Friday, 3 May 2013

Time for a New Voice

The CFL Draft is just around the corner, and normally that means a plethora of half-educated posts from me about who the Ti-Cats should take. But as you've probably noticed, I've been absent from these parts for almost a month. The reason is that I have been trying to make a decision on the future of this blog and I have come to the decision that after three years of immersing myself in all things Tiger-Cats, now is the right time to step aside.

This wasn't an easy decision, nor was it a quick one. I started wondering to myself as early as last September if 2012 should be my final season doing this. The passion that I once had just isn't there. I don't know if the season in Guelph, the underachieving squad or just a desire for change is the reason I am making the difficult decision to stop.

I began doing this back in February of 2010 and it has exploded into something much bigger than I ever imagine it would, or could, be. This was supposed to be something just for family and friends, and as detailed during my Moncton excursion, it was only something that was supposed to last until the 2011 season and was started as a way to keep my family informed on what I was doing when I was going to take the season-long journey with the team. But it grew into something much more than that. Members of the Tiger-Cats, both staff and players read this, members of the media (as in, like, real writers) read this, as well as the countless nameless and faceless people who have stopped by over the years to get my take on all things CFL and Tiger-Cats.

There was a dearth of fan coverage when I started, especially among Tiger-Cat fans, and I tried my best to fill a niche that I thought needed to be filled. I may come off as combative, maybe even a bit of a jerk, but I never wrote anything I wouldn't stand behind. Whether you vehemently disagreed with me or supported my position unequivocally, I appreciate you stopping by and giving my opinion some consideration.

Because of this blog, I had the chance to sit in the press box at Ivor Wynne Stadium (a cool moment that I will cherish forever), get my opinion published in the Hamilton Spectator on more than one occasion and take part in other CFL writing endevours. I was able to use this space to promote my friend Steve as a Scotiabank Game Changer and did my best to press the league to get on the Movember train (and if anyone was at Mark Cohon's Fan State of the League address during Grey Cup weekend in Toronto last November, you know the CFL is trying to come up with ways to make that happen). I have been able to do things I never thought I'd do and help people in ways I never thought I could. And I loved all of it.

One of the best aspects of this has been interacting with the readers. Whether in the comment section or on Twitter, there are so many great CFL fans out there that it would take too long to list them all. Agree or disagree, interacting with undoubtedly the best and most educated sports fans on the planet has been a blast. I thank you all for elevating the discourse on all things CFL.

But like all great things, there is an end, and today is mine. And now is the time to hand the reigns to someone else. A new voice needs to be heard and I hope some fills the void I will create just as I filled the void before me. There are a vast number of Tiger-Cat fans out there and I'm sure one of them will take the opportunity to create something great.

So I will end this simply by saying thank you. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and gave my stuff a chance. Thank you for challenging me when you disagreed and complimenting me when you agreed. Thank you for taking time out of your day to care enough about my opinion.

Thank you.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Williams Wants Out

So the to-do with Chris Williams a month ago was not much ado about nothing. It now looks like Chris Williams wants out of his contract and is actively trying to get the final year voided.

The crux of Williams' argument is that when he signed his contract back in 2011, the Ti-Cats did not offer him a minimum-length contract (one year plus an option) which the CBA states is a must, even if the team also offers a longer deal. Williams was inked to a three-year deal.

Reaction online to what Williams is doing has been swift and harsh, with many siding with the team and saying Williams is being greedy, not honourable and is damaging his reputation. I understand that sentiment, but I don't entirely agree with it.

Football players have very short careers, so getting as much as you can as quickly as you can is almost a must. Williams has been playing for peanuts the last two years, two years in which he won league awards, and is looking for a chance to make more money. Whether that be with the Ti-Cats or in the NFL is immaterial. He wants more money and he has earned more money. Fans are quick to jump on a player's back when they believe he is being overcompensated, but when a guy has performed beyond his contract and wants a substantial raise, he is accused of being greedy.

The idea that he is doing something wrong by not honouring his deal is somewhat laughable. Football contracts are not guaranteed and therefore are pretty much not worth the paper they are printed on. The team can cut a player in a heartbeat, and when they do, no one thinks twice. When a player wants to break his deal, he gets labelled as a malcontent. Williams is getting bashed for not being loyal, but no one rips the team when they aren't loyal and cut a guy for someone cheaper or younger.

Williams has a bit of leverage after two award-winning seasons and he is using it. I don't see anything wrong with that. Like everyone else, I want to see Williams back, but I won't hold it against him if he chooses not to return or is successful in getting his deal voided. Williams will not be attending the team's voluntary mini-camp later this month and it is entirely possible that we have seen the last of him in a Ti-Cats jersey.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Is Chris Williams Done as a Tiger-Cat?

It was a normal Monday night and then Drew Edwards dropped a bombshell: Chris Williams' days as a Tiger-Cat might be numbered.

Williams has deleted the tweet that was the crux of Edwards' post, but Drew was kind enough to retweet it, so we still have it:That definitely doesn't sound positive.

It is very concerning that Williams appears so angry, but I have no idea what his problem is – O'Billovich's firing? Cortez's? – but it seems to have angered him enough that he is willing to publicly state that he won't be coming back (even if he's since purged his timeline of the tweet).

If Williams does not return, that will be a huge blow to the Ti-Cats. He has been an award winner in both his seasons in the team (top rookie in 2011, top special teamer in 2012) and his presence on both offense and special teams would be almost impossible to replace.

But if he is serious about not coming back to the Ti-Cats, then the team will have to trade him. And if they do, they will have to throw Williams under the bus and state that the reason he was dealt is because he didn't want to play in Hamilton any longer. Otherwise, the team will look foolish for trading an in-his-prime player.

My hope is that cooler heads will prevail, but a divorce could be coming. This is something that Ti-Cat fans, and fans of the other seven teams, will be keeping an eye on.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cats Make Front Office Moves

The Ticats made four hirings in their front office on Friday, naming Danny McManus the director of U.S. scouting, Drew Allemang the director of Canadian scouting, Shawn Burke as director of football administration and Eric Tillman as a consultant.

McManus, Allemang and Burke have all worked for the team previously, so the big news to come out of these hirings is bringing in Tillman.

To put it mildly, Eric Tillman is a polarizing figure. On the plus side, he has been a general manager for five different CFL teams over the course of his career and has won three Grey Cups in those stints. He is an astute football mind who has helped build winners almost everywhere he has been.

But a lot of opinions on Tillman changed two Decembers ago when he made perhaps the worst trade in pro sports history, sending future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts. He has also had some troubles in his personal life. He plead guilty to sexual assault on a teenage girl in 2010 while general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was immediately dismissed as the team's GM.

But people shouldn't start worrying that Tillman will trade Henry Burris for a bag of shuttlecocks and $200 in pennies. Tillman is only a consultant and the final say on all matters still rests with Kent Austin. Austin will be the guy pulling the trigger, not Tillman.

And aside from the Ray deal, Tillman has shown he usually is right when dealing a player. The best example is when he shipped Kerry Joseph to Toronto in 2008. Many panned the move because Joseph had just led the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup win since 1989 and was named the league's Most Outstanding Player, but Tillman didn't believe Joseph was worth what he thought he was worth and sent him to Toronto. Joseph never recaptured his 2007 form and the Riders went to two Grey Cups with the team Tillman built (though he wasn't around for the second trip).

There really is no downside to bringing Tillman on as a consultant. He has a history of building teams into winners – say what you want about the Ray trade, but the Eskimos made the playoffs in both of Tillman's season as general manager – and has a good relationship with Austin, and can help the first-time GM navigate the waters in his first season at the helm of the Tiger-Cats.

Tillman brings invaluable experience and a history as a winner. He also has a chance to rehab his image with the Cats. This is a win-win from both sides, with little risk for Tillman and the team. All signs point to this being a successful marriage.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Grey Cup Rotation System Fairest for All Teams

The Grey Cup is headed back to the west coast as Vancouver will host Canadian football's biggest game in 2014.

This will be the second time in four years and the third time in nine years that the game will be played at BC Place. The only other bid was from Winnipeg, who pulled out to concentrate on bidding on the 2015 game, so Vancouver was the only option.

But the CFL is seeing a stadium-building boom right now – Winnipeg opens their new facility in June, Hamilton and Ottawa should be ready by 2014, and Regina will have their new stadium in 2017 – which means the league should change how the Grey Cup is awarded. Instead of a bidding process, the league should institute a simple rotation system. Here is how I would do it (starting in 2017):

2017 - Vancouver
2018 - Hamilton
2019 - Calgary
2020 - Montreal
2021 - Regina
2022 - Ottawa
2023 - Edmonton
2024 - Toronto
2025 - Winnipeg

This is the fairest system not just for the teams, but also the fans. The game isn't held in the same region of the country two years in a row, the games in domes (2017, 2020, 2024) are spread out enough to ensure the game isn't played in the cold too often (for people who care/worry about that kind of thing), and every team gets the game every nine years.

With places like Hamilton soon able to host the game, all nine CFL cities will be viable candidates for the Grey Cup. It makes little sense to continue to have teams bid on the game when the league can just put in a schedule that sees teams get the game when it is their turn. Once all the stadia are complete, we should never see something like BC (or any city) hosting the game multiple times in less than a decade (let alone multiple times in less than half a decade). If every team can host, every team should host. The CFL has a chance to once again do right by its fans and I hope they make the necessary changes to ensure Grey Cup equality amongst their nine franchises.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Breaking Down the 2013 Schedule

So after months of people complaining, the CFL finally released their 2013 schedule yesterday. The big takeaways from a Hamilton-centric view are no Labour Day Classic and a return to Moncton for Touchdown Atlantic.

So let's start with the big one and that's no Labour Day game. As someone who was furious when the game was altered in 2011, you'd probably expect me to be a little peeved this bit of news. But I'm actually not at all bothered by it. This season was always going to be different, so losing the game for one year is hardly anything to get angry about. And since the two teams didn't meet two years ago, and the world didn't collapse because of it, I think everything will be fine this season. I would have liked to see the game played in Toronto, but such is life.

The return of Touchdown Atlantic comes as no surprise. When it was announced that the Ti-Cats would play there in 2011, I was a little upset because I knew that they would be playing there in 2013. Lo and behold, they're playing in Moncton in 2013. But this is a great way to grow the game, so I hope it is just as successful as the previous two contests. And I cannot recommend enough that people go. Going in 2011 was great and anyone who is thinking of going should go. Trust me, you will not regret it.

There were some other interesting things of note in the schedule. The Ti-Cats will play a lot of back-to-back games. Five times, to be exact. The team has home-and-home dates with the Roughriders, Lions, Blue Bombers, Alouettes and Argonauts, and are the home team in the second half of those back-to-backs all five times. The Ti-Cats have been a decent home team during the last few years, so if they can steal a couple of wins on the road, they could be in line for a few sweeps.

The Cats will end the season with five consecutive games against their East Division rivals. The play the Argos, Argos, Als, Als and Bombers to end the season. Should the team get off to a slow start, they have a chance to make-up ground at the end of the year.

And maybe the most interesting scheduling anomaly is no games at West Division teams after their September 13th game in Calgary. The other three teams in their division all play at least two games out west during that time, with the Argos playing three West Division opponents after Hamilton has made their final trip out west.

There really isn't much to dislike about the schedule, but the schedule is only as important as the team that is one the field. We now know when and where the Ti-Cats will play; all that is left to find out is the how. And we'll have to wait another four months before we get the answer to that.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Eiben Retires

Changes continue for the Ti-Cats as linebacker Kevin Eiben has announced his retirement.

The former all-star linebacker took to Twitter earlier today to officially announce that he was calling it quits after 12 seasons in the CFL, 11 with the Toronto Argonauts and one with the Ti-Cats:Eiben wasn't a dominant player anymore, but at his peak, he was hands down one of the best defensive players in the CFL. He was a two-time nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian, and quite possibly the best player to never win that award, a five-time East Division all-star and three-time league all-star. He was also a member of the Grey Cup-winning Argos in 2004.

A lot of great things can be said about Eiben, but maybe the most flattering thing that can be said about him is that he was a player that even Tiger-Cat fans liked (myself included). He was the rarest of players in that respect (you can the number of those on one hand). Eiben was easy to like, even though he mostly wore that hideous blue uniform.

I'm glad Eiben was a Tiger-Cat for one season so I could cheer for him publicly and I wish him nothing but the best in his post-football life.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cats Cut Rey Williams, Deal for Hasan Hazime

The Ti-Cats continued their defensive makeover by making a couple of moves today, cutting linebacker Rey Williams and making a deal with the Edmonton Eskimos.

As odd as it sounds to say about a two-time East Division all-star, I'm not really surprised that the Cats let Williams go. He's 32, and while not anywhere near the end age for a linebacker, the team did go out an acquire 24-year-old Simoni Lawrence and 26-year-old Marcellus Bowman in the off-season. Both Lawrence and Bowman have experience playing in the middle, so bringing them in made Williams expendable.

And don't be surprised if this isn't the only change to the linebacking corps. Both Markeith Knowlton and Jamall Johnson have been hampered by injuries the last couple of years, so I won't be shocked if one or both of them are also gone. I don't hope for it – if they are healthy, they are still among the league's elite at their positions – and I most definitely won't like it, but I won't be stunned if the team decides to let them go.

In the trade, the Cats get the rights to non-import defensive lineman Hasan Hamize as well as a 2013 second-round draft pick in exchange for Hamilton's 2013 second- and third-round picks. It's way too early to tell what this trade will accomplish, but one thing you can take from it is that the Cats are going to use a Canadian on the defensive line. The team signed Brian Bulcke and Shomari Williams in free agency, have Marc-Antoine Fortin on the roster from last year, and will hopefully have 2012 draft picks Arnaud Gascon-Nadon and Michael Atkinson in training camp. Add in Hamize and I think it's pretty clear where one of the seven starting Canadians will play.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

It's About Time

It's been a long time coming, but Earl Winfield will soon be able to call himself a Hall of Famer.

After years of being passed over for other, mostly deserving, players, Earl Winfield was one of six men announced as part of the 2013 class of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Joining Winfield is fellow Tiger-Cat Miles Gorrell, as well as former Argo Dan Ferrone, former referee Jake Ireland, former St. FX head coach Don Loney and former University of Alberta star Brian Fryer.

Those guys are all deserving, except Ireland, but for me, this is all about Winfield.

I have long called for Winfield's inclusion in the Hall of Fame and I an ecstatic that he will finally take his rightful place among the game's greatest players.

I will never understand why it took so long (Winfield retired following the 1997 season) for Winfield to finally get the call. The guy had the numbers – over 10,000 yards receiving, second-most punt return touchdowns in league history – and anyone who saw him play will attest to the fact that he was a difference maker. The only thing lacking from his résumé is a Grey Cup ring, and that might have been used against him, but that shouldn't have been. He entered the league in 1987, one year after the Ti-Cats won the Grey Cup, and left in 1997, two years before the team won their most recent championship. It's just bad timing that Winfield isn't a two-time Grey Cup champion.

But Winfield made an impact without winning a championship. He had perhaps the greatest Labour Day performance of any player in CFL history. No one will forget his 1988 game against the Argos. He was a special player and I always viewed him as a Hall of Famer. I'm glad those that decide these things finally came around to my way of thinking.

So a big congrats to all the 2013 inductees, but an especially big congrats to one of the greatest Tiger-Cats of all time, Earl "The Pearl" Winfield.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Unofficial: Ti-Cats Cut Nick Graham

I've gotten in trouble for using Twitter as a source before, but I think this one is pretty safe. According to his Twitter account, it sure sounds like Nick Graham has been released by the Ti-Cats.

At around 8PM tonight, Graham sent the following tweet out:
Now, as I said, I've jumped the gun because of Twitter before, but if this doesn't imply that the Cats have released him, then I don't know what it means. So let's operate under the assumption that the Tabbies have released Graham.

The Ti-Cats signed Graham last August after he was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In four games with the team, he picked up 22 tackles.

With all the moves the team made on the defensive side of the football over the last few days, it's no surprise that the team released someone. Graham wasn't overly impressive during his time with the Ti-Cats, and the team signed two defensive backs over the weekend, Evan McCollough on Friday and Deon Beasley on Saturday, s it just seems like Graham was the victim of the numbers game.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Austin's Approach Shows These Aren't the Same Old Cats

It wasn't quiet, but it wasn't as loud as previous opening weekends of free agency.

The Ti-Cats, always in the running to make a splash come free agency, signed five free agents in the first three days players were able to sign elsewhere. But unlike in previous years, the team didn't go for the big-name, marquee signing. Instead of pursuing guys like Ricky Foley, Odell Willis or Brandon Whitaker (probably the three biggest names on the market), the Ti-Cats instead chose to sign Shomari Williams, Brian Bulcke and Evan McCollough on Friday, Deon Beasley on Saturday, and Marcellus Bowman on Sunday.

It's a shift in focus from the Bob O'Billovich era, when making a splash often meant opening the chequebook for former all-stars, which landed the team prominent players like Andy Fantuz and Avon Cobourne the last two years. Both solid signings, despite Cobourne being release after the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and ones that the team should not regret.

But bringing in big-name guys isn't what new general manager Kent Austin decided to do. Instead, the first-time general manager opted to sign quality players that fit the team's needs. Austin signed two defensive backs, two defensive lineman and a linebacker. Hamilton's biggest area of concern this off-season: the defense, especially the secondary and defensive line. In just three days, Austin brought in five starting-calibre players on a defense that needed an infusion of talent. If the mission was to improve areas of weakness, I'd say he accomplished that mission.

Adding two Canadians, Williams and Bulcke, that are capable of being starters can't be overlooked either. The Ti-Cats had ratio issues last year – remember when the team sat Markeith Knowlton because of ratio troubles last year? – and finding quality Canadian talent was a priority for the Cats. So far this month, Austin has brought in three potential starters in Williams, Bulcke and Greg Wojt (who they acquired in a trade with Edmonton). Add those three with Marwan Hage, Peter Dyakowski, Andy Fantuz, Dave Stala, Sam Giguère, Ryan Hinds and Kevin Eiben, and the Ti-Cats have some serious Canadian depth. And that list grows even longer if you add 2012 draft picks Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, Frédéric Plesius, Michael Atkinson and Courtney Stephen, and the bevy of young offensive lineman like Pascal Baillaregon, Cody Husband, Mike Filer and Jason Mederios to the mix. The Ti-Cats could be the deepest team in terms of Canadian talent in the league.

And it's not that I think what O'Billovich did during his five-year run as general manager was wrong; his plan turned the Cats from terrible to competitive. But he couldn't get them from competitive to championship-calibre because too often those big moves left the Cats vulnerable in other areas. For example, after trading for Henry Burris and signing Fantuz in 2012, the Ti-Cats had one of the best, most explosive offenses in CFL history; however, the defense was a sieve and allowed 32 points/game. The Cats finished 6-12 and missed the playoffs. So while O'Billovich got the Ti-Cats on the path to success, his philosophy wasn't the right one to get the Ti-Cats over the hump. But Austin seems to get that you don't need to "win" free agency by getting the biggest, most expensive names. You win by adding players that fit the needs of your team and that is exactly what the Ti-Cats did this weekend.

Good teams don't usually need to make big splashes in free agency because they find a way to groom their own talent. Good teams use free agency to pick up quality players who are pieces to the puzzle. The Ti-Cats haven't been known to do that, opting instead for the flashy signing. While star players are necessary, they often come at a higher cost. No one will say that Williams or Bulcke or McCollough or Beasley or Bowman are stars, but they are high-quality players that fit the needs of the team.

My preference was for the Cats to make as little noise as possible this off-season, but that got blown up when the team fired George Cortez. But aside from that and the hiring of Austin, the Ti-Cats have mostly stayed out of the spotlight, making quiet moves instead of headline-grabbing ones. The Cats took a different approach this time, and by not "winning" free agency, they may have made the moves that will make them a winner come November.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Defensive Revamp Continues With Bowman Signing

The Ti-Cats spent Sunday remaking their defense even further by signing former Winnipeg Blue Bomber linebacker Marcellus Bowman to a contract.

Unlike all the other signings, this one isn't aimed at an area of weakness, but actually an area of strength. Bowman plays, mostly, weak-side linebacker, a spot on the Ti-Cats currently manned by one Jamall Johnson. Johnson is perhaps the best weak-side linebacker in the CFL, so it seems odd that the team would sign a player that plays his position.


Yes, I think it is entirely possible that Kent Austin could be making major changes to the Ti-Cats' linebacking corps. With Bowman and Simoni Lawrence (who was acquired from Edmonton as part of that five-player deal earlier this month) now on the team, the Ti-Cats could be looking to make changes to their most accomplished unit. Lawrence could push Rey Williams and Bowman could do the same to Jamall Johnson. And let's not forget that Markeith Knowlton missed 11 games last year and was replaced by multiple players, one of them current Ti-Cat Ricardo Colclough. It is possible, maybe even likely, that one or more of the feared trio could be out of Hamilton before the season starts.

But all this talk about which linebackers might be on their way out could be a bit premature seeing as Marcellus Bowman underwent knee surgery last week. Interesting that the Ti-Cats would sign him despite the injury.

Whatever come of this, you have to hand it to the Ti-Cats that they saw the defense was a problem and have gone about remaking it. The 2013 defense will look a lot different than the 2012 unit. We'll know in the summer if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Free Agency Day 2: Cats Sign One, Release One

The Ti-Cats were busy once again on Saturday, signing former Blue Bomber defensive back Deon Beasley and releasing running back Avon Cobourne.

Beasley comes to Hamilton following three seasons with the Bombers. His signing, coupled with the signings of James Patrick and Evan McCollough, means the Ti-Cats are very serious about rebuilding their secondary. It also means the team is probably going to go with an all-import defensive backfield. Those three, along with Dee Webb and Bo Smith will likely make up the team's secondary. Anything can happen between now and the start of the season, but it seems likely that the Ti-Cats will go with those five guys as their starters.

The release of Cobourne, once again, doesn't make sense to me. In fact, it might make even less sense this year than it did last year. I understand that the team has Chevon Walker under contract and expects Martell Mallett to return from injury, but neither of those guys are sure things. Walker played great, but also was a bit of a one-trick pony. Maybe he expands his game in his second year, but maybe he'll always just be a speed guy. Mallett is coming off an Achilles injury, so who knows if he'll ever be the same player again. Add in the fact that he hasn't played since 2009, and he remains a huge question mark.

I also understand that Cobourne will be 34 this year, which is ancient for running backs, but nothing Cobourne has done suggests he's passed his expiry date. Last year, at 33 and without a full off-season with the team, Cobourne rushed for over 700 yards, averaged close to six yards per carry and was every bit as effective as he was in previous years.

The Ti-Cats made a good move in adding Beasley, but a poor one in releasing Cobourne. It feels like one step forward and one step back.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Ti-Cats Ink Trio on Busy Opening Day of Free Agency

Well, it was certainly a more interesting first day of free agency this year. Last year, the opening day was about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the start of free agency this year was anything but dull. And there was a lot of news on all fronts, especially when it comes to the Ti-Cats.

The Ti-Cats started free agency off with a bang by signing three players: linebacker/defensive end Shomari Williams, defensive tackle Brian Bulcke and defensive back Evan McCollough.

Williams and Bulcke add great Canadian depth to a team that needed it. They could also be starters on the defensive line, Bulcke at tackle and Williams at end, which could see the Ti-Cats adjust their ratio or have more flexibility should someone get hurt during the season. Williams is also an excellent special teams player and fills the void left by Yannick Carter (who remains unsigned).

McCollough's signing is one many thought was coming (including yours truly). McCollough is familiar with Orlondo Steinauer's philosophies from their days together with the Argos, the Ti-Cats needed reinforcements in the secondary, and scooping up McCollough hurt their biggest rival. McCollough, Dee Webb, James Patrick and Bo Smith is the start of a pretty good secondary. What was once a weakness might now be a strength.

Perhaps the best part of the three moves the Cats made today is that they brought in younger players. Williams is 27, while Bulcke and McCollough are just 25; all three are just entering the primes of their careers and could be Tiger-Cats for quite some time. I think the Ti-Cats are a better team today than they were yesterday.

In other news, the Lions re-upped Solomon Elimimian and Jovon Olafioye, while adding a nice booked for Keron Williams in former Eskimos d-lineman Julius Williams. The Als cut Jerald Brown and picked up Geoff Tisdale, while former Alouette Dwight Anderson left Montreal for Saskatchewan. The Riders also brought back linebacker Tyron Brackenridge, but saw Odell Willis leave Regina and sign with the Eskimos. The Argos brought in linebacker James Yurichuk, while also getting the pleasant surprise of Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert returning. The belief was that Kackert would be off to the NFL (the team he was signing with was rumoured to be the New York Jets), but opted to stay in Canada and with the Argos.

Of the bigger named guys left, all that really remains are running back Brandon Whitaker, defensive end Ricky Foley and quarterback Adrian McPherson. It looks like Whitaker might have to accept a backup role somewhere (Toronto seemed like a logical landing spot, but with Kackert staying out, I don't see him going there; all the other teams seem set at running back). The same could be said of McPherson. The one team many think does need a starter, Winnipeg, has already said they aren't looking for one, so McPherson might go from the plum position of backup to Anthony Calvillo to backup somewhere else. Foley is probably the hottest commodity left, being that he's a Canadian at a position typically played by American, but him still being available tells me his stock has dropped dramatically after a pretty lacklustre stint with the Argos (2012 Grey Cup performance aside).

With so many players getting signed so early, free agency won't drag like it did last year. Most of the big names are signed, so now it's seeing who fits where amongst the few impact players remaining. It'll be worth keeping an eye on, but the opening day of free agency was much busier, and much more exciting, than anyone rightfully expected.

Ti-Cats Ready to Make a Free Agent Splash

If recent history is an indication, the Ti-Cats could be major players when free agency opens in less than an hour. The Ti-Cats got a jump by re-signing Brian Simmons and Bo Smith yesterday, but there are still a few players out there that might be of interest to the Tabbies.

Unlike in previous years, there isn't that one headlining player that will be available. Last year, Andy Fantuz was that guy. The year before, Avon Cobourne. (For the record, the Ti-Cats signed both.) The top guys this year are probably Ricky Foley and Odell Willis. Foley because he is a Canadian that plays a position, defensive end, traditionally manned by an American, and Willis because he is a premier pass rusher in a league that covets such players. That said, I hope the Ti-Cats don't pursue either. I think Foley isn't as good as people make him out to be; he's had one good season in his career and played alright in the Grey Cup, but since he signed with Toronto he has done mostly nothing. I'd be OK if Willis was brought in, but at the price he will likely command, I think the Ti-Cats could spend their money more wisely.

The two guys I think the Ti-Cats should aggressively go after are both on the defensive side of the ball: defensive back Evan McCollough and defensive lineman Brian Bulcke. The Cats were talking about remaking their secondary and adding McCollough would be a great way to do that. Plus, it hurts a division rival, which is always a good thing to do in free agency. Adding Bulcke would allow the Cats to play a non-import on the defensive line, which would help their ratio tremendously. He could fill the hole that has been on the team since Matt Kirk left a couple years ago.

There are other intriguing names out there, like Dwight Anderson, Deon Beasley and Adrian McPherson. Anderson or Beasley would fill a need in the secondary and might be targets should the team fail to land McCollough. McPherson wants to be a starter, but the only team looking for one (Winnipeg) has already dismissed the idea of bringing anyone in. The Ti-Cats are in the market for a veteran backup, so I am curious where McPherson lands and if he lands in Hamilton.

Some quality Canadians will also be available, like former No. 1 overall pick Shomari Williams and safety Cauchy Muamba. I have a feeling that Muamba will either return to BC or sign with Winnipeg to play with his brother, Henoc. Williams, who moved to linebacker last year, could be pursued by a number of teams and I wouldn't be surprised if the Toronto native is picked up by the Argos.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ti-Cats Sign Simmons, Smith

Less than 24 hours until the madness that is free agency is set to begin, the Ti-Cats inked deals with two key veteran players. Offensive tackle Brian Simmons and defensive back Bo Smith will both be returning to the Ti-Cats after signing contract extensions that will keep them in Black & Gold through the 2015 season.

Simmons has spent the last two years with the Cats and has become one of the team's best offensive lineman. Last year was a banner year for the former Oklahoma Sooner, giving up just one sack and getting called for just three penalties all season. Simmons's signing means the Cats will bring back all five starting offensive linemen from last year. With the recent addition of Greg Wojt and the numerous youngsters coming to camp, the Ti-Cats have an embarrassment of riches along the offensive line.

Smith was a guy that I was very hard on just a few years ago, but I have since changed my opinion completely on him. Ever since he returned from a tryout with the New York Jets, Smith has been one of Hamilton's best defensive backs. I have grown to really like Smith and feel he has the talent to be one of the league's best. Smith will be a key component of a rebuilt secondary and his experience will be invaluable.

With Smith and Simmons both re-signed, that leaves only Yannick Carter, Jonathan Hood, Chris Rwabukamba and Marcell Young left unsigned.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Stephenson Staying Put

The Ti-Cats announced yesterday that they have re-upped running back Daryl Stephenson. Had he not re-signed, Stephenson would have been a free agent next Friday.

Stephenson proved to be a valuable cog in the Ti-Cat machine last year. He scored his first two CFL touchdowns in 2012 and contributed mightily on special teams. is one of those glue guys that all teams need to have.

Stephenson emerged as a multi-purpose threat for the Ti-Cats on offense. He could play as a fullback, halfback or tight end, and did so with such efficiency that the team felt comfortable dealing Darcy Brown to Edmonton last September.

I'll be interested to see what role Stephenson plays under new head coach Kent Austin. Clearly Austin values what Stephenson brings to the table, and as a former Hec Creighton winner and the CIS' all-time leader in career rushing yards, I feel that he hasn't yet tapped his full potential. I don't expect huge things from him this season, but I'd like to see him build off what I thought was a very good 2012 season.

With Stephenson locked up for the next three years, the Ti-Cats need to work on getting a couple more of their pending free agents inked to deals before free agency begins on February 15.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Cats Score Big in Deal With Esks

It turned out to be a pretty eventful Tuesday for the Tabbies, now didn't it?

Just a few hours after announcing that Jeff Reinebold would be the team's new special teams coordinator, the Ti-Cats went out and completed a five-player trade with the Edmonton Eskimos, bringing offensive lineman Greg Wojt, linebacker Simoni Lawrence and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to Hamilton in exchange for linebacker Nathan Kanya and the rights to offensive lineman Carson Rockhill.

The best player that went either is Wojt. Wojt is a proven commodity and a bona-fide starter, so getting him while not giving up a starter themselves is a great move. Wojt was a West Division all-star in 2011 and has experience at both guard and tackle (though his natural position is guard). Adding Wojt means the Cats have the potential to start four Canadians on the offensive line, which would give the team tremendous ration flexibility.

The addition of Lawrence means there is a bit of a logjam at linebacker. Lawrence played some middle linebacker last year for the Eskimos when J.C. Sherritt was injured, so one has to wonder if this deal spells the end of Rey Williams' time with the Ti-Cats. The odds seem to be against Williams returning for a third season, despite being named an all-star his first two years in Black & Gold. Lawrence is eight years younger than Williams and comes much cheaper. While I like Williams, Lawrence might be a wiser investment. I suspect that No. 9's time with the Ti-Cats will be coming to an end.

Masoli is interesting because of his collegiate pedigree at the University of Oregon. He ran Chip Kelly's fast-paced spread offense and that type of training could translate to CFL success. Masoli will be in a battle for a quarterback spot with fellow second-year player Dan LeFevour. If the Ti-Cats decide not to bring in a veteran to be Henry Burris' backup, Masoli could enter the 2013 season as Hamilton's No. 2 quarterback. I like Masoli's potential to be a decent starting quarterback in the future.

What the Ti-Cats gave up isn't insignificant, but they are definitely parts that they could afford to send elsewhere. Kanya is a very good special teamer, but he was likely never going to be a starter for the Cats, so using him in a deal to get two potential 2013 starters and possibly a future starting quarterback isn't a big loss. And while Rockhill is considered a tremendous prospect, the Cats have a lot of non-import offensive linemen in the pipeline, so sending Rockhill to Edmonton doesn't cripple them long-term along the offensive line.

From all angles, this trade is a good one for the Tabbies. They were able to get quite a bit and didn't give up a lot. If everything works out, the Ti-Cats are a better team today than they were yesterday.

Cats Hire Reinebold

The Ti-Cats announced today that they have hired Jeff Reinebold as the team's new special teams coordinator.

This is the first piece of news since the Cortez firing/Austin hiring that I completely disagree with. Reinebold has nothing on his résumé that leads me to believe he'll be anything other than mediocre at this position. Last year, Reinebold was the defensive coordinator in Montreal and that unit was not great by any stretch of the imagination.

But perhaps the worst part of this is that last year's special teams coordinator Jim Daley was not retained. Daley, whose hiring was criticized and even laughed at (especially by the fans in Saskatchewan), coached what was easily the best special teams unit in the entire CFL. Luca Congi, Josh Bartel and Chris Williams all earned division all-star nods under Daley's guidance, and Williams was named the league's 2012 Most Outstanding Special Teams player. Daley did a remarkable job last season.

Keeping Daley would have been a smart move, but I understand that a new head coach will want to pick his own coaches. That said, replacing him with Reinebold just makes no sense to me. The last time he coached special teams was in 1995 with the Edmonton Eskimos, and he just hasn't been anything other than a mediocre coach at any of his previous stops. I am not impressed with the hire at all.

I hope Reinebold proves me wrong, but I won't be holding my breath. Sooner or later Austin was going to make a move that I didn't like and today ended up being that day.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Ti-Cats Add Patrick

One of the biggest areas of concern for the Ti-Cats entering the off-season was the secondary. It is a unit that hasn't live up to expectations over the last few seasons, so new players were going to be brought in. And that's exactly what the Ti-Cats did today by signing former all-star James Patrick.

Patrick had a down year last season, failing to intercept any passes despite starting 17 games. But in the two seasons prior to last, Patrick intercepted 14 passes, including a league-leading nine in 2010 when he was a league all-star and Saskatchewan's nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player. It is the Patrick of 2010 and 2011 that the Cats are hoping they acquired.

I wasn't as down on the secondary as many because I think the players in the unit have potential. I still like Ryan Hinds, I'm a huge fan of Dee Webb, I've grown to really like Bo Smith, I liked what I saw out of Ricardo Colclough, and I think Matt Bucknor can become a very solid player. Add in incoming rookie Courtney Stephen and I think the Ti-Cats could have a pretty decent secondary without adding anyone else. I think the biggest thing the Cats need to do in the secondary is find a lineup and stick with it. There has been a lot of player shuffling the last couple of seasons and I think that has been a major part of the unit's inconsistent play.

But adding Patrick is a nice move. If he can recapture his form from a couple years ago, this will turn out to be a great addition.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Als Sign Parker, Bruce and Porter

Not having a head coach hasn't stopped the Monteal Alouettes from making moves, announcing the signings of defensive back Byron Parker, receiver Arland Bruce and quarterback Quinton Porter earlier today.

Seeing Parker sign with the Als is disappointing. I was really hoping he would end up in Hamilton and I thought there was a really good chance he'd sign with the Ti-Cats. He's close with defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer and spent the majority of his career with the Argos, so he was familiar with the area, but the Als took no time scooping him up. Now instead of playing with Parker, the Cats will have to play against him. Not at all what I was hoping for when Parker was released by BC.

When it comes to Quinton Porter, let's get one thing out of the way right now: he's not the next Anthony Calvillo. Him leaving Hamilton to sign with Montreal is about the only thing that the two have in common. I don't say this as a slight to Porter, who I like and always wanted to see become "the guy" in Hamilton, but he's not going to end up becoming the next great CFL quarterback. He might become a good QB, but he spent five years in Hamilton, was given three legitimate chances to take the starter's job – 2009 when he was named the starter prior to the season, 2010 in a training camp battle with Kevin Glenn, and 2011 when the team employed a make-shift two-quarterback system – and he failed take the a stranglehold on the job each time. A change of scenery might be what he needs, but I'm not holding my breath worrying if the team just got rid of another Hall of Fame player.

What we really should be discussing is what the Porter signing means for Adrian McPherson. In short, McPherson's stay in Montreal looks to be over. I don't see the Als bringing McPherson back now that they have signed Porter to likely be Calvillo's backup (I doubt Porter signed with Montreal to be a third stringer). That means McPherson will be elsewhere, and both Winnipeg and Edmonton obvious suitors because they are both in need of a starting quarterback. But could Hamilton be in the mix? We all know McPherson wants to be a starter, so signing in Hamilton makes little sense, but I don't know if anyone is going to hand him a starter's job. I don't see McPherson landing in Hamilton, but I won't discount it either.

Bruce joins what is shaping up to be one of the most lethal receiving corps in all of football. With S.J. Green, Jamel Richardson and Brandon London already in town, the addition of Bruce just makes the passing attack that much more potent. Teams are going to have a hard time covering all four guys.

But will all four guys be there when the season starts? As much as I like Bruce, he is 35 and might not make the team. Also, there was talk at the end of last season that Richardson might be headed elsewhere, so it is possible that fearsome foursome becomes a terrifying trio before the season starts.

It all adds up to a very good day for the Alouettes, and one that might put them back into the driver's seat in the East Division.

Cortez Lands in Saskatchewan

It didn't take long for George Cortez to find work. A little over a month after being fired by the Ti-Cats, Cortez has been named the offensive coordinator in Saskatchewan.

You can say a lot of bad things about Cortez's time with the Tiger-Cats, but one thing that cannot be denied is that the offense was spectacular. The Tiger-Cats were the highest-scoring team in the CFL last season and Cortez's schemes and philosophies were a main reason for it. The Ti-Cats could destroy people offensively, and had the team had a statistically average defense as opposed to an absolutely horrendous one, Cortez is likely still employed by the Tiger-Cats.

And it should come as no surprise that Cortez found work as quickly as he did. The guy is an offensive mastermind and the Roughriders will reap the benefits of his brilliance. I expect the Riders to field one of the best offense in the CFL in 2013, and look for Darian Durant to have his best season. Cortez has worked wonders with quarterbacks – in 2011, Henry Burris was washed up and benched in Calgary, but in Hamilton he put up some of the best numbers of his career – and Durant will be the next beneficiary of Cortez's offensive mind.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Sticky Extended, BC Releases Bruce and Parker

January is usually the slowest time of the year for CFL news, but yet here we are in the middle of the month and we have news galore, from Hamilton and abroad, but both of interest to Tiger-Cat fans.

We'll start with the news that Dave Stala has signed a contract extension. The man known as "Sticky" will be catching passes for the Ti-Cats through the 2014 season.

This is great news. I am a huge Dave Stala fan and I think he is one of the best second down receivers in the game. Stala was severely underused last year; he recorded Tiger-Cat lows in catches and yards, and was never integrated into the offense. He was rarely used by former head coach George Cortez and only seemed to be a part of the game plan when he had to be. I think if Cortez was retained, Stala would be elsewhere. He clearly wasn't in Cortez's plans going forward. Kent Austin feels differently and that is a good thing. Stala will never dominate a game, but he is a key part of the offense and I hope his re-signing means he'll be used more this upcoming season.

The second bit of news comes from BC, where the Lions have released receiver Arland Bruce and defensive back Byron Parker.

These moves come one day after BC quarterback Travis Lulay was given a huge two-year, $900,000 contract extension from the Lions. I have to think that part of the reason two high-priced veterans were let go is for salary cap reasons. Both Bruce and Parker can still play, and any team would be lucky to have them, so they couldn't have been released due to performance. I expect both to be sought after.

I maintain that the trade that sent Bruce to BC was a horrible one. I hated it then and I still hate it now, so I would welcome Bruce back with open arms. Having said that, I doubt the team will bring him back. The Ti-Cats have a plethora of offensive weapons and they don't need Bruce. It would be great to see him back in Hamilton, but I think the chances of him returning fall somewhere between "slim" and "none" (with it being a lot closer to "none").

Parker, on the other hand, seems like a no brainer. The Ti-Cats need DBs and Parker plays DB. Add in that he is buddies with new Tiger-Cat defensive coordinator Orlondo Steinauer and this is a marriage that makes a lot of sense. Parker would instantly upgrade one of Hamilton's weakest areas if he was signed. Picking up Parker makes too much sense not to happen.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Dyakowski Re-Ups, Trestman to Chicago

A couple of big news items from Wednesday, so let's get to it.

The Ti-Cats followed up Tuesday's re-signing of Marwan Hage with the re-signing of Peter Dyakowski on Wednesday. When I said on Tuesday the team needed to get working on inking Dyakowski to a contract extension, I didn't expect them to do it so quickly.

I am obviously fully in favour of the re-signing. I am a very big Peter Dyakowski fan and I think he has become of the top interior linemen in the entire CFL. He was the team's top offensive lineman in 2011 and was a division all-star in 2012. It's very possible he could end up getting a Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award in the next couple of seasons to put next to his Canada's Smartest Person trophy.

With Hage and Dyakowski back, the Ticats have re-signed probably their two most important potential free agents. But there are still a number of potential free agents that remain unsigned, with Brian Simmons headlining that group. Simmons remains unsigned as he tries out for NFL teams.

The other big news item from Wednesday is that Marc Trestman has left the Montreal Alouettes to become the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Trestman spent the last five seasons with Montreal, guiding them to three Grey Cup appearances and two Grey Cup wins (2009, 2010).

Trestman's departure has many wondering if this is the end of Montreal's dynasty. While I think Trestman is an excellent coach and one of the best we've seen in the CFL, I'm not too sure we should start writing an obit for the Als. For starters, they were a darn good team before Trestman got there in 2008. They went to five Grey Cups in eight seasons before Trestman arrived, and although the won only one of them (2002), they were very much a championship-calibre team before Trestman arrived and they will remain one even though he is gone.

The main reason for that is that the architect of the Montreal juggernaut isn't going anywhere. After interviewing for GM positions with a number of NFL teams, Jim Popp is staying with the Als. Popp has been with the organization since the beginning and his return is a bigger deal than Trestman's departure. Don't get me wrong, the next Als coach probably won't be as good as Trestman, but Popp is the constant in Montreal. The Als can find a new coach, but losing Popp would have dealt the Als a huge blow. Losing both Popp and Trestman might have been catastrophic. But Popp isn't going anywhere just yet, and as long as he is still running the show in Montreal, the Als will be just fine.

And let's not forget, they still have Anthony Calvillo. Talk of Montreal's demise is something we're heard before, but I'll wait until they finally have a 6-12, non-playoff season before I started predicting their downfall.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hage Stays, Porter Goes

The Ti-Cats made two moves on Tuesday, re-signing Marwan Hage and releasing Quinton Porter.

Re-signing Hage was a smart move from my perspective. There are going to be a lot of youngsters coming to camp this year (Carson Rockhill, Jason Mederios, Moe Petrus, as well as holdovers Pascal Baillargeon, Cody Husband and possibly player selected in the upcoming draft) and having Hage around to show them the ropes is definitely a good thing. Also, I think he is fully capable of returning to an elite level. The last two season-ending injuries do create a bit of worry, but I think he can bounce back and return to an all-star level. I'm glad Hage is returning, but now the team needs to get on inking Peter Dyakowski to a new deal.

The release of Porter isn't too surprising. He was set to become a free agent next month and wasn't going to be re-signed, so this gives him a chance to hit the market early and find a new home. I always had high hopes for Porter, but he never quite lived up to expectations. He just didn't develop the way many thought he would. The fact that fans point to his breakout game against the Alouettes from 2008 just proves that he didn't progress like we all hoped. Maybe he can still be a viable starter in the CFL, but the clock is ticking (he's 30). I'll be interested to see where he lands.

But Porter's release leaves a hole behind Henry Burris. The only other quarterback on the roster besides Burris is completely untested second-year man Dan LeFevour. I liked what I saw out of LeFevour during the preseason, and I was a fan of his from back in his collegiate days at Central Michigan, so I have high hopes he can be the guy to take over from Burris. But the team will obviously be bringing in some quarterbacks to compete for the backup spot in training camp. Hamilton does not have the best record of developing quarterbacks, so Kent Austin has a very big decision on his hands when it comes to figuring out who the next guy will be.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Cats Clean House

The Ti-Cats trimmed six players from the roster today, releasing linebackers Byron Bullock and Ike Brown, defensive backs Geoff Tisdale and Carlos Thomas, running back Terry Grant and defensive lineman Eddie Steele.

Thomas is a player I thought had a bright future with the Ti-Cats. I know the defense, especially the secondary, took a lot of flak last year, but I always liked the hard-hitting presence that Thomas brough to the defense. I also think a switch to linebacker was in his future. He played there briefly in 2012, and I thought if given a chance to play there fulltime he could become the next Markeith Knowlton.

Grant will become the greatest "what if" should his career not continue. He showed flashes of brilliance during his brief time on the field in 2011 and the horrific injury he suffered a year and a half ago in Montreal ended his career before it even started.

Steele saw his role decrease in 2012 following the training camp retirement of Maurice Forbes. Without a capable backup on the roster, Steele was forced into a secondary role. He, like Grant, suffered a gruesome leg injury that may end the Manitoba products career.

Brown was a special teams ace and looked to be the heir apparent to Otis Floyd and Rey Williams, but injuries derailed him. As good as he was, he just couldn't stay healthy and that's a shame.

Tisdale was healthy most of the year, but he was scratched in a few games in the middle of the season. Tisdale just never seemed to recapture the magic that made him such a sought-after free agent following the 2010 season. Tisdale just never looked comfortable with the Cats after being reacquired from Calgary last summer.

The final player released was Bullock, but it's hard to comment on him because he never played a down for the Ti-Cats. He was hurt in training camp and missed the entire 2012 season.

It looks like injuries played a role in most of the releases (only Tisdale didn't spend time on IR in 2012), but that's not the only reason they were let go. When a new regime comes in, it is not surprising to see players released. I also wouldn't be surprised if these are just the first of many changes to the roster prior to the start of free agency next month.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Gingerbread IWS and Ticats vs. Ti-Cats

Not a lot of news since the team announced the signing of Orlondo Steinauer as the new defensive coordinator, but there are still some Tiger-Cat related stuff to talk about. One is a cool picture I saw, while the other is a question I have been wondering about for some time.

First, the picture. A couple of days ago I came across this tweet by Kate McKenna, who many will remember from her stint as the host of Ti-Cats TV back in 2010, that featured the picture below.

That's a gingerbread replica of Ivor Wynne Stadium!

I don't know where Ms. McKenna came across this photo, but it's really cool and quite detailed. That looks like it took a lot of time to construct and kudos to whoever made it. Also, if it needs to be demoed to make room for a new gingerbread stadium on the same location, I'll be more than happy to bulldoze it and take the rubble home with me (and I don't even like gingerbread all that much).

But that's not all today. The current downtime we are experiencing has also given me a chance to think and that led me to something I've been wondering about for quite some time, but just never got around to asking:

Why is it that the team writes it Ticats and not Ti-Cats?

As you have probably figured out, I always write it as Ti-Cats. I do that because they are the Tiger-Cats, not the Tigercats. I feel like the hyphen should stay when the team named is shortened. Yet, officially, the name is written as Ticats when shortened. But why?

I have never been told the reason and I would love it if someone could fill me in on why the hyphen is ditched when the name is shortened. That is, if there is a reason. So I'm putting this out there and maybe someone who knows will fill me in on why it is written as Ticats and not Ti-Cats.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Ticats Bring Steinauer Back to the Jungle

The Ti-Cats are starting the new year off right by getting a major hiring out the way. Today, the team introduced Orlondo Steinauer as the new defensive coordinator. Steinauer is the fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. Greg Marshall left following the 2010 season to become head coach in Saskatchewan, Corey Chamblin left the following year to take the head coaching job in Saskatchewan and Casey Creehan went back to Winnipeg to be the defensive coordinator back in November.

When it became known that Creehan would be going back to Winnipeg, I placed Steinauer on my personal shortlist of candidates to take over for him. Steinauer wasn't my top choice, but I did like the idea of bringing him in. While he has limited experience in the role (a 12-game stint as Toronto's defensive coordinator in 2011), he's had success as a defensive backs coach the last three years with the Argos.

And if player reaction on Twitter is any indication, Steinauer's hiring is being met with lots of excitement. Both Dee Webb and Kevin Eiben tweeted out that they thought this was an excellent move. Both Webb and Eiben are familiar with Steinauer from their days in Toronto (Webb was coached by Steinauer when he was in Toronto; Eiben and Steinauer were teammates) and they both seem very excited that Steinauer has been brought in to fix the defense in Hamilton. And Webb was ahead of the curve on this one, saying the team should bring Steinauer in back when Creehan went to Winnipeg (and it is also where the title of this post came from).

After seeing his scrum with the press in a video posted on the Ti-Cats' website, I too am excited about his hiring. I was extremely impressed with everything Steinauer said. Everything. Of all the things the Ti-Cats needed to fix for 2013, the defense was the biggest. If Steinauer can get the defense to just the league average, the Ti-Cats will be a playoff team.

I think he can, and will, do just that.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Neg List and Bowl Games

We know Clemson's Tajh Boyd is on Hamilton's neg list, but some think we should know every player on every team's neg list.
For as long as I can remember, New Year's Day has always been one of my favourite days. Not because it's a day off from work or anything like that, but because I get to sit my butt on the couch and enjoy 12 hours of college football. New Year's Day is easily one of my top five favourite days on the sporting calendar (maybe even my No. 1 favourite).

This year had a little more interest for me, as a Tiger-Cat fan, because Hamilton's 2012 draft pick Courtney Stephen was playing for Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. It was kind of neat to know that a future Tiger-Cat was playing on one of the biggest stages in US college football, even if he didn't see the field a lot (I saw him a couple of times on special teams).

I know I'm not alone in my love of college football and Canadian football. There are others out there who love both games as well, and if Twitter is any indication, they wish they could experience what Tiger-Cat fans experienced with Stephen.
While I don't disagree with this, I also don't agree with it either. It would be great to sit down and watch the Outback Bowl or the Chick-fil-A Bowl or Rose Bowl knowing which players might be headed to the CFL. But as we learned with the whole Tim Tebow stuff last month, knowing who's on a neg list isn't always a good thing.

The secrecy of certain aspects of the CFL, like player salaries, is something that has been debated endlessly. Keeping neg lists private has been talked about in the past, but hasn't reached the level of discussion that the secrecy of player salaries.

I used to be among those that thought the league should just make neg lists public, but now I don't think it's necessary. And it was the Tebow stuff that made me realize it. Tebow was once on the Ti-Cats' neg list and that led to people like me talking about Tebow coming to the CFL. Then we found out Tebow was taken off Hamilton's list and put on Montreal's, and that, along with his play in New York with the Jets, led to another round of Tebow-to-the-CFL stuff (I won't link to it all, but just Google "Tim Tebow CFL" and you'll get plenty of results). A lot of time was spent discussing Tebow's CFL future and it was all a waste, especially after it was revealed that Tebow would never consider playing up here anyway.

And I suspect the same thing would happen if all neg lists were made public. We'd end up spending an inordinate amount of time talking about players that may never come to the CFL. Hamilton has already place Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel on their neg list and he's not eligible to leave Texas A&M until 2014 at the earliest. And he might be on their now, but could easily be taken off it tomorrow.

I understand fans wanting to know (fans want to know everything) and I understand members of the media wanting to know (they also want to know everything, but it's so they have stuff to talk/write about), but I don't think not knowing is a bad thing and it may even be a good thing. Not knowing might save us all the time of talking about some sophomore player at Temple who may never set foot in the CFL and hasn't even given a first thought, let alone a second one, to playing in Canada.

Those that want to see neg lists released usually say that they haven't seen any compelling evidence to not release them, but I counter by saying I haven't seen any compelling evidence to release them. I doubt either opinion will change; those entrenched on either side will stay right where they are. It doesn't look like the league will be changing their stance any time soon, so this probably won't be the last time this topic will be discussed.