5/27/2007 7:41:51 PM
31-21. 33-26. A couple of West Semifinal scores that define the last two seasons for Calgary.
When you look at personnel, you can make an argument that this year's team has the best in the CFL. But just as last year, it is not the team with the best players that wins. It is the team that plays its best football together on that specific day.
I can't help but think this is a dilemma for head coach Tom Higgins. How do you address being very good but very disappointing. Do you confront the aspect of protecting the football in the playoffs when that will roll around in mid-November? Or do you take the attitude that it's a new season and what happened in the past has nothing to do with the present?
With the addition of Marc Boerigter and Ryan Thelwell, the quality depth at receiver is amazing. With the addition of Oregon State's Ken Simonton and Kansas State's Jon Cornish, the quality depth at running back again is amazing.
And how about George Cortez as offensive coordinator and his influence on Henry Burris? The talent to lead the league in scoring is right there ready to perform.
On the opposite side of the ball, the defensive front seven is proven but the amount of passing yards given up is the concern. Calgary is similar to Winnipeg in that if they can limit big plays, they should win the division.
The only other aspect the Stampeders must improve upon is the return game. Sandro Deangelis at kicker and Burke dales at punter present no problems on special teams but the returners are not at the same level of efficiency.
Every team has a returner that is as well known as the receivers and running backs. Not so much with Calgary. One player to keep an eye on in the return game is Markus Howell. In the Stampeders' loss in the West Semifinal, he made a big impact.
When you consider the depth at receiver, Howell is a possible full-time returner, part-time receiver. This part of CFL football is game-changing, especially when you consider the rule changes limiting a team's design to kick the ball out of bounds.
Finally, it's tough to talk about Stampeders football without some opinion on Henry Burris. A consistently slow starter, Burris has an excellent support structure in running back Joffrey Reynolds and receivers Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland. It is his time to take his team to the Grey Cup, just like Dickenson did in 2006, Ray did in 2005 and Allen did in 2004.
Pure football talent is very important but of equal or maybe superior importance is rising to the challenge of the moment. In football, that's the playoffs.
If the regular season is a grind, then the playoffs are an experience. Calgary has to look at those previous experiences as a learning opportunity to make that move to Toronto on November 25th.