Inside Enemy Territory
Vol. 2, No. 2
by Russ Harrison
Posting on ticats.ca after the Ticats' loss to the Stamps on Saturday night was a little like preparing for talent scouts airing out their views on how a drunk might tap dance in a minefield after a few too many.
I believe the anti-Maas threads have tapped out at around thirteen by my count since the unofficial game thread posted in the forums. Brock Ralph and Julian Radlein also got into the fan negativity column, but yet again Maas has been the focus, correctly or not.
I chuckled yesterday hearing the video clip of Charlie Taaffe's press conference yesterday when he was emphatic that people should not expect him to wave a magic wand and make all the bad things associated with a 4-14 recent past magically go away.
I had a mental image of "Taaffebell" hovering for a sec like in that Nestle Drumstick ad, only a lot less hangtime...the mental picture of him shouting "watch the grapefruits!!" at the attractively hungry jarred me out of that produce aisle moment and back to nodding in assent.
Perhaps no backup QB in recent Cats history has been more clamoured for that Timmy Chang in the last week. I even caught myself humming "Fruit Juicy! Fruit Juicy!" from those old Hawaiian Punch ads as I was sampling the Chang Gang's zeal for change in thread after thread.
I, as a semi-member of the Brady Bunch a couple of years ago -- calling for Marcus Brady to be used in tandem with a struggling Danny Mac to give Brady meaningful reps and to see what he had -- can understand the need for a shorter hook for Jason Maas if the inability to consistently produce TDs continues.
We all know how much south the Brady experiment turned out to be. People can debate whether Marcus got a fair enough shout rep-wise (read time as a starter), but the on-field performance didn't lie. There simply wasn't enough consistency in Marcus's decision-making or execution to warrant the hype.
My concern then was the need for an effective transition from an aging future Hall of Famer to the next big QB in the chain, one that has had a number of links missing over the years. One thing has been the bane of Ticat fortunes for a generation-plus has been the chronic inability to develop new QB talent from within and to stick with it.
I can state with no hesitation that the difference in potential between Marcus Brady in mid-2005 and Timmy Chang, week two of 2007 is night and day. Night and day. It boils down to Chang's superior decisiveness, the aura of confidence he brings to the huddle, and his NCAA pedigree that has prepared him for the real bullets of the CFL game.
Even in the salad days of the anti-Danny pitchfork brigade two years back, nothing matched the fervour we read from the Chang Gang today. Rightly so.
For all the struggles of mid-2005 -- the emerging realization that the 2004 postseason run was more of a blip than a bang and that the Marshall Plan wasn't -- the push that Timmy Chang is making on Jason Maas is real and bears watching.
I can recall the transition from Tracy Ham to Anthony Calvillo in Montreal that began while Taaffe was head coach here. A lot was made about the transformation of A.C. under Charlie's guidance as he immersed himself in learning the finer points of tape analysis, game preparation, developing sound mechanics and footwook, etc. In short, becoming a well-rounded pro. He got to learn from Ham's success while being on the sidelines. What needed to click for him did.
Fast forward to today. Unlike the 1999-2000 Als scenario, the Tabbies aren't a perennial East Division contender with a starting QB that has people edgy if not shaking in their boots when they play him. Straight up. Tracy Ham in 1999 had more of that kind of dread mojo happening in his opponents than Jason Maas currently does (Edmonton excepted perhaps!). The separation between signalcaller and apprentice in Steeltown is really a question of degree to which one can magnify in focus. Ham's reign as a starter was on far more firmer ground from a results perspective than Maas today.
I believe that Taaffe is correct in his insistence that Jason Maas is his starter. More for the correct signals it sends to the organization and dressing room about the need to get his offensive system installed with an experienced QB at the controls than anything else.
The overriding factor, however, is that Timmy Chang has yet to get on a CFL field with the bright lights of a real regular season game going, take the team from a deficit, and lead to club to a convincing victory in relief. In other words, being lights out when the lights are on when the real bullets are flying.
For me, it's a matter of weeks, not months, for that to happen.
For all the venting of frustration that has gone on this week leading up to the Argonaut visit tonight to IWS, until Chang gets a meaningful shot to turn a salvaging relief stint into a comeback that is definitive if not decisive in the win-loss column, Maas will start. That is crystal clear to me given Charlie's m.o. while he was coach with the Als.
The hook that Taaffe will use ought to be shorter week to week if the team clearly isn't producing points offensively enough to compete. An 0-4 start seems to be the absolute Kelvin of all things Ticat for the armchair cognoscenti: all things being equal, three more weeks of last week's long drive = kicking practice routine will most likely be my statutory limit too before I rail for Chang Time!
It's Jason's job to lose. Everyone knows it to the point of tasting it.
JASON VERSUS THE ARGONAUTS: WHO'S FLEECING AND WILL IT BE GOLDEN?
Tonight's game will be a quick indoctrination for the newest Tiger-Cats of the place the Cats-Argos rivalry has in the hearts of all Ticat fans. Regardless of the outcome, I expect both teams will approach this contest in the slobberknocker fashion this rivalry has had for decade upon decade.
The Argos will have two immediate issues on their plate I want to focus on here: can Michael Bishop emerge as the undisputed starter in T.O. beginning tonight and how will the club fare without all-star K/P Noel Prefontaine handling the kicking duties?
Bishop's relief-stint heroics of recent years now have to translate into starting success now that the job is open after Damon Allen's audition for the role of Mentor in Grumpiest Old Men (the yet-to-be-filmed final part of the trilogy)!
My take on Bishop is that he can wow people by throwing 45 yards off his back foot through a brick wall and create a really fascinating jumpball through double coverage in the end zone for Bruce and the like, but after a quarter of that, the adjustments get made and the ability to manage a game through accurate reads and reactions then becomes the un-hinger for him. In short, what makes Allen at his best is what Bishop has yet to demonstrate five years into his largely CFL-AFL ping ponging fest.
Now that it IS his job to lose, it's his moment.
Whether we see Mike McMahon get reps tonight by design or by mopping necessity remains to be seen. All I know is that Bishop's grip on the starter's job in Hogtown is more TBA than Maas's is in Hamilton. That is either scary or a reflection of the Argos' "depth" situation, depending on which direction you prefer spin to go.
On the kicking front, Steve Christie is back to fill in for a still-woozy Prefontaine. I wish him well in warm-ups. LMAO
That's all for this week's installment of IET. Next week, more on the This is Spiral Taaffe saga, week three!
Oski Wee Wee,
P.S. The prize idea for the person who begins the 30th anti-Maas thread before game time tonight is a Snickers bar (are you really anti-Maas or just a little hungry?). LOL[url=http://www.ticats.ca/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=17183&postdays=0&postorder=asc&vote=viewresult]http://www.ticats.ca/index.php?name=PNp ... viewresult[/url]