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.
Pierce-I learned a lot about perseverance. Things arenâ€™t always going to go your way. Iâ€™ve become so much more aware of the realities of the game and lifeâ€¦Things can be taken away from you. You can either sit backâ€¦or overcome it and fight through it....