Inside Enemy Territory, Vol. 2

Sunday, August 20, 2006
Inside Enemy Territory, Vol. 2

INSIDE ENEMY TERRITORY
By Russ Harrison

VOLUME 2: SPAGHETTI WESTERN, 21st Century Style: The Ugly, The Ugly, and The Ugly.

After the recent 20-2 shellacking at home at the hands of the Toronto Argonauts, I sat out on my balcony and stared into space for a while, trying to absorb the significance of what I had just witnessed.

It was a game of football, not an atrocity that one can find between blinks while watching a headline news program.

As a fan for the last…36 years, say…I have seen my fair share of Tiger-Cat defeats. Dozens of them. More than my fair share when compared to the track records of the most successful franchises in our league.

Of course, the Cats can boast that they have won a Grey Cup in every decade of the team’s existence. No team can boast that: heck, even Montreal and Ottawa (twice) have lost their teams for stretches during that time.

The 1999 Grey Cup victory by the Cats in a rematch against the Calgary Stampeders crossed my mind again as I stared into the night sky of Montreal. I was living about 85 km north of Montreal with my then-girlfriend and her son at the time. A fuzzy snow on an old black and white set partially obscured a masterpiece of game planning and execution for me. After that victory – a rare game watched in its entirety during the five years I was with my ex – I stared out into a Laurentian snow shower and savoured that moment.

It marked the first Grey Cup win I had watched without my dad. He died in July 1989 of a heart attack at the age of 53, and I recall watching the 1989 Grey Cup game wishing he could have seen that game with me, since it was the greatest game for excitement I have ever witnessed to this day.

For me, Grey Cup games involving the Cats are like totems one carries in one’s head. Snapshots as a fan where one can literally be transported in nostalgia, or “russtalgia? in my case, to having seen a lot of football between Grey Cup visits – and in the case of the Cats, a lot of bad football between trips to the Grail Game as it has turned out too often.

You realize as one gets older that you waste a lot of time watching really bad football by your team between those prized moments in celebration for the achievement of a championship.

But back on my balcony here, it was not a situation like that.

It was worse: the two-rouge offense was blazing in Tigertown, like a really bad dose of reverse psychology had broken out in an effort to lull Rich Stubler, defensive coordinator of the Argos, to sleep.

In other words: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger.

I took my Ticat flag off the balcony. Not in some silent protest or fit of embarrassment. I looked down at it, seen that the acidity in the Montreal rains this spring and summer had almost washed the gold away from it, and decided to let it live another day. It was being bled white, like a flag of surrender except for the awesome retro tiger logo and the “HAMILTON TIGER-CATS? lettering.

One of these days I will wash the flag and take the accumulated dirt off it. I will then re-hang it in my room here. A cleansing, you might say.

The grime of a 2-7 start can be difficult to scrub off. It’s not fun for the players, coaches, or fans, let alone front office workers who have to deal with an understandably snarly public. Imagine being a moderator on ticats.ca. Wait a sec, that’s my second home, albeit online. Scratch that.

Fast forward a week.

As a fan in the ticats.ca era, you know that the bitching meter is going to rage unabated after a loss for a good 6-12 hours after a loss. Almost like Godzilla last night in that CBC movie which started about two hours too late last night.

We know the drill. Some fans provide reasoned perspectives on why things went wrong after a loss. Fans find a measure of commiseration in venting their disappointment – some much forcefully than others. Still others go off the scale of taste and simply re-enact in subject-verb-predicate the kind of social grace one would expect, say, in the old Moosehead Tavern on Barton Street where the pool cues used to be chained to the tables for reasons not associated with décor.

I read through a few of the threads and started my eighth “Burn The Witches Thread? of the season. I try to be as tongue-in-cheek about the name of it as one can. Far too often one senses the rage of some fans having to articulate coherently who they feel is primarily to blame for this or that bad aspect of the team’s play or organization following a defeat.

Monty Python witch-burnings often have that sense of irony about them.

You know: if a witch weighs the same as a duck, and a duck floats, a witch must be made of wood since wood floats. And everyone knows you burn witches like wood…

I was not in a clear-thinking mood to wade into a bitchfest and post much. Reading some of the stuff around ticats.ca, I was hearing echoes of Sergio Leone spaghetti western soundtracks. Whistles. Creaky wooden sidewalks. Beef jerky being rotated in semi-grimaces.

Oh yes, the standoff. A lot of us get into that kind of situation when butting heads online with other posters. Most of the time, it’s two guys. I say it’s A to blame, you say it’s B, your mother wears army boots, yours has webbed feet, at least her webbed feet don’t stink, that kind of thing. Then a few posters chime in the thread as if the two combatants are pausing, like Clint Eastwood scowling in a lower face shot, trying to look macho in their collective constipation in PROVING A POINT. INC.

I needed a genre change. Back to the TV.

I watched exactly three minutes of the Godzilla movie. I recalled Kenton Keith getting outside the tackles and trampling upon the Cats, so I decided to cut my losses and go to sleep. Goodnight Irene and Yoko too.

WOKE UP THIS MORNING: THAT COULD BE BAD

Oh yes, a blues song! For those of us who like the blues, waking up every morning after a late night is an exercise in temporary befuddlement, especially those of us who are night owls and must have a shower and coffee to function.

I am one of those people. Except this morning, writing this. The shower and coffee can wait.

I could get all Zoolander on you all and get into a really really really really really really really technical football analysis of what’s up with the Cats from a reasonably “football edumacated? fan perspective. But I won’t bother trying to prove myself superior to guys who actually live, breathe, and think football for a living. Fat chance of that happening. I don’t pretend to be Albert Einstein. Joe Theismann’s buddy Norman Einstein? Could do. I have the crazy spiky hair and facial plumage to pass as an unkempt mad scientist at the moment, so here goes my Mel Brooks as football analyst shtick, not my Mel Kiper, Jr. Okay?

Google Mel Kiper, Jr. if you have to, you ESPN-challenged reader, you. :wink:

My entry into the Josh Ranek re-nicking sweepstakes is The Little Ball of Abandonment. When I saw the Cats run over Winnipeg three weeks ago, I was pumped. The offensive line played a fine rendition of Open Sesame with the Bomber front seven, allowing Ranek to earn offensive player of the week honours with 160-plus yards on the ground. The sting of Troy Davis being gone had finally waned for me. My Jimmy Edwards running wild reveries in my version of Madden 2004 was finally matched again on the TV screen. The bench was wild. Jason Maas actually smiled on the bench.

Gasp.

The boys were enjoying themselves.

Then came the next game, the earlier mentioned 20-2 drubbing by the Gloatmen.

The running game went POOF.

Gone midway in the second quarter.

It was a game that wound up 10-1 Argos at the half. Looking back, I was picturing offensive coordinator Joe Paopao in the Ticats’ booth in the sky at Ivor Wynne rubbing his hands and saying halfway through the second quarter:

“WOOHAHAHA, I HAVE YOU WHERE I WANT YOU! NOW I WILL GO ONE-DIMENSIONAL AND YOU WON’T SEE US COMING, COMING BACK!?

Running against a three-man line and a secondary playing match-coverage zones – Rick Stubler’s D being the epitome of a “bend but don’t break? philosophy in Canadian ball – is not rocket science scheme-wise. Running off-tackle with counters and tosses will stretch the defensive sets of the opponent and cause the match coverage to go wider, opening crossing patterns underneath even if the running game isn’t getting big yardage play after play.

Okay, so we weren’t exactly re-doing Open Sesame. But why did the offense go Sesame Street North for the dreaded 4-yard dump offs on 2nd and 6? Time and again?

For those of us who are more adept and say, balling online with football sims against other people, it would be the equivalent of “give me 20 plays and I will curl you to death, mofo!?

I mean, when TSN’s Jock Climie can take like ten seconds and analyze something without stretching his negative-thinking muscle on the panel, that’s telling.

A debacle. A 20-2 loss to the Double Blue at home. Another Linda Blair-headspin-worthy reversal of fortune for a franchise that all too often in a football sense has put the skit back into its productive schizophrenia. Frustration that can lead to bursts of laughter for me when watching a game by myself.

Why buy an X-Box 360 when you can enjoy Ticat 180 from week to week? For me, the X-Box will come soon enough.

THE GREEN, GREEN, SOYLENT GREEN PLASTIC GRASS OF HOME

Last night though didn’t come soon enough for me. I was kind of hoping that the hyped Corey Holmes Homecoming would spur the Cats brain trust to use Corey throughout the game, one where we would finally see Corey as a receiving weapon along with subbing Ranek at RB and returning kicks as well.

The two-and out festivus soon broke out for the Tabbies, leading me to recall what Jason Maas had said in the aftermath of the Argo loss in response to a reporter’s question about the play calling:

"I don't blame the poor calling one bit, it's all on me..."

When football players start to Freudian slip about football-related issues, I usually perk up and get my raised Spockian eyebrow engaged.

So here was a situation where the play calling method of a playcaller, let’s call him "Mr. X. Paopao" for hypothetical purposes in illustration, is clearly an issue with his quarterback, albeit in a definitely understated, yet subconsciously evident way.

Time to have a Q and A inside my Football Mind ™.

So the play calling isn’t riveting. M’ kay.

Q: Now one might ponder: if the play calling is bothering the guy(s) executing this plays (or not), is it bothering the opposing team?

A: Nope.

Q: Okay then, Who do we have on the field…I mean who is our best playmaker?

A: Corey Holmes?

Silent nod.

Q: Where is he?

A: Getting familiar with the visiting team’s sideline.

Q: Is he hurt?

A: Hasn’t been 100 percent since ankle problems early in the season. I assume that is a reason for his disappearing act.

Q: Didn’t Lancaster say he wanted to see Corey more in the offense?

A: Uh huh.

Q: So assuming in a worst-case scenario he is, say 85%, is an 85% Corey Holmes a bigger threat than what I am seeing on the field at the moment?

A: What do you think?

End of Loop One.

Now I am a fan and I am wondering to myself…the play calling has no sense of progression, there are few defensive backs put in chase positions during any of our games, and our biggest weapon is on the sideline.

Hmmmmmmmm.

Go back to last year in Ottawa.

I can imagine this convo:

Mr. X (in his Hawaiian shirt): Stand over there, but I want you close enough that people can catch us in the same shot on widescreen HD, okay?

Jason Armstead: Sure thing coach.

Kerry Joseph: Coach, I’m getting killed out there. The defence is jamming us short. Where’s Jason?

Mr. X: Jason? I want you stretching so when we are thirty points behind late in the fourth quarter, I plan get you into back-to-back sequences and have you run hitches, okay?

Perhaps my abstraction stretches things a bit askew. But I can say this with all due seriousness: Corey Holmes will never be a game-breaking pass protecting threat doing mop-up shotgun-riding for a third-string QB with three minutes to go.

If I wanted to witness a homecoming like that, I would have watched a Jackson Five Thanksgiving narrated by Mary Hart modelling a Versace bio suit.

STOP THE PRESSES...OKAY, JUST STOP SOMEBODY

I am a John Madden mark. I must confess, I was a fan of his way before he become a Tinactin pitchman, a video game impresario, or even Pat Summerall’s sidekick in the early eighties on CBS NFL broadcasts.

John Madden once said, “"The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break."

With Madden, there were two demandments, brother:

Be on time and play hard.

Madden also had a simple insight into the coach-player relationship: you’re only as good as your players. There is no overarching Oz-like genius that can will victory apart from that reality.

Your job is to make your players better through preparation and put them in the position to win through a coherent approach to game planning and making the necessary adjustments to counteract adversity and press advantages in different phases of the game.

Most fans get that.

Coaching is teaching. It is the players who do what is on the field. And ultimately a coach’s success is measured by how those interminable hours of film work and practice repetition translate into execution.

Play calling is an important factor: you can have the prettiest plays on a playbook page, but they mean nothing if the opponent can read and react effectively to what you are trying to accomplish. Veteran players in particular can evolve and gain a higher comfort level as their capacity to interpret more familiar in-game information as plays develop, so coaches need to vary things – add wrinkles – to make it tougher for the opposing coaches and players to deal with what they are doing out there.

The physical errors in execution – fumbling, throwing the ball errantly, etc. – these are human mistakes. Mental errors are obviously human too, but they can be cut down through preparation, attention to detail, and providing a learning curve through a consistent approach that will aid players get comfortable with a system.

One example of this is working with a quarterback in camp to improve his footwork. In a timing offense, this is absolutely critical. The QB must develop a synchronicity in such offenses with his receivers. One’s read and react is based on footwork, pocket presence, and ability for more mobile signal callers to buy time in play through designed rollouts or simply a controlled step-up in the pocket.

Now a player in-game, particularly with the 20-second clock for scrimmage plays, isn’t going to be able to precisely react to all the myriad sensory inputs in a play and analyse the best way to counteract and take advantage of a situation. Football is akin to judo. Instinctive reaction based on repetition and structured action. The physicality of running a play is what makes something particularly amazing most of the time, not the intellectual side of it.

Having said that, it is the coach’s or coordinator’s role to give that thought process to what is happening on the field. It gets back to trying to attacking the comfort level of the other team’s coaches and personnel I referred to earlier. Game planning is part of that dynamic. But in-game adjustments (and halftime ones as well) are absolutely critical.

I could belabour you, dear reader, with a litany of cases where our coaching staff has not been up to snuff this year in this aspect. We are 2-8. It does not take The Amazing Kreskin to understand that we don’t fix things in-game enough to make teams scared of playing us. It’s more than just swagger. It’s creating elements of confusion, indecision, and faulty instinctive reactions by opposing players throughout the game that separates teams beyond simple physical domination and breakdowns.

I’ll limit this to one example that is relatively simple for people to grasp, not having to wade through game tape to find the execution issues that obviously can predominate as to why teams fail from play to play, series to series. I’m simply talking about an in-game adjustment that I would have made as a fan coaching in my football sim if a similar situation happened to what the Cats faced last night.

And more to the point: what a coach or coordinator being on the ball would have done in short order in the real-life game situation, processing the information on the spot and trying to capitalize on an opportunity.

Remember when Rocky Butler came in for Saskatchewan for the injured Marcus Crandell? Butler is the third-string QB for the Riders. A very good physical specimen: mobile, has a gun for an arm, and knows how to scramble.

You recall the Riders were running the ball well up until that point. Stay with me on this.

We were using a lot of man-coverage plays to try and counteract the run game of Saskatchewan, moving at least secondary defender into the box up more for run support. Cover zero situations, blitzing to try to slow down Kenton Keith. Understandable.

Poor tackling was hurting us. The run blitzing element and outside containment was not effective.

Okay, Crandell went down, in came Butler.

Knowing a third-string QB (with no starts since 2004), was coming in, Kavis Reed correctly understood that the Riders would continue to run a balanced approach, stressing the running game to help insulate Butler. Since the man-coverage run-stuffing approach was not working, it was a time to start mixing in more combination zone packages, rotating coverages, and putting different elements into the mix to confuse the new Rider QB and create more indecision: in other words, counteracting the opponent in an obviously adverse situation into possibilities where turnovers and breakdowns could occur.

Short zone approaches to help react to runs faster – bending but not breaking in so many words – forcing the Riders to run multiple plays down the field and minimizing big-play breakdowns.

Tommy Condell is a very bright offensive coordinator – someone who has worked with Joe Paopao before. A big feature of what he does (and did to great effect last night), is use a lot of misdirection. Counter plays, rollout options, screens…relying on defensive overpursuit to create mismatches.

CHASE POSITIONS!

Remember Adam Rita, Kavis? Last week. Kaboom. 20-2?

Okay.

Tommy Condell at a very young age for a coordinator career-wise has a sense of progression when his team is executing well.

How does one take out misdirection out of one’s defence? Secondary-speaking, it is by playing zones more, since man-to-man situations are more susceptible to misdirections, play-action, and the like in terms of design.

I’m sure I haven’t lost most knowledgeable fans here.

It’s a question of mixing things up. Not being vanilla, but not being a cow cookie either.

What did we do?

The CBC’s Darren Flutie was bang-on throughout the night regarding the fact we were sadly predictable – whether in play calling or in execution. Defensively, we had the opportunity to throw some change ups into the mix and create indecision in the read-and-react of a backup QB.

What did Rocky Butler get?

On the 80-yardish screen for a TD to Kenton Keith, from what I saw on the TV: a blitz, man-to-man coverage, cover zero. Open sesame.

In fact he was getting man-to-man for most of the second quarter. Easy for a QB to read, often allowing him to make one or two quick reads and the ball is off.

Understand that Kavis Reed gets praised around the league for the complexity of some of his secondary packages. Anthony Calvillo has mentioned that his defences can be hard to read. This coming from arguably the best reader of defences in the CFL.

Not last night. I would have expected, year three into a program, that a defensive coordinator would have at least tried to mitigate some of the clearly poor execution (read bad tackling) that the defence was under and made it easier for controlled player convergence to the ball around the field.

Nope. We were in chase mode most of the night until late in the third when – HOCUS POCUS – zone approaches started to happen. Butler started to be affected and was having problems adjusting to them.

It was short-lived.

Switching gears to a bend-but-don’t-break style when down by 15-ish and with a gassed defence isn’t a recipe for fun.

If you are in chase positions most of the night, you are being out-adjusted. Simple. The brutal logic of football past the Xs and Os.

I could rant about this team having no discernible identity on defence, but I won’t. We have three basic looks – 4 down lineman rush, 3 down lineman vanilla zone, and let’s line up 9 in the box, shall we. The interchangeable nature of these three looks really doesn’t amount to much. The fact our defence can often hold the fort for long stretches of the game is less attributable to coaching and more to the athleticism of our players in compensating for being outschemed.

I’m on page ten in this Microsoft Word marathon and I haven’t touched on special teams, because they were actually pretty good last night. A pass for Jerome Erdman for once: thoughts of Jenna Elfman was more of a recurrent distraction in my head than his troops.

We were winning field position battles kick for kick, but couldn’t stop anybody. Sad but true.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE, OR “ARE THE JAWS OF LIFE HANDY??

I remember being absolutely captivated by the Ticats’ first drive of the second half last night. I was agog in wonder, in fact. Jaw-droppingly so. We had Maas rolling out, play-action, receivers coming open in space underneath from the bought time from those rollouts, and an option shovel pass for a TD.

Hey guys! That worked! Keep it up!

Saskatchewan then responded with a backbreaker of a drive. No question. The score went back to being a very big hole.

Okay – we’ve got the ball back, I said.

How did we respond?

A two-and-out. Two scintillating drop backs from a shotgun set that was precisely the same m.o. for a lamentable first half and WE WERE TOAST.

Never mind the fact Mark Lee kept going on about a fumble on the next Hamilton series that in fact was an errant kneecapping snap from Marwan Hage when Maas was in the shotgun. We were toast when we had opted to get away from had led to our initial success in the second half.

How does one adjust oneself out of what had been clearly a good halftime adjustment?

The season is over, folks.

This team can’t put two wins together, let alone a string that might permit us to get in at 7-11 if we were really, really, really, really, really Derek Zoolander lucky (yes, I LOVED that movie!).

If I prove to be jaw-droppingly wrong, I apologize in advance.

I do not place the blame with the players for the mess. I think we have some weaknesses (O-line play at the tackles being glaring), but I feel the core of people on the roster is a group one can build with. But we will be building in 2007. I do not foresee the glaring inconsistencies of our coaching staff getting fixed.

You would think we would take what works in games where we are successful, bottle it, and build a coherent system in all phases of the game that play from strength on those identities and allow our guys to make plays.

Jason Maas should be shut down for the remainder of the season if he is playing with torn abdominal muscles that would require surgery. I watched Donavan McNabb play with the World’s Most Famous Sports Hernia last year and go down in flames because he physically could not get it done. Andy Reid has a pretty good West Coast system for the Eagles. It is a system.

We have a breaking-down QB in whatever we have – a timing offense with no timing, a lack of consistent crossing patterns at multiple depths on the field – and his physical discomfort is matched by a sense that what is on offer here isn’t working. We don’t scare anyone.

We haven’t scared anyone consistently since 2000, frankly.

Eakin and Williams are not going to wow anyone with this “system? (or “constellation of binder filler? more like it), either.

Jason Maas did not forget how to throw for 5,000 yards a season in this league. When you are average 10 yards per completion in this league, you aren’t going to win consistently.

Anthony Calvillo and Damon Allen would fail under this regime. Understand how they are effective and how guys get open downfield in their current environments. Night and day.

Without a sustainable running game and a rollout offensive approach utilizing play-action from I-sets more often than once every first quarter in a game, defences read what we do in the passing game.

When your best weapon is a spectator more often than not, it’s game over for a seventeen-points-over-three-games level of production.

I’m a fan, and I see this. <<<< my new sig tagline at ticats.ca for the remainder of the season.

2007 will bring us a new look in football operations. I expect an experienced head coach at the pro level answering to an experienced GM (or a two-in-one package) with a staff filled with coordinators who have a clue from actually coordinating for a while.

I would like to see Rich Stubler become the head mine if he were available. Stubs has the Hamilton connection, grit, and coaching experience to have an immediate positive impact on next season. Whether it is he, a Charlie Taaffe, a Steve Burratto, etc., I expect a coaching staff that imprints their stamp in all phases of the game. In short, clearly delineated systems that allow players to develop within clear perspectives as to how the Cats approach each game, adjusting to take advantage of opponents’ weaknesses, but giving players a comfort level to master their weekly tasks in a framework that makes sense.

Take a Don Matthews/Jim Popp or Wally Buono blueprint and Xerox the dang thing. Accountability is crucial. On the field and off. The more each player knows his role and the role of all the other players in his unit on a systems level, the more meaningful the “self-policing? aspect of leadership can be. It’s guys knowing that they have each other’s backs when it’s showtime.

When a wall has your back, it’s a recipe for football disaster. The Ticats are up against it.

Russ Harrison

Well said Russ. :slight_smile:

Long, but as always, one of the best posts on the site!

Why can't the Ti-cats play with the same passion as you write!

Great post.

Going long is my general approach re writing. LOL

I got on a bit of a roll and my caffeine deprivation wasn't a factor. :wink:

Thanks for your kind words. :slight_smile:

Oski Wee Wee,

Nice, nice job Russ!! I cannot argue with your observations.
Steve

Thanks, Steve.

I have my coffee now. LOL :wink:

Oski Wee Wee,

That was long and a great read! Thank you Russ!

I too live in enemy territory, aka Ti-Cats west country, aka Edmonton. I too proudly display the Ti-Cat logo everywhere I go. My front license plate is just that. I see people on the sidewalk stare at it and snicker as I drive by. So what! I stuck by the team in 2003 and I will continue to do so this year, no matter how frustrating it continues to be.

I will go to the game here in Edmonton on Sept 22nd with the plate on my vehicle and a Ti-Cat jersey on my back. I just hope Coach Lancaster and company give me something to cheer about that day. And I pray the Ti-Cats are not 2-12 at that time. After all, that is a very distinct possibility.

It took me 2 sittings to read it all, but it was still the best cfl article I have read all year. :thup:

Thanks, Drexl. It thankfully took one sitting to write. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

I had two weeks of football to sort out in my head, so it took a little bit of time to decide what angles to look at.

Oski Wee Wee,

Bravo. I'd say "encore," but you probably need to get your wind back first.

oski-oui-oui

I think you nailed it with this exposition. Not one thing I could disagree with.

Points I'd like to stress:

  1. Hamilton's doing no good to Maas if he be injured. As a matter of fact, I think his injury is just short of career threatening, but he toils on.

  2. As much as I like Bob, there is no accountability in the organization. Whether you agreed with it or not, when Yeast was cut, it sent a message (negative, certainly, but still a message) to the players - and most of the coaches - that they have to play. If you don't play, you have to go home.

  3. Where is the chemistry? Everyone who has worked should know that you have to trust the people with whom you work. That trust is the basis of chemistry. Even if you can't trust the coaching staff, I don't understand why Flick, Maas, Eakin, and Vaughn don't go to someone's house, and talk about what went wrong, and what went right. Maybe they do, but I don't think so. If the coaches are poop, it's still up to the players to make them look good. I know; I have some poop bosses, and I still have to make them look good. See section two.

Anyways, sorry to steal your soapbox, you can have it back.... you're certainly more of an expert than I am :slight_smile:

Thanks for your kind words. :slight_smile:

I think the accountabilty issue cuts both ways. I'm not going to argue with how Ron Lancaster operates since his record of success in this league overall speaks for itself. Yet I think the body language last night captured in the sideline shots spoke volumes.

Paopao and Lancaster were standing as far apart as two people can be in the same camera shot from the opposing sideline.

I don't have to read much into that. The Tiger lair is not a happy place to be.

Lancaster has said that the offense needs to open up and that he expects Corey Holmes to be more of a factor offensively. And? For whatever reason, this hasn't translated into concrete action on either front. Those are two examples.

An interim coach is not going to have the same leverage regarding the replacement of assistants mideseason. It is generally a bad idea and is limited by the weaknesses of whatever playbook is being used. Playbooks don't get torn up midway through a season.

The Toronto situation is instructive in this regard when change does work. Adam Rita has taken the well-designed passing attack and added emphasis on the running component. As Chris Schultz pointed out that in the Argo victory against the Cats, the Argos made the necessary adjustment on their pass blocking -- shifting to roll technique -- to move the pocket effectively right or left and effectively neutralizing the Ticat blitzes late in the second quarter on.

A reasonable set of adjustments in play calling with a solid playbook under a very talented offensive coach like Adam Rita has translated into wins with Damon Allen back at the controls calling the plays.

Frankly, I'm not sure that a replacement would have similar success with Paopao's playbook. In a Rita-like scenario, Kent Austin would come in and call a similar number of run plays: by design. The fact that Austin has worked under Paopao in Ottawa as a QB coach is immaterial to me. in addition, Austin is still being paid by the Argos, according to a report I heard on TSN soon after his release. I don't think Austin would be interested in being a rent-a-coordinator for us.

So the challenge for the remainder of the season is for the players to be more accountable to each other because the level of accountability of the staff to Lancaster is compromised simply by the interim dynamic here.

I believe that Ron yet again has a thankless job. I salute him for taking on this tough assignment. The auditions for the 2007 are effectively on now that NFL cuts are happening.

One thread here has raised the idea of Mike McCarthy being hired as GM. If Katz is considered interim (and the Caretaker Update I read suggests that), it may be time for the Cats to seriously get on the GM hunt for 2007. The advantage of hiring McCarthy is that he is familar with the roster and the scouting system here. He has the contacts, the Hamilton connection, and an excellent recruiting record. I believe that he would be a natural fit, allowing Rob Katz to move elsewhere in the front office.

We need a football operations department overhaul. The need for new direction in 2007 is clear. The only accountability I see Bob Young owing the fans of Hamilton is that he abides by his words that the same mistakes (hiring inexperienced people in key positions re the on-field product) do not happen again. Period.

Oski Wee Wee,

Well thought out, Russ. (If your posts get any longer, the Caretaker is going to ask you to publish on Lulu.com !)

Refering to your title, I think of the old Pogo comic: "We have seen the enemy, and they are us !"

Here's to '07...

I will be publishing on lulu.com in the next couple of years (I'm writing a novel and plan to self-publish there -- head's up, Bob! :wink: ).

Thanks for your kind words. :slight_smile:

Wonderful Russ. I am amazed that you could put forth so much effort in after Saturday night. I have put the whole thing out of my mind until early Monday morning, trying to pretend it wasn't real.
The 89 Grey Cup was amazing. I took the train with my dad from the old rail station off James St N. I will never forget, we were sitting in the first row of the 500 level of the Skydome, about 10 yards in the endzone. We were directly above the greatest catch in history. Just imagine looking down on Tony's twisting body from almost straight above. I jumped about 3 feet in the air ( run about 260lbs). My dad caught me and saved me from going over the railing. Like I said I will never forget (the 9 lives of a cat..fan). This year he has been too ill to go to the games and goes in for his 2nd bypass operation Tuesday. I guess I can relate to your personal story even a little more than your passionate posts.
PS. Here's to a season ending 8 game winning streak and a trip to the Big Owe for the eastern final, so you may be there in person. Keep up the good work, Brian

Thanks, Brian. I have a hookup for the East Final in that eventuality, but I think I will have to pass since the Cats won't be in it. If the team were run the table like that from its current malaise, it would rank with the greatest sports comebacks ever. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Oski Wee Wee,

Best wishes to you and your father as well :slight_smile:

The question of chemistry is an important one. It is more than just establishing a sense of camaraderie and common purpose in the dressing room. As important is what you have described, both in terms of team meetings (official and unofficial), is the idea of instituting an indentity through consistent game planning in every phase of the game. This has more to do with finding on-field chemistry.

This is particularly important on the offensive side of the ball. In the passing game, we have little synchronicity between Jason Maas and his receivers. It is more than him being obviously banged up. I feel that there is a definite problem regarding his timing and that of his receivers.

I could count on one hand the number of times a Cats receiver has been hit on the run in space by Maas and his cohorts this year to date. That is telling. I am sorry to belabour the obvious here, but if we observe the best teams in the league, this happens at least once a half, once a quarter if their passing game is clicking.

Curling opponents to death might work if the QB is in a three-step drop. Unfortunately, Maas is in shotgun so much that he holds on to the ball too long for those kind of passes to be crisp, IMHO.

Is he getting rushed/pressured too often? I find that the play of our tackles is lacklustre at best. We haven't given up many sacks, but Maas hasn't had decent enough time to hit intermediate and long routes. His injuries haven't helped his mechanics in that regard, so we are left with a short passing dump-off game where receivers ARE NOT BEING HIT WITH THE BALL WHEN THEY MAKE THEIR BREAKS. That hesistation is causing less YAC yards as a result, as defenders have the time to read and react.

The first drive of the second half was instructive because it was one of a handful of drives where defenders got placed in chase positions play after play. Options for Maas. Simply by rolling him out, and allowing underneath receivers time to turn upfield. It's not rocket science.

Since Paopao is determined to run a timing offense with no timing (since by design and by execution it is breaking down), it really is up to Jason and his receivers to work on ways to allow the receivers to work their way open.

The whole thing is an inconsistent mess. I really hope a Charlie Taaffe-quality offensive mind will take the reins of the offense come 2007 and work with Jason to develop schemes that highlight his strengths -- read a play-action, deep game that springs receivers. Ask Hervey and Tucker if a healthy Jason Maas could throw the deep ball in Edmonton if they got open...

It requires an overhaul.

Oski Wee Wee,