Monday 30 January 2012

Cats Sign Mallett

In what has to be classified as a stunning move, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have announced the signing of Running Back Martell Mallett.

Mallett spent the last two season in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants. Mallett last played played in the CFL in 2009 with the BC Lions, and was named the Most Outstanding Rookie.

This is a very surprising move that creates quite the logjam at the Running Back position. Mallett is now added to a stable that includes Avon Cobourne and Terry Grant. Something is going to have to be done to remove one of those players, and if I had to guess, I'd say that player is Cobourne.

Many who read this site know I have not been in favour of some of the major moves the team has made – the Kevin Glenn and Arland Bruce trades being chief among them – and if this move leads to Avon Cobourne being shown the door, I'll add it to the list. I just don't think this much roster turnover, especially when it comes to veterans at key positions, is a good thing. The arguments for getting rid of Glenn and Bruce I could at least understand. Concerns about Bruce's attitude and Glenn's shortcomings can be explained and rationalized, even if I personally didn't agree with them. The same cannot be said about Cobourne.

Cobourne played as well with Hamilton last year as he did in Montreal the two previous seasons, so I don't understand why the team would want to replace him. The only real knock on Cobourne is his age. Mallett will be 26 when Training Camp opens and Cobourne will be 33. Most Running Backs begin to wear down when they hit their 30s, but Cobourne has had, arguably, his best seasons since he hit the big 3-0. His best season was when he turned 30, and all his productive years in the CFL have come since he was 29. He has shown no sign of age slowing him down, so there is no reason to expect it to happen in 2012.

One other concern is if Mallett is a flash in the pan, a one-year wonder. He played magnificently in his rookie campaign, but then fled to the NFL where he languished on practices rosters for two years. Now he comes back, and I have to wonder if he'll be as effective with the Cats as he was with the Lions. Cobourne has proven his worth over the last four seasons, he has been to the last four East Division Finals, and his streak of three-straight Grey Cup appearances was ended last season. Mallett does have his fantastic rookie season but nothing after that.

My trepidations about this signing is not meant to say that I dislike Mallett. But I wonder why such a move needed to be made. The past three years have all been about building a cohesive unit, and in the past seven months, the team has traded their best Receiver and starting Quarterback, fired their Head Coach and look to be on the verge of releasing or trading their best Running Back. I understand that some changes needed to be made following a disappointing season, but this seems like a lot of change in one off-season.

We will see how it all plays out sooner enough, but with each new move, the pressure on the team builds. I just hope they can handle it.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Copeland Retires... Becomes Coach in Hamilton

Jeremaine Copeland has ended his playing career. The 11-year veteran retired today and immediately took a coaching position with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Copeland is the team's new Receivers Coach. The Ti-Cats also hired Doug Sams as Quarterbacks Coach and retained Doug Malone as Offensive Line Coach.

The biggest news is obviously Copeland, who is the most well-known of the three. Going over Copeland résumé is unnecessary; everyone knows what he accomplished during his playing career. It's what he can bring as a coach that has the most intrigue.

Copeland is familiar with the two biggest names the Ti-Cats brought to town over the off-season: Head Coach George Cortez and Quarterback Henry Burris.

Copeland was with both in Calgary. Copeland, therefore, knows what Cortez likes to do offensively, and can relay that to the group of Receivers he is working with.

But it is Copeland's familiarity with Henry Burris that might end up paying the most dividends. Copeland played with Burris for five seasons (2005-2009) and both achieved amazing success together. As a coach, Copland can impart his wisdom to the Receivers that will be catching Burris's passes this season. That could prove to be invaluable.

Bringing in Copeland also puts a dent in Hamilton's closest rivals. The Argos are in desperate need of Receiver help, and losing their most veteran guy – even if he was long in the tooth and not an elite Receiver anymore – hurts.

The Cats have almost filled out their coaching staff. The big one left is Special Teams Coordinator, but a few positional coaching vacancies still exist. I'm sure the team is scouring the land looking for the right people.

Friday 20 January 2012

Casey Creehan Named Defensive Coordinator

The worst-kept secret was finally officially confirmed: Casey Creehan is the new Defensive Coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Creehan spent the last two season with Winnipeg, where he was their Linebacker Coach. He held the same position with Montreal in 2008, and was the Defensive Line Coach in Calgary the four season before that.

Creehan and new Head Coach George Cortez worked together in Calgary in 2007. It is that previous working relationship which likely helped Creehan get the job.

Creehan comes to the team with no CFL coordinating experience, and we saw how welll zero experience worked last season with Corey Chamblin; however, his tenure in Winnipeg came when the Bombers had one of the best Defenses in the CFL, so hopefully he can translate his success with Winnipeg's Linebackers to the entirety of Hamilton's Defense.

With Creehan on board, the team can develop the defensive roster based around his philosophy. It will be interesting to see what players will be brought back and which ones will be released or allowed to leave. Hamilton is stockpiled with talent on Defense, in my opinion, so it is finding the right way to harness that talent – which I don't think Corey Chamblin did – rather than mass player change that will make the difference.

The hiring of Creehan leaves one coordinating job still vacant, that of Special Teams Coordinator. No names have surfaced and since he hasn't been retained already, I doubt Brad Miller will be brought back. Filling that position is the last major move the Cats have to make to the coaching staff. With free agency set to begin in less than a month, the team will likely fill that position sooner rather than later.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Bob Young's Blog

Bob Young is always willing to try new things. He is, as far as I know, the only owner in the CFL that has a Twitter account, and now he has decided enter the blogosphere (I really hate that word) by starting his own blog on tumblr.

I am of the opinion that Bob Young is unarguably the most-beloved owner of any sports team in any league. I can't think of one owner who is more loved by the fans, even those of opposing teams, than Bob Young. He has a folksy charm and everyman demeanour that makes him easy to like, and his embracing of new technology makes him one of the most accessible owners in all of pro sports.

Bob Young seems like the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. I, for one, am happy he is the owner of my favourite team, and I look forward to reading his thoughts.

I have added a link to Bob Young's blog in the sidebar and I suggest you all give it a read from time to time. I am sure it will be interesting.

Everything with Bob Young usually is.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Dylan Barker Retires

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last couple of days. I moved earlier this week and that has occupied all of my time and energy. But enough about my personal life, let's move on to some Tiger-Cats news.

The biggest, and saddest, news over the past 72 hours is Dylan Barker's decision to retire due to a back injury.

Barker was drafted first overall by the Tiger-Cats in the 2008 CFL Draft; spent his rookie year on the shelf due to a broken leg; really blossomed in 2009 and 2010, especially on Special Teams, where he tied the record for tackles in 2009; and missed the entire 2011 campaign because of the back injury that now ends his career.

It is a shame that Barker has played his last game, but based on what he told The Hamilton Spectator's Drew Edwards, it is absolutely the correct decision.

Deciding to retire, especially at such a young age, is never an easy decision. But risking a life of paralysis is simply not worth it. Barker is trying to ensure his long-term health will not be compromised, so while he will be missed on the field, his decision is absolutely the correct one.

So I'll just close by saying, thank you to Dylan Barker for all that he did during his time with the Tiger-Cats. I hope you find happiness in your post-football life. Best of luck to you in the future.

Saturday 14 January 2012

The Secrecy of Player Salaries

The Winnipeg Free Press released a list of what seven starting Quarterbacks (the one team missing was Winnipeg because all their QBs are headed for free agency). Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray, not surprisingly, top the list at approximately $400,000 per season.

I use the word "approximately" because it is not known what the exact amounts are because the league does not release that information.

I should stay that way.

I have never understood the obsession some fans have with knowing what players make. It is, quiet frankly, no one's business what anybody makes, and that doesn't change because the person is a professional athlete. You wouldn't stop a stranger on the street and ask them what their annual income is, so I don't understand why fans feel like it is their right to know what a player makes.

Complaints about the lack of transparency when it comes to certain aspects of the league – like contract length or the negotiation list – I understand. I don't need to know what a player makes, but it would be nice to know how long they signed for. Waiting for the league to release a free agent list is silly, especially when the list includes retired players or players playing in the NFL. Knowing when a player is about to hit the open market is not a necessity, but it also isn't so invasive that it needs to be kept private.

I've also heard the reason for the neg list not being made public – it's a fluid list, with names going on and off all the time – but it's not like names don't get leaked (Tahj Boyd, Geno Smith and Kellen Moore are on the Ti-Cast neg list; Robert Griffin III is on Calgary's), so there seems to be no harm in releasing each teams' full list.

But demanding to know what a player makes is where I personally draw the line. I just don't think anyone deserves or needs to know what someone else is making. Sure, it would make for interesting water-cooler talk and it would allow fans to play fantasy GM and discuss how to fit players under the salary cap. But the need to know is trumped by the fact that these players deserve some privacy.

There are ways the league could, and should, be less secretive; divulging player salaries to the public is a step the league does not need to take.

Friday 13 January 2012

New Stadium, New Alignment

It looks like everything at the new Ivor Wynne Stadium will be different, as the idea of rotating the stadium has now been made public.

It had long been rumoured that this was a possibility, and now it is definitely a possibility, and it may even be an inevitability. This was obviously not in the plans when the north stands were simply being renovated, but this became a viable option once news came out that those stands needed to be completely replaced as well.

Changing the stadium's orientation would provide that new fan experience that the Tiger-Cats have been trumpeting for a while now. It is no surprise that it was the team that brought the idea up.

Nothing is concrete, and we won't know until July if the change will occur. Still, it does make for some interesting water-cooler talk for the next couple of days or weeks, while we all wait for the start of free agency on February 15th.

Thursday 12 January 2012

It's Win Now for the Tiger-Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 7 January 2012

George Cortez Named Head Coach

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have announced that George Cortez is the team's new Head Coach.

Cortez comes to Hamilton with nearly two decades of CFL coaching experience, but he spent the last two years in the NFL as the Quarterback Coach for the Buffalo Bills.

Cortez's last CFL stop was as Offensive Coordinator with the Calgary Stampeders from 2007-2009. During his time there, he won a Grey Cup with the recently acquired Henry Burris. Cortez has also won three other Grey Cups, all with Calgary.

Luring Cortez is a pretty big get for the Tiger-Cats. He wasn't expected to leave the NFL, and was thought to only come back to the CFL as a Head Coach if he thought he could win. He must feel as if the Tiger-Cats have the players to win immediately. That should make fans pretty happy.

With Cortez on board, his first order of business will be to fill out his coaching staff, which has vacancies at both Offensive and Defensive Coordinator. Both Corey Chamblin and Khari Jones left to take jobs with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, so replacing them will be job number one.

The Tiger-Cats have scheduled an introductory press conference on Tuesday for both Cortez and new starting Quarterback Henry Burris.

Jim Popp Might Be Leaving Montreal

A report surfaced early this morning that Montreal Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp has is being considered for the vacant General Manager position in Indianapolis.

The Colts are in need of a new GM after the team fired Vice Chairman Bill Polian and his son Chris, the team's General Manager, on Monday.

This is an different twist on the familiar "who is leaving Montreal" off-season storyline. Normally, it is either Anthony Calvillo retiring or Marc Trestman taking an NCAA or NFL job, but very rarely does Popp's name surface when talking about Montreal departures (he was brought up as a possible candidate in Washington a couple of seasons ago).

Popp's loss could really hurt an Alouette team that is about to head into a transition period. They are coming off their worst season since 2007, and the team has a lot of questions to answer. How many more years does Anthony Calvillo have left in him? What will Marc Trestmen do when his contract expires at the end of the season? Will Jamel Richardson sign an extension or test the free agent waters? Throw Popp potentially leaving into the mix and Montreal will have another big question to answer.

Popp leaving would reverberate around the league as well, especially in the East Division. Montreal is penciled in every season for a playoff appearance, but one has to wonder how well they would do without the man that put those 16-straight playoff teams together. With all the moves that have been made by teams in the East Division teams so far this off-season, the Als losing Popp could be the biggest development for any team.

Popp moving to Indianapolis is probably unlikely, but if he was to leave, an already news-filled off-season would get that much more interesting.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Rumour: Thigpen Signs With Miami

According to Hamilton Tiger-Cat Receiver Jeremy Kelley, Marcus Thigpen is about to become the newest member of the Miami Dolphins.

Thigpen used the option year in his contract – which was signed before that window was closed to players with the new CBA in 2010 – to explore his NFL opportunities. It looks as if the Dolphins liked what they saw when Thigpen worked out for them in mid-December.

We'll know what chances Thigpen has of sticking around once the contract details come out, but with his speed, he could be a very dangerous Kick Returner, not unlike former BC Lion Stefan Logan.

Obviously, a tweet from a player is not irrefutable proof, but I would imagine that unless Kelley was given some really bad information, confirmation will be coming in the morning.

As of now, it looks like the Tiger-Cats most explosive player has taken his talents to South Beach. (I won't do that again, I promise.)

Did Obie Ever Truly Want Kevin Glenn?

Kevin Glenn's tenure with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has come to an end, but there is one question I have been asking myself the last couple of days:

Did Bob O'Billovich ever really want Kevin Glenn?

I know this might sound silly at first, because it was O'Billovich who signed Glenn after he was released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Clearly, Obie had no problem bringing Glenn to Hamilton. If he did, he never would have picked him up in the first place.

However, I don't believe Obie ever wanted, or envisioned, Glenn as the starter, and I think O'Billovich did a poor job of hiding that fact over Glenn's three seasons with the Tiger-Cats. I'm not saying that Obie explicitly undermined Glenn while he was in Hamilton, but Obie acted in a way that might suggest he was never fully behind Glenn as the starter.

For starters, Glenn, who had success as a starter in Winnipeg and was only 29 when he was signed, was brought in as a backup. Glenn, much like the role he is likely to play in Calgary, was signed to be a veteran presence behind a young starter (in Hamilton, it was Quinton Porter; in Calgary, it will be Drew Tate). It was not the intention of the team to have Glenn become the starter, and the expectation was that Porter would replicate his success at the tail end of the 2008 campaign and become the Tiger-Cats starter for a decade. It might even be possible to think that when Glenn was signed, O'Billovich didn't imagine he'd be here for as long as he was, and only stayed as long as he did because of how well he played in 2010.

Despite that magnificent season, Obie was still willing to part with Glenn immediately following the 2010 season. In the aftermath of the Ricky Ray trade to Toronto, it was reported that Hamilton nearly acquired Ray the previous off-season. It has never been divulged just who or what would have gone to Edmonton in exchange for Ray, but it seems reasonable to guess that Glenn would have been part of the deal, especially in light of the fact that Glenn was part of the package that landed Henry Burris. Ray's 2010 season was disappointing to say the least, while Glenn had one of the best seasons a Hamilton QB ever had, yet Obie was an agent's plea away from dealing his record-setting Qaurterback.

When the 2011 season started off less than ideally for the Cats, O'Billovich went public with the fact that he thought backup Quinton Porter needed to see some more playing time. Again, Glenn was coming off arguably his best season; yet just two games into the new season, and the General Manager was saying the backup needed to see game action.

As the 2011 season progressed Glenn had what could best be described as a mediocre season. As the season wound down the team decided to use both Porter and Glenn in game situations. Call it a two-quarterback system, call it a platoon, call it whatever you like, the point is that both Glenn and Porter played in team's final four games. What does this have to do with Obie, you ask? I have no proof to back this up, and this is strictly my opinion, but I believe that the idea to play both guys came from the GM. Marcel Bellefeuille said that he "generally subscribed to today's thinking that you've got a starter and you develop somebody behind them to take over someday," so it would seem that the idea to play both did not come from Bellefeuille. Obie also has a history of using more than Quarterback, doing so successfully when he was the Head Coach of the Toronto Argonauts. The move to use two Quarterbacks always felt like an Obie decision.

Glenn's time with the Tiger-Cats finally came to an end Tuesday when he was officially traded to the Calgary Stampeders, along with Mark Dewit and a conditional draft pick, for Henry Burris. Remember when Obie declined to trade for Glenn because he knew that the Bombers were going to release him? All the scuttlebutt was that the Stamps were going to ditch Burris, yet Obie still opted to trade for him. Obie wanted Burris, so he went and got him; Obie settled for Glenn, so he was willing to wait.

In the aftermath of the trade, O'Billovich said a few things that could reveal his true feelings on Glenn, the most damning being that he said some candidates for the vacant Head Coaching position told him that the team would be better with Burris than with Glenn. While that may or may not be true – we won't know how good the team will be until they take the field in the summer – the fact that he made the comment is pretty telling. Obie also stated that he believed Burris to be a better athlete and more capable of bringing a Grey Cup to Hamilton than Glenn was. I understand a General Manager trying to talk up a recent acquisition, but the compliments he gave to Burris also speaks to his feelings on Glenn.

None of us will ever know how Obie truly felt about Glenn, and perhaps all of Obie's comments and actions say more about what he thinks about Quinton Porter and Henry Burris than it does about how he feels about Kevin Glenn.

Whatever the case may be, it certainly looks like Bob O'Billovich never really got behind Kevin Glenn.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Quarterback of the Future

With the trade for Henry Burris, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are set at Quarterback for the next year or two.

But what about the beyond that?

Henry Burris is 36, and is not the long-term answer at Quarterback. Kevin Glenn, who was traded for Burris, is 32 and could have been with the team longer than Burris, but with 11 years under his belt, he was not the answer either.

The Tabbies have two guys on their roster that could be ready to ascend the throne, in Quinton Porter and Jason Boltus. But Porter, at 29, has been given ample opportunity to seize the starting role over the last couple of season and has yet to do so. Boltus has seen very little playing time and is therefore a complete unknown.

There has been talk of Boise State superstar Kellen Moore coming to Hamilton. He is currently on Hamilton's negotiation list, which means that the Cats have the first shot at bringing Moore's immense talents north of the border. Moore is thought of as a mid-to-late round draft choice in the NFL, so his football future is currently up in the air. If Moore is not selected in the NFL Draft, or if he gets cut during Training Camp, he could find his way onto Hamilton's practice roster.

Moore had an undeniably stellar career at Boise State, and is unarguably the best Quarterback that school has ever had. Moore led the Broncos to a 50-3 record in his four seasons as the starter, which is a feat that is likely not to be matched by any Quarterback at any school. He also put up incredible stats and finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting the last three seasons.

But does his NCAA success mean he's destined for CFL success? If recent history is any indication, the answer is no.

Over the past few seasons, the top Quarterback to come from a major college program is probably Darian Durant, who went to North Carolina, which is hardly known as a football factory. Drew Tate went to Iowa, but his CFL career is in its infancy and it is too soon to tell if he will be a success. Adrian McPherson went to Florida State (alma mater of CFL Hall of Famer Danny McManus), but had a less than stellar collegiate career that will best be remembered for him getting kicked off the Seminoles. Jarious Jackson has carved out a nice career for himself, but he's spent most of his time being a backup. And of course there is Quinton Porter, who went to Boston College.

However, the vast majority of Quarterbacks who arrive in the CFL do not even reach the heights of a Quinton Porter. The list of failed big-time college Quarterbacks is a lot longer. Chris Leak won a National Championship while at Florida, but flamed out when given a chance to start for the Montreal Alouettes in 2010. Timmy Chang came to the CFL as the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards, but looked completely lost when he took the field for the Tiger-Cats.

But those guys are successes compared to players like Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing, Bryan Randall, Tyler Palko and Cody Pickett. All of whom either never made it off the practice squad (or out of Training Camp) or played so sparingly or poorly that there CFL careers were over almost before they began.

Winnipeg has two Quartebacks that played at BCS programs – Joey Elliott at Purdue and Alex Brink at Washington State – but neither of those guys did much during their college careers. Both have looked promising in their limited time on the field, but it is way too soon to tell if either will take the next step.

Then there are the two players that have the most in common with Moore: his predecessors at Boise State, Jared Zabransky and Ryan Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie is still best remembered for making his first start for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Grey Cup back in 2007, and Zabransky was given the chance to unseat Ricky Ray in Edmonton and failed to do so. Zabransky is now out of the league, while Dinwiddie is currently a backup in Saskatchewan.

The path from NCAA stardom to CFL starter is not an easy one. Kellen Moore has all the tools to succeed on either side of the border, but the same has been said about countless players who amounted to less than nothing in their professional careers.

Is Kellen Moore the "Quarterback of the Future" for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats if he decides to ply his trade in the CFL? Maybe. But history suggests it is not a slam dunk.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Khari Jones Off to Saskatchewan

Less than a year ago, Khari Jones was named the Offensive Coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He will not be in that role in 2012, as he has been named the Quarterback Coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Jones's first year as a coordinator provided mixed results. There were times when the Offense looked unstoppable and other times when it looked like they didn't know the difference between a football and a baseball. A perfect example of that is their play in the two playoff games: near flawless in victory over the Alouettes and completely inept in defeat at the hands of the Blue Bombers.

With a new Head Coach coming in – soon? – it was unlikely that Jones would return in the same capacity with the team in 2012. Jones has a lot of potential, and it showed in spurts during the 2011 season. I would have preferred to see him continue to grow in the roll with the Tiger-Cats, but I'm not surprised he is moving elsewhere.

The Cats are now need to fill both coordinator positions, as well as name a Head Coach. The list of candidates for all those positions are dwindling by the day – not to mention, Winnipeg is still in need of a new Offensive Coordinator – so the Ti-Cats can ill-afford to dillydally any longer. It's time to pick someone move on to other business. Hopefully a decision comes down before the end of the week, but with how long it has taken them so far, I will not be holding my breath.

Thank You, Kevin Glenn

Meeting Kevin Glenn for the first time back in 2010
If you are a Tiger-Cat fan (as I assume most of the people reading this will be), you remember how dreadful the franchise was from 2005 to 2008. It was a terrible time to be a fan of the Black & Gold, with the losses piling up and the wins few and far between.

When the 2009 season started, no one thought much of Hamilton. They had a young Quarterback in Quinton Porter and a new Head Coach in Marcel Bellefeuille. The Tiger-Cats were expected to struggle, and when the team lost at home on opening day to the Argonauts, it felt like the same old story would play out.

The season was up and down, but following a miserable Thanksgiving Day showing against the Blue Bombers, the decision was made to pull the plug on the Porter experiment and hand the reins over to Kevin Glenn. The Tiger-Cats would go 3-1 down the stretch and secure their first home playoff game since 2001.

Glenn was named the starter entering 2010 and he played Quarterback better than almost anyone in Tiger-Cat history. Over 5,000 yards through the air and a team record 33 touchdown passes, Glenn once again led the Tiger-Cats into the playoffs; their first back-to-back trips to the post season in a decade.

The 2011 season saw a decrease in the stat and win columns, yet Hamilton still advanced to their first East Division Final in 10 years, and defeated the Montreal Alouettes in Montreal in an epic clash in the East Division Semi-Final.

Glenn was one of a handful of key players that helped take the Tiger-Cats out of the East Division basement and turn them into a perennial playoff team. Considering where the team was before he arrived, his tenure with the Tiger-Cats is a success in my eyes. Glenn may not have guided the team to the Promised Land, but he did more than any Quarterback since Danny McManus, and the list of Quarterback saviours post-McManus is not a short one.

If not for Glenn's arrival, the Tiger-Cats probably do not have the success they have enjoyed over the last three seasons. While the ultimate goal eluded both Glenn and the team, he leaves the franchise in much better shape than when he arrived.

I will fondly remember Glenn's years in Black & Gold because he helped rejuvenate a fan base that had become accustomed to nothing but meaningless games after Labour Day. Glenn, along with a host of other players, brought respectability back to football in Hamilton.

As Glenn leaves for Calgary, I'd like to say thank you.

Thank you, Kevin Glenn, for the three wonderful seasons.

Thank you, Kevin Glenn, for doing everything you could to make this team a winner.

Thank you, Kevin Glenn, for being a player I was proud to call a Hamilton Tiger-Cat.

Thank you, Kevin Glenn. Best of luck in Calgary.

Monday 2 January 2012

Burris to TigerTown, Glenn to Cowtown

The Quarterback change that some fans have been clamouring for is on the verge of happening, as Henry Burris is being sent to Hamilton in exchange for Kevin Glenn and Mark Dewit.

I have made no secret of my feelings on Burris coming and Glenn leaving, so it's obvious I don't agree with this trade. But instead of restating an argument I've already made, there are others reasons why I think this is not a good trade.

First, the Cats gave up too much. A straight-up Burris-for-Glenn swap would have been more palatable than dealing Glenn and Dewit. Handing Calgary a good, young, Canadian player – and one that filled in admirably for one of the best Centres in the CFL in Marwan Hage when the latter was lost for the season in September – is not the type of move a team that had ratio problems should make. Dewit proved in 2011 that he can play, and Hage is closer to the end than the beginning. Trading Dewit makes no sense.

The second problem is Hamilton will now have to pay Burris a lot more than it was paying Glenn. Why Hamilton didn't wait until Burris was eventually released – and we all know that Burris's days in Calgary were numbered, but that was solidified when Drew Tate signed a contract extension last week – and sign him at a much more financially sensible number? Rumours are that Burris makes somewhere between $400,000 to $450,000, which means Burris's salary will take up almost 1/10th of the league's $4.3-million salary cap per team. That's a huge chunk. Perhaps Burris has agreed to a pay cut, but he wasn't willing to do that for Calgary, so what are the chances he'd be willing to do it for Hamilton?

There seems to have been no rush to make this change. The team still doesn't have a Head Coach, so it's not like Burris will have a system to learn right away, so waiting another month (when Burris is owed a bonus by the Stamps that they were probably not going to pay) wouldn't have been a detriment. Making a move now seems unnecessary. Another 30 days wouldn't have hurt the team, and may have helped them by getting to negotiate a deal with Burris at a much more attractive number.

With a new Head Coach and Quarterback, the pressure will be on for Hamilton to win it all in 2012. Anything less than a Grey Cup championship will have to be viewed as a complete failure. These are the type of moves teams make to get them over the proverbial hump, so unless Burris and whomever the Head Coach is takes the Cats beyond the East Final, the moves, especially at Quarterback, will have been pointless. Burris, who will be 37 before the 2012 season starts, is not the long-term answer at Quarterback, so this is a win-now move.

Now we just have to wait for things to be made official, but it looks like Burris is headed to Steeltown.

The Cortez Assumption

The calendar has turned to 2012 and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are still the lone CFL franchise without a Head Coach. The main reason most people believe the Cats have not hired anyone is because they are wishing to interview and/or hire current Buffalo Bills Quarterback Coach George Cortez, which they could not do before the NFL season ended.

Cortez would probably make a very good Head Coach. He has experience – both in the CFL and elsewhere – and success – where he was on the staff of four Grey-Cup-championship squads in Calgary – on his résumé. He is the type of coach the team could sell as an upgrade over Marcel Bellefeuille.

The one assumption is that Cortez will be available because Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey could be fired. The Bills started the season 5-2, but ended the season a disappointing 6-10 and in last place in the AFC East. The belief is that late-season swoon will cost Gailey his job.

But there are a couple of problems with that mode of thinking. First, there has been no talk of Gailey losing his job. None. It seems to be CFL writers and fans that think the Bills' failures will get Gailey fired. It has not been a topic that has come up amongst NFL writers or insiders. None of the lists of coaches on the hot seat that I have seen have included Gailey. Not one.

Secondly, NFL coaches generally get three years to turn a losing team around. Gailey just finished his second season in Buffalo, which means he will probably get at least one more season to try to get the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.

Finally, Bills Owner Ralph Wilson is a pretty patient man. He doesn't fire coaches willy-nilly. The Bills have had five coaches since Marv Levy handed in the headset in 1997, but only one coach lasted less than three seasons (Mike Mularky) and he left of his own accord following his second season. (This list doesn't included Perry Fewell, who took over on an interim basis after Dick Juron was fired mid-season in 2009.)

The above points do not preclude Cortez from becoming the next Head Coach of the Tiger-Cats, but history suggests that it will not be due to Gailey's firing. Fans holding out hope that Cortez will be a free man, thus able to come to Hamilton, should temper those expectations. If Cortez is to become the Tiger-Cats next Head Coach it will be because he wants to, not because his boss in Buffalo was shown the door.