? You in the corner over there? No, you're just scratching your head? OK.
I was stunned by this move. Absolutely stunned. I didn't expect in a million years that Cortez would be turfed this off-season and I'm not entirely sure if the move made was the right one.
Cortez made a lot of mistakes in his first year as a head coach – hiring Casey Creehan as defensive coordinator, sitting Avon Cobourne, not using Dave Stala enough, etc. – but he also did a lot of things right and led the best offense in the CFL. I thought the good outweighed the bad with him and didn't think for a second that he wouldn't be back next year.
Cortez had a rough first year, but most first-year coaches hit rough patches. One of the biggest problems for Cortez, however, was the success of his fellow 2012 first timers. Mike Benevides led the BC Lions to the best record in the league; Corey Chamblin took over a Saskatchewan that finished 5-13 in 2011 and turned them into a playoff team in 2012; and Scott Milanovich, as we all know, won the Grey Cup in his first year with the Argos. I figured Cortez would learn from his first-year mistakes and become a better head coach in 2013. I truly believed he had the wherewithal to lead the team back to the Grey Cup at some point during his tenure. I was wrong.
At the same time the team announced Cortez's firing, they also announced that for all intents and purposes, Bob O'Billovich has been let go as the team's vice president of football operations. Obie has been offered a consultant role with the club and has not yet decided whether he will take it or not. That means the team is also searching for a new general manager (the team didn't have anyone with the title of general manager last season, with Cortez basically acting as the de facto GM last season) as well as a new head coach.
And just like last year's firing of Marcel Bellefeuille – which, in hindsight, looks like one of the worst moves this franchise has ever made – the team is last out of the gate and will have to work fast to replace both Obie and Cortez (not to mention allow the new head coach a chance to put together a staff). A lot of Hamilton's 2012 failures were blamed on Cortez's mid-January hiring. Many felt that was too late to put together a good staff. Well, the Cats fired their coach later this year than they did last year; so if last year was too late, what does that make this year?
With a new GM and head coach will come new coaches on the coaching staff and likely a lot of player movement. I suspect the Ti-Cats will be in the news a lot this winter. I was really hoping that this off-season would be one of the quietest in team history; instead, it is likely going to be one of their busiest.