I would like to formally apologize to the good people of Ottawa for daring to write a complimentary column about their football team. Of course the moment I say this team is legit it loses by 45 points! Don’t fret REDBLACKS fans, that loss has nothing to do with your squad. My record on CFL Pick 'Em is atrocious. I’m so far from a .500 record that the light from “Planet .500? takes about 17 years to hit my retina. Clearly I jinxed Ottawa, I do have that power.
So instead of focusing on my mistakes I’m going to focus on one prediction, on one team that I was correct about: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Long before the start of the season I was saying they would easily be the best team in the East and would once again be back in the Grey Cup. Admittedly as predictions go that one didn’t exactly have a high degree of difficulty. They were coming off their second trip to the Grey Cup, the roster was mostly intact and most importantly you could feel Zach Collaros getting better and better under the tutelage of Kent Austin.
One thing I don’t think any of us could have predicted was just how dominant Hamilton would look early in the year. Over the past couple seasons Hamilton has started out slow, worked its way to around .500 and then got hot in the playoffs. That seemed like the logical start to 2015 as the Tiger-Cats would be on the road for the first four weeks of the season and would start the year without their top three leading rushers (C.J. Gable, Grigsby and Mossis Madu), their leading receiver (Luke Tasker) and their best pass rusher (Eric Norwood). Instead Hamilton has ripped off a 5-2 start and looks like the best team in the league.
So how do you spot a truly dominant team? Well the first thing you do is take a look at average margin of victory. The elite teams always will have several blowout wins on their schedule. That’s the reason why people have been overly critical of a Calgary squad that is 5-2. You would think a team that is at the top of its division and is the current Grey Cup Champion would be free of criticism. But four of the Stampeders' wins have been by three points or less and it wasn’t until last week’s 48-3 beat down of Ottawa (You’re welcome, Stampeders fans) that Calgary started to resemble last year’s team. Our expectations for Calgary are so high that we almost view a 26-25 win as a loss. Hey, whoever said sports were fair?
Now on the other side Hamilton has been absolutely destroying its opposition. The Ticats' five wins have been by 26, 10, 16, 30 and 30 points while their two losses were by a total of four points. The first loss was in Calgary without all those players mentioned above and their other defeat was to Montreal when Collaros threw three interceptions and Terrence Tolliver lost a fumble late. It’s not that much of a stretch to say that Hamilton is a couple plays away from being 7-0 or as it’s called in most parts the “Anti-Saskatchewan?.
The next marker of a great team, does it have an identity? In Hamilton’s case the answer is a resounding yes. The Ticats stop the run, they rush the passer, they don’t lose at home and they can throw the ball all over the field. That’s not a bad combination. Tim Hortons Field has forced so many procedure penalties and unofficially leads the league in the number of Jello shots offered in parking lots. Only Edmonton has played better defensively and the return of Eric Norwood could push Hamilton to number one by season’s end.
Collaros' numbers are even more impressive when you factor in the revolving door of running backs and that he started the year without Tasker and is now missing Andy Fantuz. Despite these high profile injuries (Yes, I know, EVERY team has to deal with weekly injuries) Hamilton is the Swiss Army Knife of scoring. The Ticats have six interception touchdowns, three punt return touchdowns from Brandon Banks, one fumble return touchdown and that bizarre onside punt return touchdown that I’m still trying to figure out. The team is so good right now that there is actually a picture of Kent Austin sporting a big goofy grin on his face in Drew Edwards’ piece on the team’s 52-26 win over the Lions.
Finally the mark of a great team, pain. Hamilton has lost the past two Grey Cups and had to spend this past off season answering so many “what if? questions about the conclusion of last year’s game with that illegal block penalty on the Banks touchdown return that wasn’t. I understand that the “motivation? storyline is a tricky one and is often used by us in the media as a crutch as a convenient storyline, but think about how motivated that locker-room is to not only get back to the big game but to finally be on the winning side.
These past 850 words of praise for Hamilton bring up final point: We have a great game on Friday! The best team in the East versus the best team in the West, Edmonton. (Yes Calgary, you may top Edmonton in a couple weeks but right now the Eskimos have had a more impressive start to the season). Hamilton and Edmonton lead the league in average margin of victory and if Chris Jones can manage his quarterbacks this should not only be a hell of a contest, but also the type of barometer game to see where both squads fit in the overall CFL hierarchy.
Of course Hamilton will have a bigger hurdle than dealing with JC Sherrit, Patrick Watkins and company. Can the Ticats overcome the fact that I just devoted a column to how well they’re playing? I did the same thing last week to Ottawa and look how that turned out. Maybe Hamilton is so good it can actually make me look smart.
Now that would be the mark of an elite team.
With the dominant win in Edmonton, the '15 Cats are playing at a level that puts them right up there among the best Tiger-Cat teams in the club's 65-season history. 11 editions of the team have finished regular seasons with a winning percentage above .700 and this year's team is, so far, .750
The Tiger-Cats' best all-time regular seasons:
1952 - .792
1972 - .786
1958 & 1964 - .750
1981 - .719
1957, '59, '61, '63, '65 & '67 - .714
This satisfying season has been a long time coming (back) for those who remember the early years. From 1957 through 1967, the Cats had 8 of 11 seasons with records over .700, played in 9 of the 11 Grey Cups and won 4 of them. Since then, we've only enjoyed 2 more above .700 seasons and the most recent of those was 34 years ago -- a season that didn't end well with a shocking loss in the Eastern Final to second-place Ottawa. Those Rough Riders were .312 in the regular season. 2015 -- so far, so very good.
This want I’ve wanted from Ticats all Along
I am very pleased
dominance all three phases of the game is what I’ve wanted.
I’ve coached in Burlington Minor system for a few years.
and Well not at pro Level of coaching I do see things Differently then most every day Fans.
It was coach Lancaster that got into to Coaching God Rest his soul.
I was just as hard on kids I coached to Me I see each game with a coaches eye
It was coach Charlie Taaffe that Really pushed my love game up even higher.
I use bring photos I took of the game to Practices
He used Them show me what look for 'during game
By the way Charlie is doing well He mentor two #1 Draft picks in the NFL
Will at UCF in Florida
I’ll share that with you all what Charlie showed me :
I am looking at line Splits as they come off the ball (offence and Defense)
how the QB plants his feet and throws
dose he square up?
how dose a WR Run his route
how dose he Adjust to scramble Rule
Plus more but you get the idea My Enjoyment come from Playing as close flaws game as possible .
Even If I am not coaching it.
I’ll go the Game @THF Then I’ll go home watch The same game in slow to find the Mistakes.
I’ve been very proud of what Seen this year
so Far but it not over Keep it up guys
The coaching Staff my hats off to Them for a fine job
Very happy so far.
GREAT post Tom! :rockin: