Ferguson: Fajardo bucks the stats en route to GC win

Despite the lack of precipitation involved in the 110th Grey Cup there were two distinct snowballs that began rolling downhill, gaining size and speed over the last two months of CFL football.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.cfl.ca/2023/11/24/ferguson-fajardo-bucks-the-stats-en-route-to-gc-win

Ferguson’s criticisms and doubts are almost always legit. This is no different. I don’t think many outside the Als’ locker room believed in their ability to win a Grey Cup. I certainly didn’t.

What irks me isn’t the belief we couldn’t win. What irks me is the ninth place ranking we got at the start of the season, which to my mind was unjustifiable and weird. We’d had three straight years of a 9-9 or better record, we’d hosted and won a playoff game the year before, but somehow we were going to be worse than Ottawa, Edmonton, AND Saskatchewan, all of whom had finished out of the playoffs the year before? Come on.

I on the other hand thought Montreal was going to win. I most certainly did not think it was going to be on the strength of Cody’s arm. I thought that the defence was going to play a major role but I felt the wildcard was the way the team was becoming a team. Winnipeg had better individuals. It doesn’t come around often that every player gives up his individuality so that he can become part of a tight knit unit. We all know that football is the ultimate team sport and when you become “ONE”, the sky is the limit

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I think it was far from weird and it was justified.

We had our starting QB leave in free agency.

We had our top receiver leave in free agency.

We had a stud linebacker leave in free agency.

Our ownership situation was in flux.

No surprise to me many pundits predicted a last place finish for us.

Nor does it “irk” me that they did so. I"m just happy that our team proved them all wrong.

I know I"ve said all that before, and I’ll keep repeating it as long as you keep repeating your whine.

You stop and I’ll stop.

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I’ll never understand people who use full-season stats and scores as some sort of proof or basis to anything. Teams have ups and downs, injuries, some players join, some go, some wait for a chance, and some need time to adapt. There’s no desperation or huge pressure to any game.

Letcher had amazing stats in the few games he’s played, but hey, Jason Leake had the best 18-game stats so it was all about him having the edge. Montreal’s second loss to Winnipeg came on a short week, but hey, let’s not mention it because it doesn’t support the narrative. The same way no analyst pointed out Chad Kelly’s lack of playoff experience as a starter before the game.

Ento had a terrible season start and needed time to adapt to the league and to his new role. Stubblefield and Uguak were initially bench players. Lemon was signed after 5 games. Fajardo had an injury and had a hard time finding his mojo after coming back. Team went pretty much unbeaten after Sankey joined. Letcher’s been terrific as a replacement to Worthy. Lots of new players needing time to gel and adapt. They had momentum going into the playoffs. That’s what a competent analyst would underline. They wouldn’t lazily go over 18-game stats to make predictions.

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Indeed. Or that we lost our last game to Toronto by the slimmest of margins. Or that we were a walking injury list through the middle part of the season but pretty healthy down the stretch.

And now we have papers in Regina saying SSK should follow the Montreal model because we’re proof that you can build a winner in one year. :roll_eyes: As if the team had been in the basement the past few years. As if many of the major pieces weren’t on the team already prior to 2023.

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Yeah. And if I recall correctly, Montreal was leading by 7 with under 2 minutes to go.

Another thing that irked me is how analysts said Toronto had a better defense based on players’ 18-game stats. Montreal’s PA is 4 points lower than Toronto’s. And that’s despite key players like Lemon, Sankey, and Stubblefield only playing half the season. That gap would be even wider if Toronto’s offense didn’t spend so much time on the field.

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Technically it was not a winning team in 2021 and 2022 as they finished exactly .500 both years. But by that standard, it took 3 years to build a winning team

As for power rankings, they are useless, pointless, and meaningless and a way for the league to troll the fans

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Actually if you combine the regular season and post season together for both teams their records were not that far apart .

Winnipeg (regular season = 14 - 4 ) post season = 1 - 1 . Total = 15 - 5
Montreal (regular season = 11 - 7 ) post season = 3 - 0 . Total = 14 - 7

I confess.

Most of us picked you guys to finish last because:

  • Your pass rush sucked (it did).
  • Your offensive line sucked (it did)
  • We knew that Cody Fajardo would get pounded (he did but stubbornly refused to die)
  • Your receiving corps was meh.
  • Your running back was getting old and brittle (seriously).

You forgot how f***ed up your roster was at the beginning of the season. Factor in a new head coach who was prone to outbursts of rage and freshly purged from Saskatchewan and there’s no way any of us could’ve picked you guys to finish any higher than dead last in the East.

But look what you accomplished in the second half of the season:

  • You acquired Shawn Lemon and Darnell Sankey to bolster your pass rush.
  • That crappy offensive line got healthy at the right time and ‘gelled’.
  • Cody Fajardo healed up and Jason Maas (I think) had him get rid of the ball sooner.
  • Two receivers we never heard of stepped up and made your receiving corps better.
  • Your running back situation wasn’t as dire as we thought.

Going into the off-season as the Grey Cup Champs gives you some street cred. Now all you have to do is keep that team together going into the spring and we won’t be picking you to finish last in the East like we did at the beginning of last season. I promise.

  • Pass rush wasn’t great but it wasn’t the worst in 2022.
  • No, it didn’t. LOL. Where was this coming from? We ran the ball well in 2022 and did a decent job of protecting our QB. The line was mostly the same in 2023, except that we added Justin Lawrence, a former all-star, from Toronto, and Pierre-Olivier Lestage. So how would that have made us worse?
  • This is fair, but again, enough to rank us 9th in the league when we were coming off a 9-9 season in which we hosted a playoff game?
  • Our receiving corps was unknown. More unknown than Edmonton giving the keys to Taylor Cornelius at QB? Than Ottawa seeing if Jeremiah Masoli could actually play a season at QB? (he didn’t.)
  • Brittle in what sense? Stanback missed most of the year with a serious injury. OK. But we entered the season with Antwi and Fletcher, both of whom combined for over 1000 yards on the ground last year.

I don’t blame fans for not knowing. I’m talking about journalists who make a living supposedly on knowing the league as a whole.

Am I bothered no one picked us to win the Grey Cup? Not in the least. Am I bothered that virtually every pundit picked us to finish last in the league? Yes, because it was a lazy prediction based on no evidence.

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No, it was based on this evidence:

  1. Our starting QB left in free agency;

  2. Our top receiver left in free agency;

  3. A stud LB left in free agency;

  4. Difficult ownership situation.

Now you may not believe that evidence to be sufficient to warrant a last place prediction, but it is, simply put, a lie to say that the prediction was based on “no evidence.”

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It was perception. All of the other teams in the East had nice new toys… Hamilton had BLM, Ottawa had Masoli back (or so we were led to believe), Toronto had Chad Kelly and was the reigning Grey Cup Champs. You guys had everyone else’s castoffs.

Believe me I feel silly for picking your Als to finish last but based on what we were hearing (okay, okay some of us can read too) ALL OF US were thinking that Montreal was heading for the dumpster. I was wrong.

At least I’m admitting that I made a boo boo. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me? :beaver:

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It does pretty much sum it up

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Reporters had their job to do ranking teams and it was only natural based on our off-season turmoil to pick us 9th. Our last season’s record was irrelevant at that point with the loss of all the key players.

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Other than that, how did you enjoy the show, Mrs. Lincoln?:smiley::smile::grin:

The CFL predictors were split on the Grey Cup game & the top 2, with a chance to take 1st, both picked the Als so that’s a pretty strong vote. The Als hadn’t beaten the top 3 all year so who were you going to pick in the EF & GC? The Bombers had a statement game in the WF.

The oddsmakers got it all wrong - too much of a spread. Good on the Als for proving everyone wrong. Well deserved. Happy for Maas & Cody but REALLY happy for AC. And for all you Als guys. Enjoy it.

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And the Carabins won the Vanier. Now if the Canadiens can get their act together…

Kindly note that Fajardo threw for 3 TD’s (not one) and Stanback had a beautiful run for the other Alouettes TD. I had 100% confidence that Montreal would win! Why? The team was very talented, had a lot of heart, was peaking at the right time and had some of the best comaraderie I have seen in a long, long time. Needless to say, the media did a phenomenal job motivating this talented team! In fact, I heard that it was a tie for the Most Outstanding Canadian Award between Tyson Philpot and the Canadian Media. I knew that the Alouettes were going to win this one. Here is a list of my predictions:

  1. Sean Lemon will continue his dominance, partly to prove to the CFL that they all made a mistake by writing him off for the first month or two of the season. He’s too old, he’s too slow, he’s past his prime…Absolutely hilarious! He is amazing!!

  2. Sean Lemon (aka the Lemonator) and his buddies Darnell Sankey, Almondo Sewell & Mustafa Johnson are…about to sack you, with at least one forced fumble.

  3. Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Lwal Uguak, Fabion Ento and Tyrice Beverette will be making interceptions, forcing fumbles and making big plays.

  4. On offense, Austin Mack, Tyson Philpot, Tyler Snead and Cole Spieker will be making spectacular catches and churning up YAC yards and TD’s.

  5. I am confident Stanback will score at least 1 TD.

  6. Fajardo will have a great game and has learned from the last two games that those long throws to the flat aren’t worth the risk. Fajardo will continue to have a high completion percentage and avoid turnovers. He’s also going to run more than usual, partly because he’s tough and has a big heart and partly because he’ll do whatever it takes to win.

  7. I know they’re going to come out and leave it all on the field and play hard-nosed football and then celebrate what nobody expects…a Grey Cup Victory! How great it is to be the underdog! How wonderful to have an opportunity to prove everyone wrong!

  8. THANK YOU FOR SUCH A THRILLING END TO THE 2023 CFL SEASON!!!

I didn’t get everything right but I knew Montreal would win because they came together as a team at the perfect time! I was at the 2010 Grey Cup game when Anthony Calvillo and company came back from an over 20 point deficit to win with zero seconds on the clock (13th man) but this was a much better all around game and sooooo exciting to experience!!!

THANK YOU TO THE 2023 GREY CUP CHAMPION MONTREAL ALOUETTES!! I knew you would do it!!!

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I love your enthusiasm. I was WAY less optimistic than you about the outcome but I did think it would be a closer game than the oddsmakers predicted.

Honestly, at halftime I had mentally thrown in the towel and was just hoping we could be competitive in the loss and not get blown out. :rofl:

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:rofl:

Maaax, I was never upset at you! We’re all fans, we mess up, we get things wrong.

The number of times I got it wrong in the virtual game pool by betting on the other team to beat my Als in a given week … well, let’s just say it was substantially greater than zero. :smiley:

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