Wednesday 22 December 2010

No Words

I am speechless.

Hamilton is the only city that would take a $100-million gift and piss in the face of the persons giving it to them.

No stadium is getting built here for the 2015 Pan Am Games. That's not official, but with the deadline about five weeks away, there simply isn't time to find an alternative.

Confederation Park is out. The East Mountain land has been sold. Longwood and Aberdeen is too expensive. And don't get me started on the west harbour.

This was a gimme, a layup that anyone could have hit. But I forgot that in Hamilton, there is no such thing as a gimme.

New city council, same idiotic results. The short-sightedness of it all could very well push the Tiger-Cats out of Hamilton. My hope is, if they do go somewhere else, that they at least stay close. Burlington or London would be fine.

Dave Naylor said on TSN that it is possible they could be headed to Moncton, Quebec City or Ottawa. It is entirely possible that Hamilton City Council has just killed an entity that has operated in Hamilton for over 140 years.

This is a sad turn of affairs. Who knows what the future holds, but at this point it looks like the future does not have a Hamilton Tiger-Cats in it.

Surprise! Porter Thinks He Should be the Starter

I said earlier in the week that I would have an opinion on who the Hamilton Tiger-Cats should get to be the backup Quarterback to Kevin Glenn in 2011 – and that is still coming – but after Quinton Porter, the current backup to Kevin Glenn, decided to speak to The Portland (Maine) Press Herald, my focus changed.

The article implies that Porter believes he could play in the NFL, but he also seems to think that he should be the starting Quarterback for the Tiger-Cats. On both points I disagree.

I will not delve into the NFL stuff, since I think it is foolish to even consider the notion that Porter could be an NFL signal caller. But I will touch on his not-so-subtle suggestion that he should be the starter for the Tiger-Cats.

Now, before I go into this, I will say that Porter did not say categorically that he should be the starter in Hamilton; he did say that he "need[s] more chances to start." Since he is still a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, I believe that quote implies that he believes that he should be starting for Hamilton. Am I wrong in drawing that conclusion?

What has Quinton Porter shown in his three years in Hamilton that makes him believe that he deserves to start for the Tiger-Cats, or any other CFL team for that matter? People still cling to that one game he had against Montreal... three seasons ago! Yes, he looked tremendous in that game, and was then handed the reins in 2009. He then proceeded to s**t the bed and was replaced by Kevin Glenn. He barely got on the field in 2010 because Glenn had what amounted to one of the best seasons a Tiger-Cat Quarterback has ever had. It's looking more and more like that 2008 game against the Alouettes was an aberration.

I was always a fan of Quinton Porter because I thought with his mix of height and speed he could be a dangerous weapon at Quarterback. But when he was handed the starting job in 2009, he did nothing with it. Since being replaced by Glenn, all Glenn has done is guide the Tiger-Cats to back-to-back playoff seasons and, in 2010, put together one of the best seasons a Hamilton Tiger-Cat Quarterback ever has.

I don't want to bash Porter, but it seems as if he has a belief in himself that does not match his output so far in his young professional career. I'm not saying he can't develop into something special, but he hasn't shown any growth from Year One to Year Two to Year Three. I have no idea what he thinks he has done to believe that he should be on the field and Glenn should be on the bench.

Quinton Porter seems to be the only one that thinks Quinton Porter should be a starting Quarterback.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Stamps (and Thompson) Not Going Anywhere

So much for Fred Stamps becoming a Tiger-Cat. The Edmonton Eskimos have signed Stamps, as well as Chris Thompson and Walter Curry, to contract extensions.

Rumours had been floating that the Eskimos were going to move their All-Star Receiver, and I figured Hamilton should make a play for him.

Now, just because he signed an extension does not mean he cannot be dealt. I just don't see why the Eskimos would sign him only to trade him a couple of days/weeks/months later. I'd be surprised if Stamps wasn't wearing his familiar Green & Gold come Canada Day.

Chris Thompson staying in Edmonton is significant as well because the Cats need Secondary help, and Thompson was one of Hamilton's best DBs until his trade last off-season to Edmonton for Maurice Mann.

I didn't like the trade then, and after this season, I still don't like the trade. Mann was very inconsistent in 2010, but he did show flashes at the end of the season. Hopefully, with Mann being in his second year in Hamilton, he can become that complementary threat to Arland Bruce.

With Thompson off the market, the Cats are now going to have to turn elsewhere to help fix their inconsistent Secondary. Lin-J Shell, anyone? (Now that I have said that, Shell will be re-signed by Toronto in about 16 hours.)

Stamps of Approval

I don't know why this story is being so underreported, but there are rumours that the Edmonton Eskimos are seriously considering trading Receiver Fred Stamps.

I'm going to say it: how great would Stamps look in Black & Gold?

Unless the asking price is exorbitant, the Cats should have already traded for Stamps. I'm salivating at the thought of Fred Stamps and Arland Bruce sharing a field. A potent offense would get downright lethal. Add in Dave Stala, Maurice Mann and Marquay McDaniel, and opposing defenses would soil themselves worrying about who to cover.

I'm sure many of the six other teams will make offers for Stamps, so the Cats should move fast to grab him. As much as I am against picking guys up to keep them from other teams (unlike some who, for example, want the Cats to bring in Ricky Ray to keep him from the Bombers or Argos), getting Stamps to keep him away from Toronto is a fabulous idea. As much as I would love to see Stamps in Hamilton, I would equally hate seeing him in that disgusting Double Blue Toronto.

If the mantra of "better is better" is to be believed, then Stamps needs to be in a Hamilton Tiger-Cats uniform in 2011.

Monday 20 December 2010

Some of This, Some of That

Today was a fairly busy day. We had a team get a Head Coach... but then not. We had some news about the Pan Am Stadium, and the news was not good.

It was thought that the Roughriders had a Head Coach... then they didn't. Earlier today, it was reported by CFL Daily that Montreal Offensive Coordinator Scott Milanovich would be named the new Head Coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Then the brown stuff hit the proverbial oscillator and Milanovich was not hired. It seems as if the Riders have not made a decision. No one is perfect, but in the rush to be the first to report, accuracy was sacrificed.

I said I was shunning all talk about the stadium until there were shovels in the ground, but when news happens, news happens. Aberdeen and Longwood is dead. It would cost upwards of $70 to $90 million just to buy the land. Newly elected mayor Bob Bratina now wants Confederation Park looked at. It's looking more and more likely that the stadium will not be built in Hamilton. I'm going to refrain from editorializing too much. All I'm going to say is:

Fred Eisenberger, you're a f**king idiot! Thanks for nothing, jackass. Your legacy is assured. You're the moron who pissed away $100 million in government funds. Nice job, dickhead.

I'll get back to some football-related stuff later in the week, including an interesting rumour that nearly no one seems to be reporting or even talking about, and who I think should be the backup Quarterback of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Thursday 16 December 2010

One Step Closer

News has just dropped that Richie Hall is no longer believed to be in the running for the Head Coach position with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (The pertinent quote from the story: "Former Edmonton head coach Richie Hall, who was with the Riders as defensive co-ordinator, is not believed to be in the mix.")

This paves the way for Hall to join the Tiger-Cats as their new Defensive Coordinator. It has been speculated for some time that Greg Marshall will not be brought back, and Hall is the presumed replacement because of his relationship with Tiger-Cat Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille.

With Bellefeuille, Hall and Jones, the Cats could have the calmest coaching staff in football history. Some fans complain about coaches who don't show emotion, but Marc Trestman is as calm as they come and it hasn't hurt him any.

Nothing is set in stone, but I would be stunned if Hall is not hired as Hamilton's Defensive Coordinator. I'll get a jump start and say, "Welcome to Tigertown, Coach Hall."

Wednesday 15 December 2010

CFL Free Agents

After all the hand wringing we finally have a list of all the potential free agents for 2011. I know it is way too early to even think about which of these guys will be free to take their talents to South Beach elsewhere, but there isn't much else going on, so why not have a little fun.

BC Lions
Tad Crawford (S)
Jarious Jackson (QB)

My Take: No reason to pick either guy up.

Dwight Anderson (DB)
Brandon Browner (DB)
Wes Lysack (S)
Tom Johnson (DT)
Terrarius George (DL)
DeVone Claybrooks (DT)
Ben Archibald (OL)
Romby Bryant (R)
Rob Cote (SB)
Randy Chevrier (LS)
Ryan Thelwell (R)
Milton Collins (DB)

My Take: Anderson, Browner, Claybrooks, Archibald, Bryant and Collins would all look pretty good in Black & Gold. While I'm not a fan personally of Anderson or Browner, the Cats need help in the Secondary and these two guys were All-Stars in 2010. One of those two, if available, would be who I would target.

Kelly Campbell (R)
Walter Curry (DL)
Skyler Green (R)
Jason Nugent (S)
Tim St. Pierre (LB)
Chris Thompson (DB)
Justin Medlock (K)

My Take: One player the Cats should move heaven and Earth to get is Chris Thompson. Hamilton traded him to Edmonton last season for Maurice Mann. It would be quite the coup for the Cats to get him back. Obie, don't hesitate. If Thompson is free, GO GET HIM! Justin Medlock might be an option should the Cats decide to part ways with Sandro DeAngelis, and Kelly Campbell might be worth a look.

Mike McCullough (LB)
Kitwana Jones (DL)
Lance Frazier (DB)
Chris McKenzie (DB)
Sean Lucas (LB)
Neal Hughes (RB)
Joel Bell (OL)
Jeremy O'Day (OL)
Gene Makowsky (OL)
Wayne Smith (OL)
Daniel Francis (DB)

My Take: Another team, another DB. This time, it's Lance Frazier. I think adding him to the Defensive backfield would be a tremendous signing by the Cats.

Yvenson Bernard (RB)
Ibrahim Khan (C)
Jonathan Hefney (DB)
Dorian Smith (DL)
Joe Lobendahn (LB)
Jon Oosterhuis (FB)
Daryl Stephenson (RB)
Shawn Gallant (S)
Keyou Craver (DB)

My Take: A lot of people will say target Jonathan Hefney, but I'm not sold on him. He's a good player, but I don't know if he's much better than what the Cats already have. Yvenson Bernard could be the competition to push DeAndra' Cobb. He looked very good for the Bombers in 2009, but did not get very many opportunities in 2010. I don't recall him being hurt, so it seems as if he's just fallen out of favour with the Winnipeg coaching staff. Hamilton would be a nice landing spot for the former Oregon State star.

Adriano Belli (DL)
Shannon Boatman (OL)
Chad Rempel (R)
Jeff Keeping (OL)
Bryan Crawford (ST)
Kevin Huntley (DT)
Ronald Flemons (DL)
Eric Taylor (DL)
Jeremaine Copeland (R)
Lin-J Shell (DB)

My Take: None. Hamilton should never take Argo scraps. I kid, of course. Lin-J Shell would be nice to have on the Cats. He has been a very good DB for the Boatmen, and I don't think this would be a repeat of the Jason Shivers-Will Poole debacle last season. Bringing Bryan Crawford home would be good too. The Hamilton-born Special Teams ace would look good in his hometown colours. Also, wishful thinking would hope that Jeremaine Copeland would move on down the QEW, but I doubt he's leaving Toronto.

Anthony Calvillo (QB)
Ben Cahoon (R)
Avon Cobourne (RB)
S.J. Green (R)
Jerald Brown (DB)
Damon Duval (K)
Chip Cox (LB)
Andrew Hawkins (ST)
Danny Desriveaux (R)
J.P. Bekasiak (DL)
Chris Leak (QB)
Martin Bedard (LS)
Shawn Mayne (DE)
Larry Taylor (KR)

My Take: Well, let's grab Calvillo, Green, Brown, Cox and Taylor. Now, back to reality. I can't see many of these guys leaving unless they aren't wanted. Cobourne may be available, and Taylor is available; both would look decent in Tiger-Cat uniforms. Just, please, do not sign Damon Duval. Living through DeAngelis in 2010 was hard enough; Duval would be an unmitigated disaster.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Top Prospects of the 2011 CFL Draft

The CFL Scouting Bureau has published its list of the top prospects for the 2011 CFL Draft.

The list consists of the fifteen top prospects as of today. It should be noted, in case anyone did not know, that this is strictly Canadian players. They can play in the NCAA or CIS, but they must be Non-Imports to qualify for the CFL Draft.

There are a total of five (5) NCAA players and ten (10) CIS players, if you count Vaughn Martin (who plays in the NFL, but went to Western). The top prospect is Baylor Offensive Lineman Phillip Blake, and the top CIS prospect is Calgary Slotback Anthony Parker.
  1. Phillip Blake, Offensive Line, Baylor
  2. Scott Mitchell, Offensive Line, Rice
  3. Anthony Parker, Slotback, Calgary
  4. Vaughn Martin, Defensive Tackle, Western (he currently plays for the San Diego Chargers)
  5. Tyler Holmes, Offensive Line, Tulsa
  6. Moe Petrus, Offensive Line, UConn
  7. Nathan Coehoorn, Wide Receiver, Calgary
  8. Matt O'Donnell, Offensive Line, Queen's
  9. Renaldo Sagesse, Defensive Line, Michigan
  10. Henoc Muamba, Linebacker, St. FX
  11. Hugh O'Neill, Punter/Kicker, Alberta
  12. Pascal Baillargeon, Offensive Line, Laval
  13. Anthony Barrette, Offensive Line, Concordia
  14. Matt Walter, Running Back, Calgary
  15. Jade Etienne, Wide Receiver, Saskatchewan
The Tiger-Cats hold the fifth pick in the first round, much better than last year when they did not have a first-round pick after using it in the supplementary draft in 2009 on Zac Carlson (who was released back in June). It's not too early to be thinking about the draft, is it?

Sunday 12 December 2010

Things Just Got A Lot More Interesting Stay the Same (UPDATE)

Anyone want to coach the two-time defending Grey Cup champions? It looks like the job will be open as it is being reported that Marc Trestman will be named the new Head Coach of the Miami Hurricanes.

Let the speculation begin as to who will replace Trestman. I don't even have a guess because I thought it unfathomable that he would leave Montreal. The Als job is easily the most coveted and prestigious in the CFL right now. Whoever gets the job has a ready-made championship team.

However, I wonder what Trestman's departure will mean for some of the veteran players, namely Anthony Calvillo. Might Calvillo, who we all know is undergoing thyroid surgery, decide that with Trestman leaving, now might be the time to hang 'em up?

And here I thought December was a dull month in the CFL.

EDIT: Scratch that. Looks like Temple Head Coach Al Golden will become the new Head Coach at the University of Miami.

Three Questions: Canadian Football League

The off-season is underway and it is not just the teams that face questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Canadian Football League.

Will there be a Touchdown Atlantic II?
I would stunned if there wasn't. Rumours have been out there for a while that the 2011 Touchdown Atlantic game will be between the Tiger-Cats and Stampeders. I can't see a reason why the league won't play a game in Moncton in 2011.

What do record TV numbers mean?
The CFL is in the midst of a popularity surge not seen since Russ Jackson was slinging passes and winning MOPs. While attendance was down, TV numbers were way up. More people watched the CFL on TSN than any other sport, including hockey. The league's deal with TSN does not expire for another couple of years, but I can imagine that if this upward trend continues, a television windfall – the likes of which the CFL has never seen – could be in the offing. Like the wrestling boom of the late 1990s, it's now cool to like the CFL.

What effect will a possible NFL lockout have?
The most important question facing the CFL in 2011 might actually have nothing to do with the CFL. Anyone who watches the NFL knows that there is a very real possibility that they are headed for a work stoppage – likely a lockout – in 2011. I doubt we'll see a glut of NFL players head to Canada to try and ply their trade; the latest CFL CBA all but guarantees that. But what will Americans do to get their football fix? Yes, they will still have college football, but the other pro leagues that operate in the US (Arena Football, UFL) hardly do big numbers. Fans have not gravitated towards those leagues. I also find it intriguing that NFL Network aired CFL games this past season. Could another deal be struck to play CFL games on NFL Network? Could NFL Network look at airing every CFL game to fill the hours of programming they'll need to fill with no NFL? It wouldn't surprise me in the least. An NFL work stoppage might do for the CFL what American expansion never could.

And the New Tiger-Cats Offensive Coordinator is...

Khari Jones.

To say that I am psyched is an understatement. I have been pushing for Jones since before it was announced that Mike Gibson would not be returning to the Cats. I said before that I thought some new blood would be a good thing, and to hire a retread would just be taking a sideways step. The Cats needed the new blood that Jones provides.

We have all seen the meteoric rise of Dave Dickenson in Calgary, and I truly believe that Jones can be Hamilton's version. He's got his shot; now I only hope that he rewards the Cats with a great infusion of fresh ideas or else I am going to look like quite the idiot.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Three Questions: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Who will be the Offensive and Defensive Coordinators in 2011?
We know that Mike Gibson is gone; we suspect that Greg Marshall will be as well. For Offensive Coordinator, I have said numerous times that I hope that Khari Jones gets it. Call me crazy, but I think he could be the Tiger-Cats' version of Dave Dickenson. Jones was a smart player and has apprenticed as the Tiger-Cats QB Coach for the past two seasons. I see no reason why Jones wouldn't be a good choice. Depending on how the dominoes fall league wide, I hope that Richie Hall is brought in to replace Marshall. Hall's tenure as Edmonton's Head Coach was disastrous, but he was a skilled Defensive Coordinator for Saskatchewan before taking the Edmonton job. Another possible replacement is Rich Stubler. He's in BC right now as Defensive Line Coach, and he and Marshall share a similar philosophy, so the change wouldn't be too drastic. As someone who has grown sick of the Marshall philosophy, I can't say I'd love to see Stubler in Hamilton.

Will there be a Running Back competition in Training Camp?
There has to be. I like DeAndra' Cobb, but he was ineffective for much of the 2010 season and he needs to be pushed. Marcus Thigpen is already on the roster, but he doesn't seem to be the type of guy that can take a 15-to-20-carry-a-game load. Looking outside Hamilton, what about one of the Edmonton Running Backs: Arkee Whitlock and Daniel Porter? I'm sure Edmonton will want to keep both of them, but either one wold look really nice in Black & Gold. And is it wishful thinking to think that Jon Cornish might come to Hamilton? Yeah, it probably is, but a guy can dream, can't he?

What to do at backup Quarterback?
With the starting Quarterback position being sewn up for the immediate future, I won't go on about how the Cats shouldn't try and get Ricky Ray from Edmonton. Personally, I'd rather have Kevin Glenn. That's not to say that I don't like Ricky Ray, but Kevin Glenn was not the reason that this team didn't win in 2010. Also, the idea of getting Ray just so the Argos don't is ridiculous. I've heard some people say that and I've never believed in that philosophy. You bring in guys because they will make your team better, not because your arch rival might get them. (OK, I guess I did go on about why the Cats shouldn't get Ricky Ray.)

The backup Quarterback spot is what I am most interested in. It's time for Hamilton to decide if Quinton Porter or Adam Tafralis is the guy for the future. If not, bring in some new blood. Porter looked bad for most of the season, but put up a pretty decent quarter of football when Kevin Glenn was hurt in the East Division Semi-Final. Everyone seems to love Tafralis, but I'm not sold, simply because he's never really been given a chance. I don't think anyone can accurately judge how good a player is based on a handful of garbage-time minutes and a couple of QB sneaks. These guys have been here long enough that it's time to decide whether these are the guys that should sit behind Kevin Glenn.

Friday 10 December 2010

Three Questions: Montreal Alouettes

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Montreal Alouettes.

Will Marc Trestman be back?
I think he will be. Trestmen has been linked to multiple jobs – most notably the University of Minnesota – but I suspect that Trestmen will stay and fulfill his contract. He doesn't seem like the type of guy that would leave just for money. For a new challenge, absolutely, but not just for more money. I would be surprised if Trestman isn't patrolling the sidelines for the Alouettes when the 2011 season begins.

Will Anthony Calvillo be back?
We all heard Calvillo's revelation following his Grey Cup win that he needed surgery on his thyroid. We all know that Calvillo is going to undergo surgery to remove half of said thyroid. We all heard him say that he should be ready to return in 2011. I believe him. Unless things go horribly wrong – and I truly hope that does not happen – Cavillo will be taking snaps for the Als for at least one more season. (Side note: I do expect the 2011 season to be Calvillo's last. He'll have at least three Grey Cup rings and every significant all-time passing record. No better way to go out than on top.)

Is this the end of their run?
No, I think the Als still have one more year left in them with this group. As long as Anthony Calvillo is still slinging the ball, this team has a shot to win it all. I won't say they will win a third-straight Grey Cup, but I wouldn't bet against them either.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Tiger-Cat Free Agents and My Beef With CFL GMs

First things first, the Tiger-Cats have released the list of players that will be unrestricted free agents come February 16, 2011.
  • Chris Bauman (WR)
  • Alexandre Gauthier (OL)
  • George Hudson (OL)
  • Adam Nicolson (WR)
  • Brian Ramsey (OL)
  • Jermaine Reid (DL)
  • Steve Schmidt (WR/TE/FB)
  • Geoff Tisdale (DB)
All but Tisdale are Non-Imports, but looking at them I don't think any one player is irreplaceable.

I'd like for the team to try to retain Bauman after his stellar play in the final few weeks of the season, but might he be a player that saw the contract coming and put together some solid performances to drive up his value? Might he go back to being the player Ti-Cat fans have loathed the past four seasons?

Gauthier would be nice to retain as well, but he is aging and if a cheaper alternative is out there, perhaps the team lets Gauthier seek greener pastures elsewhere.

When put in the right position, Geoff Tisdale can be a playmaker in the defensive backfield. He was one of the lone bright spots in the much-maligned Tiger-Cats Secondary.

Now for the second part: my beef with CFL GMs. For a number of absolutely ridiculous reasons, free-agents lists in the CFL are kept secret. In a report by the National Post's Mark Masters, many of the league's General Managers gave a bunch of ludicrous reasons why they prefer the lists to be kept private. The only GM interviewed who said he didn't care about the list being public or private: Hamilton's Bob O'Billovich.

Why is it that every other major sports league – NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, European Soccer – can have their free agents known well in advance, but the CFL has to hide theirs? There is no good reason not to release the names of potential free agents, and the reasons that the GMs gave were lame. We demand transparency in regards to everything else; we should demand transparency in this too. There is way too much secrecy for my liking, and this needs to change.

Three Questions: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Who to start: Buck Pierce or Steven Jyles?
It's no secret that I am a big fan of Jyles. I think he has the makings of a great CFL Quarterback. I like Buck Pierce too, don't get me wrong, but he just can't stay healthy. If he could, he would still be in BC. When Pierce plays, he's as good as anyone. He just can't stay on the field. That, sadly, will be Pierce's legacy. Jyles should be given the reins to the team in 2011.

Can the Defense repeat their 2010 accomplishments?
One of the best Defenses in NFL history was the famed "Gritz Blitz" of the Atlanta Falcons in 1977. Not many people know who they are because that Falcons team finished 7-7 despite allowing an NFL-record 9.2 points per game. The 2010 Winnipeg Blue Bombers might go down as the CFL's version of the "Gritz Blitz" (sans cool nickname). The year that the Bombers Defense had is one that does not come along too often. Even if they can't match the feats of 2010, they should still be a very good Defense in 2011.

Will their luck turn around?
I cannot recall a team with worse luck than the 2010 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Ten – count 'em, ten – losses by a touchdown or less, nine of which were by four points or less. Turn half of those losses into wins and Winnipeg makes the playoffs with a 9-9 record. There is no way that the team will have luck that bad in 2011.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Three Questions: Toronto Argonauts

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Toronto Argonauts.

Will competition be brought in for Cleo Lemon?
The Argos had arguably the best Running Back in football in Cory Boyd and unarguably the best Kick Returner in football in Chad Owens. Equally true is that they had, by far, the worst starting Quarterback in the CFL in Cleo Lemon. I don't know if Barker was trying to prove that you can win in the CFL without a quality QB, but by sticking with Lemon all season he sure tried to accomplish that feat. Cleo Lemon was terrible: more turnovers than touchdowns, fewer yards than six other QBs. The two teams' pivots behind Lemon? BC (who started two different QBs) and Winnipeg (who started four different QBs). Had BC and Winnipeg had one guy start 17 games like Lemon did, they'd have thrown for more yards than Lemon. The Argos need to bring someone – anyone – in to compete with Lemon for the starting job. I suspect that Barker will bring someone in; he must. The Argos cannot and will not win 10+ games in 2011 with Cleo Lemon as their starting Quarterback.

Can Jim Barker work his magic in 2011?
I always thought that Jim Barker got a raw deal in Toronto in 1999. He led the Boatmen to a 9-9 record and a playoff berth. He was then fired following the season. Well, not fired exactly, because he didn't know he was let go until he showed up to work and the locks to his office were changed. When Barker came back in 2010 not much was expected. He then led the Argos to a 9-9 season, except the locks won't be changed on him this time around. As much as I hate the Argos, I always respected Barker. He is a smart football coach and he makes the Argos better. I don't think any other coach could have got the Argos to nine wins. This was a four- or five-win team with another Head Coach. Let's see what Barker does with the areas that need improvement and see if he has that magic touch again in 2011.

Will Danny Brannigan be given a chance?
Short answer: No, I don't think he will. Longer answer: I think he'll get a shot, but I don't think he'll actually make the team as the #3 QB barring the trade or release of Cleo Lemon or Dalton Bell. Both of them will be back for the Argos next season, but competition must be brought in, so that makes Brannigan no better than fourth. He will be hard pressed to make the 46-man roster after Training Camp, but he might get another year on the Practice Roster.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Three Questions: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Will there be a Grey Cup Hangover?
Losing the Grey Cup two years in a row has to have taken a toll on this team. There is something called the "Super Bowl Hangover" that tends to affect the team that loses the Super Bowl. Over the last decade only two teams (the 2006 Seattle Seahawks and the 2009 Arizona Cardinals) made the playoffs the year following their Super Bowl losses. The Riders obviously didn't fall victim to any hangover by getting back to the Grey Cup in 2010, but two straight defeats must weigh heavily on the minds of the players. Lucky for them Calgary could be forced to rebuild with so many free agents, Edmonton is rebuilding under the stewardship of Eric Tillman, and BC looks to be about a year away from joining the elite (though with the Grey Cup being in Vancouver in 2011, perhaps some moves will be made to up the talent level of the Lions). I think it's safe to say that there will be no hangover in Regina, except for the ones the fans have because of too much consolation Pilsner.

Who replaces Ken Miller as Head Coach?
The front runners appear to be Offensive Coordinator Doug Berry and former Edmonton Head Coach Richie Hall. The Tiger-Cat fan in me hopes the Riders hire Berry so that Hall can come to Hamilton as Defensive Coordinator. However, my gut says that since the Cats have yet to axe Greg Marshall officially, that means Hall has not been willing to commit to the Cats. The only possible reason for that would be a return to Regina. While Berry or someone else could still very much get the job, I think this is Hall's to lose.

Has this team achieved all it can?
Much like question one, this comes down to their competition. Normally, getting to two straight Grey Cups means that little change is needed. But losing two straight Grey Cups means that there is something missing. For one, Darian Durant needs to turn the ball over less. He is way too reckless with the football, and the Riders will never win it all with their star player making that many mistakes. I also think that the change at Head Coach (depending on who gets brought in) could help to change the attitude in the locker room. Not that there is a bad attitude, but perhaps there is a complacent one. I think this team deserves one more chance to win the whole shebang, and if they don't, then the team should look to make changes.

Monday 6 December 2010

Three Questions: Calgary Stampeders

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Calgary Stampeders.

Has Henry Burris peaked?
Burris has done it all. He's won a Grey Cup, he's won an MOP and he's going to go down as one of the greatest QBs in CFL history. Burris is at, or near, the top of the list of players I most enjoy watching. But Burris will be 36 when the season starts and he is admittedly at the tail end of his career. So with his MOP win last year, what else does he have to motivate him? With the Stamps giving a contract extension to Drew Tate, they clearly see the end with Burris being sooner rather than later.

What will happen at Running Back?
The Calgary Stampeders have one of the best problems to have: too many good Running Backs. Both Joffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish are über-talented players who could start for any team in the league. The Stamps used both phenomenally in 2010. They would use Reynolds for two series and then Cornish for one. It kept both men fresh all season. But sooner or later Cornish is going to want to be the bell-cow back that he is capable of being, and Calgary will need to make a decision soon on what direction they want to go in. Reynolds showed this year that he can still play at a high level, but Running Backs have a notoriously short life span, and Reynolds will be entering his eighth season in 2011. It might be time to cut ties with the team's all-time leading rusher and go with the younger Canadian.

Who won't be back?
While free-agent lists haven't been released – something that has seemingly angered TSN's Dave Naylor – it is well known that many of Calgary's big-name players are headed for free agency: the All-Star Defensive Back duo of Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson, along with the CFL's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman for 2010 Ben Archibald and Receiver Romby Bryant, just to name a few. If Calgary loses a few of their core players, they will be hard pressed to finish in first place in 2011.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Three Questions: Edmonton Eskimos

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the Edmonton Eskimos.

Who will be the Head Coach?
The consensus seems to be that Kavis Reed will be the man that leads the Eskimos out of the tunnel for their first game of the 2011 season. Maybe this is true, maybe it's not. If this is true then 'Kavis Reed' will soon become a synonym for 'failing upward.'

Who will be the starting Quarterback?
Ricky Ray? Jared Zabransky? Someone else? Quarterback is the most important position in football, especially Canadian football. The Eskimos need to make a decision: do they stick with the two-time Grey Cup-winning Ricky Ray or do they give the ball to former Boise St. star Jared Zabransky? Ray gives them their best chance to win now. If they go with Zabransky, however, that means Ray has to be moved. He is too talented, even with all the punishment he's taken, to ride the bench. I think Ray will stay one more season and then the team will move on to the Jared Zabransky era in 2012.

What will Eric Tillman's impact be?
The Eskimos played their tails off at the end of the 2010 season after Tillman took over. Whether that was a sign of things to come or just players playing for their jobs is debatable. One thing is for sure, Eric Tillman has a tremendous track record and he will turn the Eskimos around. It might not be this year, but before too long people who hate the Eskimos will have to put up with some good Edmonton teams.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Three Questions: BC Lions

The off-season is underway and every team faces questions. Today, I look at the questions facing the BC Lions.

Will Travis Lulay take that next step now that he is the undisputed starter?
Lulay had two cracks at the starting spot: at the beginning of the season when Casey Printers was injured, and at the end of the season when Casey Printers was released. The earlier stint wasn't great, but the second stint was successful. He guided the Lions into the playoffs and had two great games against the Tiger-Cats in Week 19 and Saskatchewan in the West Division Semi-Final. The future looks bright for Lulay.

Is this Wally Buono's final season as Head Coach?
Only Wally Buono knows for sure, but my gut says that this is his last season as Head Coach of the BC Lions. Buono will be 61 in February, and the 2011 season will be his 22nd consecutive season patrolling the sidelines. Following the 2011 season, Buono might want to call it quits. While this is likely to be a discussion for the 2012 season, I'd say that Jacques Chapdelaine is the leading candidate to take over for Buono. Buono will still likely be the GM for the Leos, and I wouldn't be surprised if he elevated Chapdelaine.

What happens with some BC veterans?
BC has not been known to be overly sentimental when it comes to veteran players. Guys like Otis Floyd, Dave Dickenson and Jason Clermont have been let go or allowed to leave when the team deemed them expendable. Some players who have contributed greatly to the Lions in the past – Paris Jackson has openly wondered whether he'll return in 2011; Paul McCallum has been asked to take a pay cut – might be sporting new threads in 2011.

Friday 3 December 2010

Ken Miller's Decision and Its Raminfications in Hamilton

As everyone knows, Ken Miller has stepped down as the Head Coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the decision has some interesting ramifications for the Tiger-Cats.

With Miller moving upstairs, that leaves the Saskatchewan job vacant. Two candidates, at least according to TSN's Dave Naylor, are Richie Hall and Greg Marshall. Now, rumours have been floating around that Marshall has been let go by the Tiger-Cats; whether that is true or not is unknown at this time. The rumoured replacement for Marshall has been one Richie Hall.

If Marshall gets the job, good for him. He's a good football coach and deserves the opportunity to lead a team. Marshall moving to Saskatchewan would also open the door for Hall to come to Hamilton.

Now, what happens if Hall gets the Saskatchewan job? Does that mean that Marshall will remain with the Tiger-Cats? Could the Cats whiff on getting Hall and lose Marshall? Who would the team then hire as Defensive Coordinator? Have the Tiger-Cats acted too quickly in (allegedly) getting rid of Marshall? It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the Tiger-Cats.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Bruce, Hage Named CFLPA All-Stars

Earlier today, Arland Bruce and Marwan Hage were named CFLPA All-Stars.

Both are very deserving as they had great seasons. Congratulations to both of them.

That said, any All-Star nomination that doesn't include Markeith Knowlton and Andy Fantuz doesn't carry much weight with me.

Everyone always talks about how the CFLPA nominations are more prestigious because they are voted on by the players. When two of the best at what they do aren't on the team, there is a flaw in the system. There is some weird formula where the players that players play against vote (e.g. Defensive Linemen vote for Offensive Linemen) and a player cannot vote for players on their own team, but that's no excuse as to how both of them get left off the list.

Fantuz and Knowlton were two of the best players at their position in 2010, and not being named All-Stars by their peers is ridiculous. I don't take All-Star selections very seriously, but the CFLPA selections just took a big hit in the credibility department with me.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Is it really over? Has July 1st to November 28th already come and gone? As hard as it is to believe, the 2010 CFL season has come to an end.

I still recall picking up my season tickets for the first time. I still remember watching the home opener against Calgary. And I still agonize over the heartbreaking loss in the playoffs. It was a wonderful season filled with many ups and many downs. While it didn't end how I, or probably 99.9% of the readers of this blog, had hoped, it was still an amazing and fun ride.

It wasn't too long ago that winning four games was an accomplishment. Now, getting a home playoff game is considered the norm; losing in the first round is considered unacceptable and a gigantic disappointment. This team has come a long way in two years, and I expect even better things in 2011.

These, I'm sure, are sentiments that are felt by every team and every fan base across Canada, save one. The Roughriders reached the Grey Cup for the second year in a row, but they lost for the second year in a row. Edmonton and Winnipeg failed to make the playoffs, the Lions lost in their Semi-Final and Toronto and Calgary fell one game short. I'm sure everyone will be expecting better results in 2011.

Obviously with the season now at an end, I won't be posting as much. Since the season started, I have averaged more than one post a day, and while I love writing, there just aren't that many topics to discuss, especially early in the off-season. When anything happens, I'll be sure to give my spin on it, and if the trend of the past couple of days is any indication, I might be busier than I think.

Lastly, I'd just like to say that I hope everyone has enjoyed reading what I have written during the course of the 2010 CFL season. Whether you agreed or disagreed with what I had to say, I thank you for taking the time to read and/or comment. I hope I can be better in 2011 than I was in 2010.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

More Coaching Changes?

With Mike Gibson already gone, is Greg Marshall far behind?

According to Perry Lefko, Greg Marshall will not return as Tiger-Cat Defensive Coordinator in 2011.

Lefko also posits that the frontrunner for the position is former Edmonton Eskimo Head Coach Richie Hall. Hall and Tiger-Cat Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille have a friendship dating back to their time together with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Obviously, Hall's philosophy will mesh with Bellefeuille's.

I'm of two minds about this. First, I think Greg Marshall is a very good Defensive Coordinator. He has presided over many top-notch Defenses during his CFL tenure, and Hamilton's the past two seasons has been very good.

That said, his "Bend But Don't Break" philosophy broke a few times in 2010. And sometimes it bent at inopportune moments, such as the final minute against Calgary in Week 2. There were also rumours of clashes between Marshall and Bellefeuille, and with Bellefeuille staying put (rightfully so), it seems like Marshall almost had to go.

There is this myopic view amongst Ti-Cat fans that Marshall can do no wrong, and that all the problems that occurred in 2010 were Mike Gibson and the Offense's fault. I don't subscribe to that particular viewpoint. I think both men underachieved with the groups they were given. The Tiger-Cats should have been better than 9-9 and a first-round playoff exit. They weren't, and it wasn't one person's fault. There were times when the Offense couldn't be stopped, but times when they couldn't get started; the exact same can be said of the Defense. Neither one produced the kind of season that we all thought was possible. Now it looks like this underachievement has cost each man his job (though in Gibson's case, that might not be entirely accurate).

If Marshall is heading out the door, replacing him with Hall is a good move. Hall was a terrific Defensive Coordinator with the Roughriders before he left to take the head job in Edmonton, and he would make an excellent Defensive Coordinator for the Tiger-Cats. The talent is there on the defensive side of the football, led by 2010 Most Outstanding Defensive Player Markeith Knowlton.

Who says there's no news after the Grey Cup? Two days and already two big pieces of news coming out of Tigertown. I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Who Replaces Gibson?

It is now official: Mike Gibson will not be returning as Offensive Coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

I'm sure many Tiger-Cat fans are popping champagne in celebration. The much-maligned Gibson was nearly universally reviled by Tiger-Cat supporters. I was not one of them. Though Gibson did have his flaws, I was not one of the many who placed the blame almost solely on him. Sure, he needs to take part of the blame – especially for the lackluster rushing attack in 2010 – but he was not the only reason why the Tiger-Cats did not achieve what they had expected to achieve in 2010. Some of that blame falls to the players.

But that's neither here nor there. Gibson is gone, and now the speculation really begins as to who might replace him.

I have already stated, twice, that I would like to see Khari Jones given the chance, and according to Drew Edwards, Jones is on the shortlist of candidates to replace Gibson.

It would be nice for once to see the Tiger-Cats take a chance. Jones has experience – he's been the team's Quarterbacks Coach for two seasons – and is a former player, who won the MOP award in 2001 when playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It would be nice to give a new person the opportunity. There are obviously other candidates available, but I would like to see the team hire Khari Jones as Offensive Coordinator.

Also of note: Offensive Line Coach Steve Buratto will not be brought back either. He has left the team due to family reasons. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Monday 29 November 2010

Report: Mike Gibson Not Returning

In news that is sure to make many Tiger-Cat fans happy, it seems like Offensive Coordinator Mike Gibson's days with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are numbered, at least according to Sportsnet's Perry Lefko.

The article notes that Gibson will be leaving for personal reasons, not football-related reasons. I hope things aren't serious for Gibson.

The article also mentions that there are plans to "significantly alter [the] coaching staff." With Gibson on his way out, could Defensive Coordinator Greg Marshall be far behind?

I have gone on the record saying that if a change was made, I would like to see Khari Jones given an opportunity.

But Jones is just my preference; there are plenty of other qualified candidates. Let the speculation begin.

Kate McKenna (2010 Ti-Cats TV Host) Needs Your Help

If you're like me and peruse the Tiger-Cats website, then you're likely very familiar with Kate McKenna. She was the host of all the Ti-Cats TV segments in 2010. She was also the in-stadium host for contests during the season. The gig with the Tiger-Cats is only for one year, so Kate will not be back in 2011.

However, with your help, she may be off to some exotic locals in some far-off places as a paid vacationer for Transat Holidays.

How can you help her, you ask? It's simple. All you have to do is go to her profile and click on the "Vote for this Candidate" button. Voting runs until December 2nd and the winner will be announced December 7th.

Good luck to her. I hope when she wins she flies the Tiger-Cats flag proudly around the world.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Possible Expansion Formula

According to TSN's Dave Naylor, the CFL's Board of Governors has come to an agreement on the expansion-draft formula for when Ottawa returns to the league in 2013.

The major change will be in how many Quarterbacks the existing eight teams will be able to protect.

Back in 2002, when Ottawa returned to the CFL as the Renegades, teams were allowed to protect two Quarterbacks. This left Ottawa with slim pickings at the most important position in football. The 'Gades started their inaugural season with Dan Crowley behind Centre (remember him?), but he was soon replaced by a then-unknown Kerry Joseph. While Joseph panned out, that was a lucky break for the Renegades. Not that it mattered for them, since they failed to make the playoffs during their time in the league, but Joseph went on to have a very good CFL career, most notably winning the MOP and Grey Cup in 2007.

When Ottawa returns this time around, teams will only be allowed to protect one Quarterback. That means that Ottawa would be able to choose from a list that includes teams' backups, not just their third stringers. If Ottawa were to return this season the list could include, but would not be limited to, the following:
  • Adrian McPherson
  • Chris Leak
  • Quinton Porter
  • Steven Jyles or Buck Pierce
  • Drew Tate
  • Jared Zabransky
  • Jarious Jackson
Not a bad group to choose from, any one of which would make a very decent Quarterback to start over with, though some more than others.

Some of Quarterbacks listed – McPherson in Montreal, Tate in Calgary – will probably be starters by 2013 and therefore not available, but someone like Zabransky or Porter, while not as polished, could be a guy to build a team around.

The idea behind this change is to make the Ottawa franchise more competitive from the outset. While the Renegades failed for numerous reasons – terrible ownership being chief among them – the fact that they never fielded a contending team hardly helped. Ottawa finished with four wins in 2002, seven in 2003, five in 2004 and seven in 2005. They were never really a threat in any of their four seasons. The Renegades ceased operations prior to the 2006 season.

A lot can happen in the next two years, but it looks like Ottawa will be given every opportunity to compete immediately when the league returns to the nation's capital in 2013.

Montreal Wins the Grey Cup

It wasn't as exciting as their Canada Day showdown, and it won't be as memorable as their meeting in the 97th Grey Cup, but the Als won't care. In front of a highly partisan crowd, the Als eked out a 21-18 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders to win the 98th Grey Cup.

The Alouettes are the first team to repeat as champions since the Doug Flutie-led Toronto Argonauts won back-to-back championships in 1996 and 1997.

Montreal's Jamel Richardson was named the game's MVP with his third-consecutive 100+ yard game in the Grey Cup. A team effort all the way, and Richardson did just enough to warrant the MVP award.

Congratulations to the Als for winning the Grey Cup.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Smitty's Selection: Grey Cup

Well here we are, the end. After 19 regular-season weeks, two weeks of playoffs and 76 games in total, we are one game away from the end of the 2010 CFL season. A season filled with plenty of ups and downs, but a fun one nonetheless. Two teams remain, but only one can be called champion.

98th Grey Cup: Montreal vs. Saskatchewan

We all remember last year, don't we? No time left on the clock, Montreal's Damon Duval lining up for the game-winning field goal, it sails wide, Riders win... except there is a flag. We all know how it ended. I can't think of a worse way to lose a championship than the way that Saskatchewan lost last year. After Duval missed that kick, elation reigned supreme on the Roughriders's bench. For that split second they believed that they had won the 97th Grey Cup. Then to lose it just seconds later because of a too-many-men penalty must have been heartbreaking. That said, it seems rather karmic that the Riders would lose because of the 13th man.

Well, 2010 is not 2009, and while I expect a hard-fought affair, I can't see this one coming down to a last kick. I have flip-flopped all week on who to pick, my want for Montreal to win (I really hate Rider fans) against my gut saying that Saskatchewan will win. My gut has not been wrong too often this season, but it hasn't been perfect either. With it being time to go on the record, I'm going to ignore my gut for the first time all season.

Winner: Montreal, 37-28


Season Record: 39-37

Thursday 25 November 2010

Knowlton Wins Most Outstanding Defensive Player

A season that ended in disappointment for the Tiger-Cats and their fans just got a little less gloomy as Markeith Knowlton has been named the 2010 CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

I won't go into a long soliloquy about how great Knowlton is. Everyone who reads this blog knows how much I admire Knowlton. Numerous times I have referred to him as the best defensive player in the CFL; tonight he was officially bestowed the title.

Good on you, Markeith.

The Tiger-Cats were shut out in the other three awards they were nominated for: Marcus Thigpen lost out on Most Outstanding Rookie to BC Lion Linebacker Solomon Elimimian; Dave Stala was beaten by Saskatchewan Receiver Andy Fantuz for Most Outstanding Canadian; and Marwan Hage, somewhat surprisingly, lost the award for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman to Calgary's Ben Archibald. The other award winners were Chad Owens for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player and Henry Burris, who was finally given his due by being named Most Outstanding Player.

Congratulations to all the award winners, and another big hand for Markeith Knowlton.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Will Math Class Be Part of this Week's Preparation?

Looks like the Riders will get a chance at redemption. It's going to be Montreal-Saskatchewan II in Edmonton in a week's time.

We all know how last season ended for the Riders. Now they get a chance to erase the memories of 2009. Should be a good one.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Smitty's Selections: Division Finals

And we're down to four. Not the four I expected – I was incorrect on both my predictions last week – but these are the four nonetheless. Each of these teams made it this far in different ways and deserve kudos for getting to their respective Division Finals, but only two can move on, so two fan bases will feel what Tiger-Cat and Lion fans felt last week as their teams' seasons come to an abrupt halt.

East Division Final: Toronto at Montreal

Toronto entered this season with expectations about as low as they can be. Winning one more game than last season – when they went 3-15 – would have been considered a drastic improvement. Yet here they sit, on the verge of a miraculous Grey Cup appearance. Montreal did in 2010 what Montreal has done for the past 10 years: win football games. Last week, Toronto needed five Hamilton turnovers to beat the Tiger-Cats; Montreal won't give the Argos the same gifts that the Tabbies did.

Winner: Montreal, 37-17

West Division Final: Saskatchewan at Calgary

When I was younger, my father used to always say that the AFC Championship game was the only game that mattered. He's a Bills fan, so you can understand why he'd say that. I'm sure there are plenty of people out west who feel the same about the West Division Final. Not because the West can't win the Grey Cup – they've won seven of the past ten – but because many observers feel that the West is the superior division in the CFL. I'm not here to debate that point, but this matchup between the Riders and Stamps might be the Sox-Yanks of the CFL. Two teams that just plain don't like one another and whose fan bases couldn't be more different. These teams match up incredibly well with one another, so the slight advantage goes to the home team, setting up a rematch of the 96th Grey Cup from 2008.

Winner: Calgary, 38-34

Montreal, Calgary

Season Record: 38-36

Thursday 18 November 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

For the eleventh consecutive year, the Tiger-Cats' season ends without a championship. Not since Danny McManus, Darren Flutie, Joe Montford, et al. hoisted Lord Grey's mug in Vancouver in 1999 has a Tiger-Cat season finished the way we fans had hoped.

With any form of failure comes change. The 2009 Tiger-Cats overachieved in some respects, so last season's 9-9 finish was viewed as a positive. With that, the organization brought almost the exact same roster back. The 2010 Tiger-Cats underachieved by finishing, once again, 9-9. The thinking going into the season was that the Cats were about to stamp their pass as one of the dominant teams in the CFL and finally become that long-awaited challenger to Montreal. Neither of those things happened.

Two years with almost the exact some roster produced the exact same results. Hindsight being what it is, no one should have been surprised by this, yet every Tiger-Cat fan believed that a year of stability and growth would lead to better things in 2010. That didn't happen.

Changes, therefore, are inevitable. This team is going to see some "significant changes," according to Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille. What we do not know, however, is what those changes will entail.

We already know that those changes will not be at the Head Coach or General Manager position. We know that Arland Bruce and Otis Floyd have vowed to return. That, however, is all we know right now.

Bellefeuille also stated that the team has a "core that [they'll] keep together." In perusing the Tiger-Cats roster, I think it is safe to say that the core would be comprised of the following eight players: Kevin Glenn, Arland Bruce, Dave Stala, Marwan Hage, Stevie Baggs, Markeith Knowlton, Jamall Johnson and Otis Floyd. Perhaps there are more, but I would be surprised if any of those players weren't back in 2010.

That, however, leaves everyone else, both players and coaches. So who might see the axe fall on them, and who might be spared?

Let's start with the coaching staff. Both Offensive Coordinator Mike Gibson and Defensive Coordinator Greg Marshall have been under scrutiny from fans at certain points this season, with Gibson, especially, being the target of much vitriol. It is entirely possible that neither one of these coaches will be brought back. Gibson's Offense lacks the hard-to-define "creativity," and Marshall's "bend-but-don't-break" philosophy broke at many points this season.

There is also the question of Offensive Line Coach Steve Buratto. The O-line was phenomenal when pass blocking, but couldn't open a hole for a gnat when run blocking. Who is to blame for that? The problem persisted all season, so perhaps that should fall on the head of the coaching staff.

Now, if Gibson or Marshall or Buratto or a combination of the three is let go, who does the team replace them with? I would like to see the Cats go after a young coach as their new OC, and there is one on their staff already who could be the perfect replacement: Khari Jones. He's already the QB coach, he has a relationship with Kevin Glenn going to back to their days in Winnipeg, and as a player he was known to call his own plays. He could be the perfect candidate to replace Gibson should he be shown the door.

On the defensive side, I think the only person who would be calling plays other than Marshall would be the former Head Coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, Richie Hall. Hall and Bellefeuille have known each other since they were both with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and he would probably be the only candidate that Bellefeuille would be comfortable replacing Marshall with.

Which brings us to the players. Aside from the core group I outlined earlier, I would say that no one is safe. There are three players in particular that could be given a one-way ticket out of town: Sandro DeAngelis, DeAndra' Cobb and Marquay McDaniel.

To say that Sandro DeAngelis had a poor season would be an understatement. He connected on a career-low 76.2% of his field goals. To put that in perspective, Nick Setta was released following the 2009 season because he only connected on 76.0% of his field goals, and Setta was released because he wasn't consistent enough. It's entirely possible that DeAngelis suffers the same fate as Setta did last year. I would suspect that the Cats will keep DeAngelis and bring in someone to compete with him in training camp.

DeAndra' Cobb's 2010 season was one of mystery. There were games where he looked unstoppable, and there were games where he completely disappeared. He still gained over 1,000 yards rushing, but that just masks the fact that Cobb had a sub-par year. He seemed tentative when hitting the line, and he danced around in the backfield way too much. I don't know if Cobb will be invited back, but if he is, the team should bring in a couple of Running Backs to compete with Cobb or perhaps give Marcus Thigpen a chance to unseat Cobb as the team's featured back.

Marquay McDaniel, for all intents and purposes, had a great 2010. He came six yards shy of notching his first 1,000-yard receiving season, and at one point he caught a touchdown pass in four consecutive games. However, he had a severe case of butter fingers all season long, and especially late in the season. I think McDaniel is a multipurpose weapon who can make plays both on Offense and Special Teams, but when Marcel Bellefeuille says that "there were some inconsistencies," I think he may have been referring to McDaniel.

I don't expect any of these players to be cut outright, but I do expect them to have to battle for their jobs in 2011. The only way I don't see any of these guys at training camp would be if they were traded, which is entirely possible.

There are other areas of the team that need addressing as well, namely the Secondary. I think out of all the guys, Geoff Tisdale had the best season. It was admittedly up and down, but for the most part Tisdale was solid. It's everyone else that could be replaced. I'm sure the two starting Canadians – Ryan Hinds and Dylan Barker – are relatively safe as well. But Jason Shivers, Jerome Dennis, Will Heyward, Bo Smith, Jykine Bradley, Jonathan Hood, Marc Beswick, Ray Wladichuk, Ellis Lankster and Kyries Hebert could all have new addresses in 2011. The Secondary performed at its best when the five-man group of Barker, Hinds, Tisdale, Bo Smith and Jerome Dennis were on the field during their dominating mid-season run. What that means is anyone's guess. The team might not feel the same, and injuries (namely to Bradley at mid-season and Smith at the end of the season) make it hard to assess what the best five-man group would have been.

There are obviously other areas of concern and other players that are on the bubble, but I figured covering every single one of them would just be tedious. These are the areas I think will get the most attention from the Tiger-Cat front office. All of this is speculation at this point, but the question that I pose in the title – "Where do we go from here?" – will be the question that lingers throughout this long and bitter off-season.

CFL Offensive All-Stars

Just like I did with the East and West Divisional All-Stars, I will present my choices for League All-Stars. Unlike my Divisional All-Star posts, I won't go into great detail about who I picked, because most of them were my Divisional All-Star selections. Today is the CFL Offensive All-Stars.

Quarterback: Henry Burris (CAL)
Choosing Henry Burris or Anthony Calvillo is like choosing between Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky. Both are great and deserving, so it really comes down to personal preference. While I've said in the past that Calvillo was my #1 Most Hated Former Tiger-Cat, I've softened on that stance considerably over the course of this season. I have grown to respect and admire Calvillo in the same way that I used to hate Brett Favre, but grew to like him (less so recently, however). But Burris has been outstanding this season, and since he was my choice for MOP, he's my choice for league All-Star.

Running Back: Cory Boyd (TOR), Fred Reid (WIN)
Both of these guys were my East All-Stars, and both were better than Joffrey Reynolds and Wes Cates. It's as simple as that for me.

Receiver: Arland Bruce III (HAM), Terrence Edwards (WIN), Andy Fantuz (SSK), Nik Lewis (CAL)
I wanted to fit Dave Stala in here somewhere, but I also approached these selections trying not to allow any Hamilton bias to cloud my judgment. Had I done so, Nik Lewis would have been left off, and that wouldn't have been right. Bruce was great, and probably would have led the league in receiving had he not been injured near the end of the regular season. Edwards was a beast for Winnipeg and led the East in receiving yards and touchdowns. Fantuz led the league in receiving yards, the first Canadian do so since 1995. Nik Lewis was Nik Lewis. After a somewhat poor 2009, Lewis returned with a vengeance in 2010.

Centre: Marwan Hage (HAM)
Best Centre in the league, and quite possibly the best Offensive Lineman in the league as well. Hage could dominate this position for as long as he stays around.

Guard: Dimitri Tsoumpus (CAL), Scott Flory (MTL)
Tsoumpus helped anchor a stellar Calgary O-Line after his failed stint with the Miami Dolphins, and Flory year in, year out, is one of the best Guards in football.

Tackle: Ben Archibald (CAL), Josh Bourke (MTL)
Like Tsoumpus and Flory at Guard, Ben Archibald and Josh Bourke are rock solid at Tackle. Neither has many flaws, and each year they perform better than they did the year before.

Kicker: Paul McCallum (BC)
McCallum was the best Kicker in the CFL this season, period.

Punter: Burke Dales (CAL)
Dales was better than Renaud this year, simple as that.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Three Tiger-Cats Named CFL All-Stars

While the season may be over for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, there was still something to smile about today as Marwan Hage, Markeith Knowlton and Arland Bruce III were named CFL All-Stars. All three were more than deserving of being named to the league's All-Star team.

This might not be the last honour bestowed upon Hage and Knowlton as, along with Dave Stala and Marcus Thigpen, they are finalists for Most Outstanding Player awards that will be handed out Grey Cup Weekend.

While we all sit here and lament the loss last Sunday, at least this information can provide a little sunshine in what will be, at least for me, a long and somewhat dismal off-season.

CFL Defensive All-Stars

Just like I did with the East and West Divisional All-Stars, I will present my choices for League All-Stars. Unlike my Divisional All-Star posts, I won't go into great detail about who I picked, because most of them were my Divisional All-Star selections. Today is the CFL Defensive All-Stars.

Defensive Tackle: DeVone Claybrooks (CAL), Kevin Huntley (TOR)
Two guys who dominated from the interior line. Both played pivotal roles in disrupting teams' run games and collapsing the pocket on opposing Quarterbacks. Two very deserving All-Stars.

Defensive End: Phillip Hunt (WIN), John Bowman (MTL)
Hunt was the best pass rusher in the CFL, and Bowman (while I didn't vote for him for Divisional All-Star) had an outstanding season as well. I still believe that Willis deserved this, but Bowman is not undeserving.

Linebacker: Markeith Knowlton (HAM), Chip Cox (MTL), Barrin Simpson (SSK)
Knowlton is the best all-round Defensive player in the CFL. Cox had a tremendous season, and Barrin Simpson led the league in tackles after some (i.e., Winnipeg) thought he was over the hill.

Cornerback: Brandon Browner (CAL), Mark Estelle (MTL)
Personally, I hate Browner, and I think he gets away with an awful lot, but he has shut down virtually every big-time Receiver this season, so he's deserving. Estelle (another player that did not get my Divisional nod) had a very good season as well. Many will remember him getting run over by Nik Lewis, but he also made plays for an underrated Alouette Secondary.

Defensive Back: Chris Thompson (EDM), Jerald Brown (MTL)
Chris Thompson never should have been traded by the Cats. I grew to like Maurice Mann over the course of the season, but Thompson played at his previous All-Star level (he was an All-Star in 2008). Brown, in tandem with Estelle, shut down plenty of Receivers for the Als in 2010.

Safety: James Patrick (SSK)
Patrick led the league in interceptions and provided big plays for the Roughriders in key situations.

Special Teams: Chad Owens (TOR)
Over 3,000 combined yards, while leading the league in kickoff, punt and missed field-goal yards. Case closed.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Arland and Otis Not Going Anywhere

While some of us (namely me) were worried that Arland Bruce and Otis Floyd might be heading off into retirement, we can stop that talk right now.

Bruce said that he believes he has "80, 90 games left in [his] system." That equates to about four or five more seasons. This is great news. Hopefully these 80 or 90 games for Bruce all occur with him in Black & Gold. Bruce hadn't made any rumbles about retirement, but he did after the loss in the East Division Semi-Final to the BC Lions in 2009.

Floyd says he plans to be back for his 12th CFL season. This puts to rest rumours that he started himself when he told AM900 CHML's Matt Holmes that Sunday's East Division Semi-Final was his last game. We've all heard veteran players say after tough losses, especially tough playoff losses, that they didn't think they'd be back. Floyd, however, seemed pretty definitive, and he made the statement unprompted. That's what made it feel so genuine.

This is great news from where I sit. Both guys had great seasons in 2010 and showed that they can still contribute at a high level. Floyd set a single-season personal best, with 83 tackles, and finished second on the team to Jamall Johnson's 101. Floyd is the heart and soul of the defense. While he is getting up there in age (and I wouldn't be surprised if 2011 is his last season), Floyd still competes at the highest of levels, and I bet that the loss on Sunday is not how he wanted his career to end.

Bruce very well might have led the CFL in receiving yards had he not missed most of the final three regular-season contests. His game has not fallen off in the least, and I would hazard a guess that the drops he had in Sunday's playoff game will provide fuel to his fire for 2011. I expect him to be extra motivated come the start of the 2011 CFL season.

I look forward to both being back in Black & Gold in 2011.

Monday 15 November 2010

Bellefeuille Won't Be Fired

Drew Edwards is reporting that Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille will not be fired following yesterday's disappointing East Division Semi-Final loss to the Toronto Argonauts.

Edwards quotes an unnamed source in saying, "The reality is this: Obie and Marcel aren't going anywhere."

Good. Neither should lose their job over yesterday's outcome. Since both assumed full-time control two years ago, the Tiger-Cats have posted back-to-back 9-9 seasons and hosted a playoff game in each of them.

Yes, yesterday's loss is a tough pill to swallow. Despite the loss, I echo Stevie Baggs's sentiments when he says that the Tiger-Cats are a better team than the Argonauts. I believe that they are, but that the Argos were the better team on Sunday. That's sports, and the better team doesn't always win. If that were the case, there would be no point in playing the games.

There are a lot of things to address this off-season, but I'm glad that the status of the Head Coach and General Manager will not be one of them. Continuity is key, and while the Cats could be more consistent, I do think that the Obie-Marcel team can get this squad over the hump. I am glad that neither will be going anywhere.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Toronto 16, Hamilton 13

I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to write. This was a heartbreaking loss. In a year that started with so much promise, for it to end this way is devastating.

I thought that when Kevin Glenn emerged from the locker room like Willis Reed in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, that he was going to lead the team to victory.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The Argos did not win this game, the Cats lost it. Hamilton beat themselves, period. Five Hamilton turnovers led to 13 of Toronto's 16 points, way too many dropped passes ended promising drives, and Sandro DeAngelis's missed 17-yard field goal proved to be very costly.

Now the long off-season begins earlier than many of us thought it would. This was a team that began the season with Grey Cup aspirations, but whose season ends, once again, in disappointing fashion at Ivor Wynne. However, I will take this every year over 3-15 and 4-14 seasons, and being out of the playoff race by Labour Day.

Changes will be made, but what will those changes be? It's possible that Otis Floyd played his last game today. He seemed to hint at this on the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML. Arland Bruce hinted at retirement following last season; might he be about to call it quits too? Marwan Hage did the same; will he pack it in? Will DeAngelis be brought back? Nick Setta was released because of inconsistent play; DeAngelis epitomized inconsistent play in 2010. Will there be changes to the coaching staff? Will potential free agents (like the suddenly emerging Chris Bauman) be headed elsewhere?

A team that finishes back-to-back years with playoff appearances usually doesn't see too many changes, but this is a veteran team, and the door can only stay open for so long. My gut tells me most of these guys will come back for one more chance to hoist the Grey Cup.

The 2010 CFL season is over for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It was a fun ride. Sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, but always worth it. Hopefully 2011 will end better than 2010 did.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Less Than 24 Hours

We're less than 24 hours from the biggest playoff game to hit this town since... 1999?

I know I don't speak for everyone, but I'm sure there will be plenty of agreement that this game on Sunday is one of the most anticipated in the last 15 years.

Last year's playoff game with BC was awesome. The comeback that fell just short was heartbreaking, but the crowd was electric.

But that was last year, and this is this year. To get you primed I thought I would drop some exclusive videos for everyone to enjoy.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Wednesday's pep rally at Lime Ridge Mall. However, a few friends of mine were able to attend and took a couple of videos.

First, we have Stevie Baggs lending his Shakespearean skills to "If You're Happy and You Know It:"

The next is Pigskin Pete doing what he does:

Hopefully that got you nice and TURNT UP!!! for tomorrow. Man, I can't wait.

Also, if you haven't got your ticket yet, what are you waiting for? As of this writing there are only 3,802 left, according to the ticket counter on You're going to want to be there for this. As one of Hamilton's own, the late, great Billy Red Lyons, used to so famously say, "Don'cha dare miss it."

Preview: East Division Semi-Final


Do I really need to hype this up? It's Toronto... versus Hamilton... at Ivor Wynne Stadium... in the playoffs. This game hypes itself.
"Labour Day on 'roids"
– Kate McKenna
"WOOO! Not for the faint of heart, baby. YEAH!"
– Otis Floyd
"TURNT UP!!!!"
– Maurice Mann

Just look at the three above quotes. That tells you what this game is all about. OK, the Mann one doesn't make much sense without context, but the quotes by Floyd and Ti-Cat TV host Kate McKenna capture the mood perfectly.

The atmosphere for this game will be off the hook. Anyone who attended last year's playoff game against BC knows that this one will be louder and rowdier. I can't wait.

The goal for the Cats will be to stop Cory Boyd and force Cleo Lemon to beat them. That's a recipe for disaster for Toronto. Lemon has not looked good this season, and when forced, he makes mistakes. Capitalizing on those mistakes will be key for the Tiger-Cats.

For the Argos, the emphasis will be on making Kevin Glenn uncomfortable and getting him off his rhythm. When Glenn is on, he's as good as anyone in the league. The Argos must get Glenn off his game. If they don't, it will be a long day for the Boatmen.

The Cats and Argos played three times this season, and the Cats beat the Argos in all three matchups. In fact, the only team the Argos did not beat this year was Hamilton. Also of note is that the Tiger-Cats' margin of victory grew in each subsequent game: they won 16-12 on August 20th, 28-13 on Labour Day and 30-3 on October 15th.

But those three previous meetings mean nothing come Sunday. This is the playoffs, and the playoffs are a different beast than the regular season.

And it is that "different beast" aspect that gives the Cats a slight advantage. This year the Cats play the East Semi with the experience advantage. Not many Argos have tasted playoff football, similar to the Cats last year. There is nothing better than afternoon football at Ivor Wynne... except afternoon playoff football at Ivor Wynne.

If you're not going to the stadium to take this in (and you better have a damn good reason for not going), as always you can listen to the game on AM900 CHML and Y108 or watch the game on TSN and TSN HD.

1999 Redux?

Are we about to experience déja vu all over again?

Looking at what could possibly be Hamilton's road to the 98th Grey Cup, one cannot help but see how striking the similarities are to their road to the 87th Grey Cup.

In 1999, Hamilton beat Toronto at Ivor Wynne Stadium in the East Division Semi-Final. In 2010, Hamilton plays Toronto at Ivor Wynne Stadium in the East Division Semi-Final.

In 1999, Hamilton beat Montreal at Olympic Stadium in the East Division Final. In 2010, Hamilton would have to beat Montreal at Olympic Stadium in the East Division Final.

In 1999, Hamilton beat Calgary to win the Grey Cup. In 2010, Hamilton might very well have to beat Calgary to win the Grey Cup. (I get that this one is far from assured, but Calgary is the favourite in the West, so it is not far fetched.)

The parallels don't end there. In 1999, the Toronto Argonauts were coached by Jim Barker (he only lasted that one season). In 2010, the Toronto Argonauts are coached by Jim Barker.

In 1999, Danny McManus and Ron Lancaster were in their second years with the Tiger-Cats. In 2010, Kevin Glenn and Marcel Bellefeuille are in their second years with the Tiger-Cats. (I know that Bellefeuille was Head Coach in 2008 as well, but he was only interim coach at that time.)

Many have claimed that the 2010 Tiger-Cats have underachieved. The same could be said about the 1999 Tiger-Cats. In 2009, the Cats finished second in the East, with a 9-9 record, so much more was expected of them in 2010. However, the Cats stumbled out of the gate, and once again finished the season second in the East, with a 9-9 record.

In 1998, the Tiger-Cats finished first in the East, with a 12-5-1 record. So, much more was expected of them the following season. In 1999, the Cats slipped to second in the East, with an 11-7 record.

In 1999, the Tiger-Cats were making their second consecutive playoff appearance after finishing in last in the CFL in 1997, with a 2-16 record. In 2010, the Tiger-Cats are making their second consecutive playoff appearance after finishing last in the CFL in 2008, with a 3-15 record.

Perhaps I am drawing comparisons between things that have nothing in common, but some of them (like the potential row the Tiger-Cats must hoe in order to win the Grey Cup) are eerily similar. I'm not saying conclusively that the 1999 and 2010 seasons are going to end the same, just that some of the parallels are striking.

Friday 12 November 2010

Smitty's Selections: Division Semi-Finals

Well, folks, the playoffs are here. Only five more games remain until we all pack it in and wait until next June. Man, time goes by awfully fast.

East Division Semi-Final: Toronto at Hamilton

The single greatest rivalry in all of professional sports gets the playoff atmosphere for the first time since 2004, which is the last time the Argos won the Grey Cup. These two teams haven't met in a playoff game at Ivor Wynne Stadium since 1999, which, coincidentally, is also the last time that the Tiger-Cats won the Grey Cup. Very interesting. Both the Argos and the Tiger-Cats finished the season with identical 9-9 records. These two teams also met three times in the regular season, with the Tiger-Cats winning all three matchups. This should be an intense game, and I, of course, give the edge to the Cats.

Winner: Hamilton, 27-6

West Division Semi-Final: British Columbia at Saskatchewan

This one has been giving me fits all week. One day, I think the Riders will win; the next day, BC. Saskatchewan is the better team... with the better players... playing at home... where it is very hard for opposing teams to win. All that said, I just can't shake the feeling that BC is going to pull off the upset. I don't have any concrete reasons for believing this, just a gut feeling.

Winner: British Columbia, 28-24

Hamilton, British Columbia

Season Record: 38-34