This is such a strong piece. I'm reposting it with a link to the article. Herb is absolutely reading this forum
This is a team then went 8-2 down the stretch, 9-3 including the playoffs, after starting 1-7; it was a team that left everything it had on the field the last three months.
But here’s a sobering thought and the stark reality: In a nine-team league — eight until this year — when a club goes four years without a Grey Cup appearance, let alone a Canadian Football League championship, it officially has slipped into the category of average.
Mediocrity is nothing special. It won’t cut it in this market. And if this organization believes a 9-9 regular-season record means it has turned the corner, it’s sadly mistaken.
Over the last four years, every team except the Als and Edmonton — please don’t count the expansion Ottawa Redblacks — have played for the title. And at least the Eskimos are feeling bullish after going 12-6 this season, believing with a healthy Mike Reilly at quarterback that things might have turned out differently.
The Als? They’re faced with 20 potential free agents, including some significant starting players.
When you’re average, it can become a challenge to retain your free agents. And when you’re average, it becomes even more difficult to attract players from other teams.
Head coach Tom Higgins, while addressing the media Monday afternoon at Olympic Stadium, said the organization’s in better shape than last year. We get what he meant, but it came out wrong.
Higgins was hired in late February, three months after general manager Jim Popp thought he would remain as coach. Higgins hired the wrong offensive coordinator, in Rick Worman, and made the mistake of appointing himself special-teams coordinator. This team paid dearly for both blunders.
While Higgins will have an entire winter to prepare for next season, he should be wondering what kind of team and staff will be awaiting him at training camp.
The Als won’t be in better shape when quarterbacks coach Jeff Garcia departs, as expected, for family reasons, either to join British Columbia as the offensive coordinator or continue operating quarterback camps in San Diego.
Garcia made a difference with the Alouettes quarterbacks this season — with his attitude and competitive nature. He pushed starter Jonathan Crompton to excel and wasn’t afraid to point out some of his glaring deficiencies, when necessary, to the media. With Garcia’s experience and resumé, Crompton had no reason not to listen and absorb the wisdom.
If Garcia’s replaced by Anthony Calvillo, as expected, it behooves Crompton to learn from pro football’s career passing leader. But we wonder whether Calvillo will have the same effect and results, since he doesn’t possess the same temperament as Garcia. Calvillo’s not the most vocal or demonstrative. Instead, he led by example when he played.
Higgins absolutely must find someone qualified to coach special teams. It’s no surprise the Stampeders and Ticats have reached the Grey Cup. Both have energetic, somewhat crazed and unconventional coordinators — Mark Kilam and Jeff Reinebold, respectively. If special teams are one-third of the game in Canada, it behooves an organization to allocate the necessary funds into that aspect of the game.
When he was coaching the Blue Bombers, Cal Murphy once said: “It’s not what it costs to have him; it’s what it costs if you don’t have him.?
The price paid by the 2014 Als was a potential trip to the Grey Cup.
When Higgins joined the organization, he had no problem taking on the added responsibility of coaching special teams. But when things went sour, it suddenly became too onerous. Instead of taking on three rookie pro coaches last winter at a bargain-basement price, this team should have allocated the funds into one coach who knew his way around special teams.
When a team keeps kicking to to Hamilton’s Brandon Banks — the one player who has the ability to beat them — and doesn’t make the necessary adjustments, it has a problem. When Sean Whyte takes virtually no responsibility, saying he’s punting to where he’s being told, and Higgins then says Whyte could have punted out of bounds or angled his kicks better, there’s a problem. Or at least a lack of communication. And when a team has a returner surrounded, but doesn’t tackle him, it has a problem.
This is a team, potentially, that’s in trouble; a team that could still be years away from competing for a championship.
Crompton? We don’t know if he’s any good. Yes, he produced a stellar record, but was that mark the result of the Als’ championship-calibre defence? Is this as good as Crompton will become, or will he mature and develop with more experience?
For now, he certainly throws deep far too frequently. He also has displayed a penchant for throwing into coverage. Is he simply stubborn or, like his predecessor Troy Smith, incapable of reading defences?
Let’s face it — the Als were outcoached on Sunday. Ticats head coach Kent Austin knew the Als couldn’t stop Banks. But Austin also was wise enough to have his players get in the head of Duron Carter, Montreal’s best player, who clearly had a mental meltdown.
The Als and president Mark Weightman should be concerned about many matters. While there are new facilities in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Hamilton; a state-of-the-art training facility in Edmonton and a soon-to-be new stadium in Regina, Montreal players on a daily basis board a school bus to travel to practice following meetings and film review in the basement of Olympic Stadium.
And Weightman and owner Robert Wetenhall better be concerned about the thousands of seats that went unsold this season. They’d better be concerned about selling only 15,100 tickets to their home playoff game.
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