Lessons Learned for Lions in Rider Game?

There might be more good for the BC Lions out of the ugly portions of the Lions win over the Riders than the Buck Pierce story. The Lions got the lesson but the quesion is if they will learn it.

This was the first time this year the team collectively has really simultaneously faced the dual demons of adversity and frustration.

Adversity hit them in the form of the starting QB - Casey Printers - struggling, hurt and looking confused and frustrated with no one stepping up on the O or in the coaching ranks that could come up with the right combo of plays that could help Casey get his rhythm or sense his injury was such that his game readiness was not there.

Frustration was evident in Geroy's comments in The Province about players yelling on the sideline and the Kelly Lochbaum penalty that could have cost them big. Even the normally cool, calm and poised Pierce was suggested to be a bit rattled at first which is understandable if the sidelines were not focused and calm.

The good is that the Lions got to experience these dual demons now and in a game where ineptness on the other side allowed them to win. If that had been the Esks or Toronto and the game was played up to the Buck Pierce entry, Buck would have got his passing yards, his two TDs and his accolades but the score would have ended 42-19 for their opponent and not 19-15 for BC Lions.

It is not so much getting the lesson in sport and in life, it is learning the lesson and with a team doing so collectively. It is like preparing for a fire drill in school three times a year every year until grade 12 and then there really is a fire - are you then ready to do what you have to do to save life and limb?

From the sounds of the comments the Lions weren't prepared for adversity and let frustration set in with only the defence holding up their end of the bargain.

While Casey struggled where were the coaches? What were they hoping for or expecting when it was so clear that today was not his day and something was not right with the guy. The tv shots showed glimpses of Casey holding his arm long before the time he reportedly took himself out of the game. If that had continued in the 4th Q I might have called Amnesty International and report the coaches!

Casey to get his game back, first has to get his body back in shape and continue his development as a QB who can read defences. But, perhaps his biggest struggle is neither of these as top of the list for him. It may well be that all the injuries and offseason limits on preparing for this season, contract negotiations, dealing with who will be no. 1 QB are all taking its toll mentally. He is the CFL's MOP of 2004 and will be regarded as League MOP until the new guy is named in November 2005.

This is beginning now to look like the lost season for Casey and perhaps it is time for him and the club to see this. Get the pressure off him to play right now and focus it on getting the arm fixed. Then bring him along in practice but simplify the game and allow him in practice to do less athletically - like throw off his back foot while running in the opposite direction - and more by reading coverages and staying in the pocket. That will get his game back.

Suggestions that the Lions need plays designed to each QB's strengths may work, but not if the mental and health problems of one of the key QBs is not right. Let him heal.

Have the coaches learned from this? Casey should have been released from the misery of that game at the half on humanitarian grounds alone, if nothing else. If that had continued into the 4th Q. I was tempted to call Amnesty International and report the Lion coaching staff.

We know Buck Pierce can play. We knew it in pre-season. We saw it against Hamilton? What are the coaches seeing and what is with their stubborness to make a change? GM Wally Buono should be speaking to his Head Coach this week about how it looked to him. If they both see this the same way then one of them isn't thinking, and that might well be the worst scenario of all.

Buck Pierce emerged as a team leader on Saturday night who players know can be counted on to do what needs to be done to win games. Buck's play alone should give coaches pause to ask why they did not go to him earlier.

The positives will be that this team has depth, great talent and togetherness and can find ways to overcome adversity. They have the time to regroup and examine how they showed frustration on the sideline and how it impacts guys who then go out and take that frustration out on a guy wearing a striped shirt and carrying a red flag with a hair trigger finger. They can look at themselves as to the extent to which they made a personal contribution to the adversity and frustration and to turning it around.

The negatives are that other than the defence and Buck Pierce there were few who stepped up and made some big plays on O including the coaches. There is a teaching point and this team of Lions with the greatest depth and skill ever are more than likely good learners.

To be fair, there is always some point in a game where opponents get on a roll even if they are bad. That is not the issue. The issue for a team is how you deal with it. Good teams know this is going to occur and they handle it and don't get rattled. The Lions didn't seem to fare as well as they normally do. This is when big plays get made to turn that around and where team performance counts.

It could have been worse and a loss might have been the learning point. Fortunately, the lessons to be learned are not in the loss of points but in the performance of the team and the coaches. Let's hope for their sake and ours they regroup, learn the lesson and continue this great season.

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Pierce-I learned a lot about perseverance. Things aren’t always going to go your way. I’ve become so much more aware of the realities of the game and life…Things can be taken away from you. You can either sit back…or overcome it and fight through it....

Personally I am of the belief that aside of the BCLion talent, the coaches have been the key component in there success up to now. They let it slip a little this time around, but over all, there focus on discipline has made a huge different throughout the year. Now what we need is for Buck[ Rogers to get out their and do his stuff, give the boys(qb) a rest, and stay away from penalties. No problemo......

I didn't say it in this post but I have said before that this team including coaches, players and off field talent is likely the best in Lion history.

Buono is a good coach and knows what he is doing... he likes to give his QB time to work through their troubles and try to get things going... i'm sure he probably would have made a change after the 3rd if Casey didn't start to turn things around... and at the point where Casey left the game it was still only a 3 point difference... there was no real panic... the Grey Cup last year is a prime example of him letting his QB try to work things out on the field... although i think he probably gave Dave a quarter too long in that game...

and i'm sure Casey was trying to play through it... and probably didn't let on just how much pain he was in... i'm sure Casey wanted to stay in there as long as possible to prove himself... with the offseason injuries and contract talks and everything else that has a lot of people questioning if he really is really as good as he showed last year... i think he wanted to try to prove himself... to try to silence some of the criticism directed at him.

haha... the GM and Head Coach are ALWAYS thinking the same thing.... unless Wally has multiple personalities... but i assume you had meant the Offensive Co-ordinator... i think he and Wally think similarly... you don't usually hire a co-ordinator that doesn't think along the same lines as you... too many problems can arise if you do...

Hi chronicguy: My point is that there are times playing through it are not good enough reasons to leave a guy out there when you know Buck Pierce is healthy and raring to play. He had won in the pre-season in that stadium. Momentum was shifting hugely to the Riders and it might have given Buck no chance to bring the team back. These guys dodged a bullet.

Wally wearing two hats has to do the thinking of two guys. No, didn’t mean the O coordinator at all. I am talking about the GM having a chat with his head coach to find out his thinking on getting Casey killed.

There is no excuse for a coach not seeing what we saw on tv, the guy favouring his arm between series - while at the bench.

That is what I called it - old fashioned football thinking that probably has done more harm to his fine young QB - Casey’s psyche than any hits he got from the Riders.

Why so many good QBs last so short a time in Canada is a combo of reasons including:

  • lack of time to learn and prep for the pro game.
  • bad team situations.
  • being thrown to the dogs and eaten up so bad so often they lose their game or in most cases they just don’t find a way to play at the pro level.

As you say, Wally Buono is a great coach. He needed to see that Casey was not ready to play that game and was in danger of not getting further injury but damaged mentally, which can be the worst problem for a QB at his stage of his career and development.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge Buck Pierce fan and wanted to see him play.
I am also a huge fan of Casey Printers and all that talent and athleticism that he brought to the BC Lions last year and the moments of brilliance this year. My desire to see Buck start at the half last game was based on how tough it was for Casey, not that I just wanted my guy to play regardless of how it impacted Casey or the team. Equally, I have the highest regard for Dave Dickenson who is one of the CFL all time greats and a great role model for Buck Pierce to pattern his play after.

If the point of the Rider game became let’s let Casey work through this while all around us the team is in turmoil - some yelling on the sidelines and uninspiring offensive play by a lot of guys on the field - then Buck Pierce should have been held out of that game or given maybe a series at the end if the game was settled already.

But I thought in the pro game it was about winning your games and improving and developing your team and your players. Ensuring that the environment is right for players to perform in and do their best. This includes coaches.

Coaches don’t play. They make critical decisions that contribute to the success of their team. I guess I am calling out the Lion coaches collectively for not making the decision when it should have been made to get Casey out of there at the half.

What I wrote was more than confirmed to me last night when I heard Sports Talk - Russell show - replay the morning’s tape of Casey saying what his problems were during the game with his throwing arm.

If the pitcher tells the coach his arm is sore between innings, would the coach in pro tell him to go back out for the next inning. That is hypothetical as the coaches in baseball see what is going on and they have two trips to the mound with the guy. The first they discuss the guy’s situation and how he feels. The second trip the player must leave the game. Having coached baseball, I made that decision all the time. Leave a guy too long and he gets banged up - you lose or he says he can’t play the next time he comes up in rotation. It doesn’t hurt feelings in baseball to change pitchers, then why is it such an issue in football if it is clear the guy is hurt and not able to effectively perform? It is called old fashioned coaches thinking.

If there were doubts about Buck Pierce able to handle that huge momentum shift to the Riders the Lions would have been in a fix. But we all know that that is not the case - the team and the coaches believe in this guy so turn him loose and give him a chance to play when he has a chance still to win.

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Pierce-I learned a lot about perseverance. Things aren’t always going to go your way. I’ve become so much more aware of the realities of the game and life…Things can be taken away from you. You can either sit back…or overcome it and fight through it…

Well... as i pointed out... it was just a 3 point game when Casey's day was over... there was no real panic.. neither team had momentum at that point... it took Sask. 3 drives after the QB switch to score their TD... at the switch the longest drive Sask had put together was 45 yards... there was no momentum... in fact... with the exception of their one TD drive where they went the length of the field... they never had momentum... after that TD and before BC scored.... Sask had a 2 and out on their next series... and the one after that they got a first down right away... then had to punt it... 4 plays including the punt... no momentum kept from the TD.......

and in all fairness to Casey... with the exception of the 2 INT's... (1 of those he tried to force a pass when he was under quick and heavy pressure due to a break down on the left side of the o-line)... yes still a dumb move... but with the exception those 2 picks... he had better numbers than Greene did at that point... Greene was about 9 for 21... 43%.. and 74 yards... while Casey was 11 for 17... 65%.. 112 yards...

Also... with neither of us on the sideline we have no idea what was said by who... for all we know Casey was telling Wally that he still feels good enough to keep playing and that he can still turn it around... EVERYONE knew he wasn't 100% well before the game started... there were articles in the paper all week about it... but Printers i'm sure wanted a chance to prove that he can still play... and that he is as good as he showed us last year... and since he hasn't really had many chances to do so... he probably wanted to take full advantage of the chance given to him... there are so many Casey critics out there... and with him being injured and the contract negotiations that seem to get brought up everytime he is mentioned... there had to be a lot of pressure on him... not only from critics and press... but from himself... i'm sure he probably pressured himself to play even though he probably knew he shouldn't... and if Casey was telling Wally that he could still play and that it wasn't hurting that bad... it might have been even more damaging to Casey's already free falling confidence to pull him when only down by 3 and still half a game to go.

in any case... without us being there and hearing any conversations between Wally and Casey... we are just speculating on limited information

Good points Chronic guy although we differ on whethe Saskatchewan had momentum or not. The US announcers, Mark Followill and Tony Hill thought they did and Hill said so when he said that he couldn't "stomach" the thought of Riders losing now (late in the 4th Q with Buck Pierce moving the team quite nicely). Hill took it back AFTER Buck hit the long pass to Geroy and he took it to the one. Either that or Tony Hill all of a sudden became a huge Riders fan.

Essentially, he saw what I saw. An ineffective Lions offense and a resurgence of the Riders who were no doubt inspired by the Lions decision to keep everything as it was before half time. The situation needed someone to step up and do something on offence - a coach, a player, someone. It was left to Buck Pierce which was fine as we know he can play.

There is always a danger that you can rely too much on statistics which don't tell the whole story. I wouldn't discount the sideline issues or question whether it is true as Casey said as he said on radio on Monday.