Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Long Bombs and End Runs

We're heading for some open field here at the Twelve Men on the Field.

Time for a bit of break from blogging as it's vacation time around the homestead, hope to arrange the schedule to actually take in a game, so hey be nice to the stranger in the stands in front or behind you, it could be me!

Hope to be back in the huddle in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Road Worriers

Wally Buono must wonder if his team suffers from a severe case of homesickness, the Lions have yet to win on the road since September of 2005. It makes for a trend that will result in a record that will cause them no shortage of grief, by the end of 2006 if it isn’t remedied soon.

The Lions who roar while under the Dome at BC Place, meow once they land in a different city. It’s a situation that has Buono concerned, but not panic stricken just yet. However it wasn’t without suggestion that changes were going to come and Tuesday those changes began to arrive.

Buono made one key move Tuesday to turn the Lions fortunes around a bit with a roster move that should have some Lions sit up and take notice. Sam Young a CFL all star in his first season was cut by the Lions, replaced by Brandon Payne a standout in NCAA football and a possible answer the Leos defensive woes. Young who was left off the travel roster for Edmonton last week, found himself on the outside today after the Lions decided that his effort had not improved over the last three weeks to warrant any more time to improve.

Payne brings some good reviews from his college days with him winner of the Jim Thorpe trophy for his defensive play, a reputation that should help out the Lions secondary a fair amount, cutting down on the frequent big plays deep that have been costly to the Lions this year.

With the quarter back controversy of last year behind them, many thought the Lions would be the dominant team of the CFL West this year. But they’ve had troubles getting untracked this year, the game two weeks ago against Calgary was more than indicative of the troubles the Lions face.

By half time the Leos were so significantly ahead of the Stamps that Buono and his coaches felt it fine to replace him with back up for the night Jurius Jackson, however Jackson stumbled with his shot at QB, the Stamps battled back and it took the re-insertion of Dickenson into the game to secure a victory. Buono’s dilemma is simple, his defence seems to be incapable of holding the lead and his back ups don’t yet have the talent to come in and salt away the victory.

If he wants to find success on the road he needs to address those two concerns as soon as possible, perhaps Tuesday with the Payne signing he has begun that process.

From rising star to road kill in three short years!

It’s a bit of a raw deal that Greg Marshall received yesterday as the Hamilton Tiger Cats punched his time card for the final time. Marshall who was named coach of the year in his debut season, was replaced by long time CFL icon Ron Lancaster, who will take over for the rest of the season. It's an old saying that you can't fire the team, so fire the coach but somehow in this instance it just doesn't seem too fair!

Marshall the former CIS College coach from McMaster who joined the Cats three years ago, had great success early on in his CFL career and his jump from Canadian college ball to the pros was considered the possible wave of the future. But Monday morning, that wave crashed ashore leaving Marshall high and dry!

Marshall was Coach of the year material in his first season and a suddenly rejuvenated squad that seemed to pull off wins when none were there to be had. But this year has been a completely different story as Hamilton seemed to strive for ways to give away a game. Marshall’s Tiger Cats were woeful at times this year so far, but other times just plain unlucky as potential wins slipped through their grasp at inopportune times.

Bolstered by some key additions in the off season, many felt that Marshall’s team was set to make a run at the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts for first place in the East, instead with a 0-4 start they have watched the Winnipeg Blue Bombers become the talk of the CFL East. While everyone is singing the praises of Doug Berry’s Bombers, an equal amount were proclaiming what’s wrong with Marshall’s Ti Cats!

With last weeks loss to the Alouettes, it seemed only a matter of time before Marshall was let go, prior to that match, Ti Cat owner Bob Young was asked about the tightrope that his head coach suddenly found himself on. Young didn’t offer up much of a safety net for the dangling Marshall before the Alouette game and took it away completely by Monday morning.

It will be interesting to see if Lancaster can calm things down enough in Hamilton to give Jason Maas some time to get the Tiger Cat offence into gear. So far his arrival from Edmonton, hailed in the off season as the missing link has just plain been missing. The early handicapping had Marshall’s potential replacement to be Joe Paopao, but for whatever reason the Ti Cat offense has had nothing but struggles thus far on offense, perhaps the Tiger Cat management felt a bridge was needed for this season, hence the Lancaster appointment.

To say that they have struggled would be charitable. But while the poor offensive display thus far is a cause for concern, it is team discipline that is the most troublesome aspect for the Tiger Cats this year. Far too many drives have ended or balls turned over due to poor decisions on the field by players in yellow and black. Penalties in short have been a killer for this team this year so far. They’ve killed drives, killed scoring chances and on Monday killed off their coach.

Unless Lancaster can solve that problem, it will be more of the same for Hamilton fans. A far different outcome for the season than that which most suggested at the break of training camp!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Williams experiment, slow to fruition!

The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons takes a look at the Argonaut's use of Ricky Williams after four weeks of regular season play. Despite the high profile of the NFL star, the returns on investment so far haven't been too great.

While it no doubt takes time to learn the intricacies of the CFL game, the yardage totals and turnstile turns aren't rolling upwards as first hoped. Check out the story below.

Ricky Williams a good idea gone bad
By Steve Simmons
Sunday, July 9, 2006

What seemed like such a good idea at the time -- the one-year Ricky Williams experiment -- is turning out to be an expensive disaster for the Argonauts.

Wins are down. Attendance is down. Whatever early fascination there was seems lost. And attempting to over-involve Williams in the Argos offence only has bogged down a team that was beaten again yesterday, 24-17, by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of all people.

It isn't necessarily Williams fault, but on a wide field and playing a different game, the Bombers' Charles Roberts looks the part of a Pro Bowl running back while Williams can't even seem to pull off what Canadian Jeff Johnson managed a year ago.

Yesterday, Williams' numbers were dismal. Nine carries for six yards running behind a rather inept offensive line. One run mattered. One play excited people. And that was it. (Johnson had 12 yards on two carries).

If the reason to come out and watch the Argos was Ricky Williams, it now is not much of a reason. Quickly, the Argos' season is going up in smoke, and after four games and just one win, that's just a bad one-liner.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Results Week Four

July 8 CALGARY 53, Saskatchewan 36
July 8 WINNIPEG 24, Toronto 17
July 7 EDMONTON 27, B C 20
July 6 MONTREAL 27 , Hamilton 21

The Talking Head of Eskie town

There's an interesting feature on the CFL network homepage about the Eskimos back up quarterback Jason Johnson, taken from a recent Vicki Hall story in the Edmonton Journal.

Johnson, like a few other CFLers has taken to spending his off field time working the radio waves. His program airs Tuesday nights from 8-9 pm Alberta time, on CHED which you can listen to over the net by clicking here (if you miss the show check their audio vault).

It seems to be a growth industry for CFL players and coaches these radio chat shows they host, Johnson's seems kind of interesting considering his background and tendencies to be a tad verbose. Check it out below.

CFL players use radio shows to give listeners a
different perspective on sports
By Vicki Hall,
Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Quarterback Jason Johnson is paid to stare down defensive linemen intent on plastering his body into the ground without mercy.

Fear? Never crosses his mind on the football field. But the broadcast booth? That's a different story.

Even though he's blessed with the gift of the gab (think Bryan Hall, without the bluster) the man known by his teammates as J.J. admits feeling a tad nervous the first time he sank into the announcer's chair a few weeks back at 630 CHED.

"It's a lot easier to be back in the pocket," he said. "Nah, I'm just kidding you. But sitting behind the microphone is harder than it looks."

The Jason Johnson Show runs every Tuesday from 8 to 9 p.m. The Edmonton Eskimos' backup quarterback is just one of a growing number of CFL players to host their own radio programs across the country.

In the week before every home game, Edmonton linebacker Singor Mobley joins Bob Stauffer for an hour as a co-host of Total Sports on the Team 1260.

Defensive tackle Doug Brown has his own show in Winnipeg while Calgary linemen Randy Chevrier and Sheldon Napastuk run the Chevy and Nasty Show.

Stampeders kicker Sandro DeAngelis and punter Burke Dales team up to host The Foot Patrol, another weekly program in the highly-competitive Calgary radio market. According to DeAngelis, the whole point is to give people a glimpse of athletes beyond the typical cliches like "We've got to give 110 per cent," and "We didn't play a full 60 minutes."

"Yeah, you hear so much of: 'I just want to thank my teammates' and 'I want to thank the Lord,' " DeAngelis said after practice Wednesday. "It's boring to hear the same questions and the same answers all the time.

"I'm not going to lie. We just try to be jackasses and have a lot of fun."

Napastuk and Chevrier kick off their radio program with a segment called "300-pound poetry" where they review the week that was in sports.

"We want to have a little fun ," Chev-rier said. "We want people to know we're not super-professional athletes. We're just normal guys who enjoy what we do."

Mobley can be quite blunt, and he figures professional athletes give listeners a different perspective than regular journalists.

"Not taking away from the guys who normally do it, but I think we bring a little character to the shows," he said. "I'm probably going to get in trouble for saying that. We bring a different insight."

In three short weeks, Johnson's guests have included Oilers winger Fernando Pisani, and Casey Printers, the former B.C. Lions quarterback in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Johnson promises to deliver NFL greats such as Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Bledsoe and Brian Urlacher as the year goes on.

On Tuesday night, he talked to Ricky Ray and Dave Dickenson, the two quarterbacks set to battle Friday when the Edmonton Eskimos take on the B.C. Lions at Commonwealth Stadium. Johnson even asked Dickenson about the soap opera that surrounded the Lions last year with Dickenson and Printers fighting over the same job.

And Johnson promises not to shy away from tough queries from callers -- especially if the Eskimos come up with another stinker like the 46-10 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers."I encourage those kind of questions," he said. "Ask away.

I encourage people to call in and ask what happened."

Johnson did colour commentary a few years back for the CBS Radio broadcast of the Hawaii Bowl. An aspiring Hollywood director, he is charming, articulate and, above all, chatty.

He need not fear competition from Ray in the radio department. The starting Eskimos quarterback is happy to be a guest, but he has no desire to bump Johnson out of the announcer's chair."

That's not anything I'd be interested in," Ray said. "That's not my personality. I don't think I would run a good radio show."

Why not?

"I couldn't see filling an hour of listening to myself talk," he said. "But J.J., he can blab for hours so he's a good fit for it."

We’re going to put it in the want ads!

You have to wonder sometimes about the CFL, how many times it can flirt with professionalism only to dash away at the last moment. The latest little temper tantrum from the group of eight that really runs the league, took place over the last few months, as the group apparently decided that Tom Wright, the latest commissioner, just had to go!

Today he did, well kind of, sort of. Wright announced his own dismissal at what seems to have been a rather quickly arranged press conference, in his version; he stated that it was his decision to not have his contract renewed after this season, though one suspects that he probably had little choice in the matter.

Ever since he first took the job in the ham handed way it was offered, one suspected that his time would not be long at the helm of Canada’s football league. If you remember back then, Wright was kept waiting in an Edmonton hotel room during the festive occasion known as Grey Cup, cooling his heels while his soon to be bosses bickered over whether they really wanted him as the supreme commander of all things football with three downs.

At the time, it was rumoured that he had not found favour with David Braley, nor Robert Wettenhall, two of the more vocal and apparently more powerful owners in the circuit. It seems that over time, the hearts did not grow fonder, it’s generally accepted that over the last three seasons, both owners have continually expressed dissatisfaction with the job of Wright.

With today’s announcement that Wright will serve out the season (as a lame duck no doubt) the active job search is once again for a leader. One wonders who in his right mind would want the thing. A theme explored in full form on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown today.

This is a league that hasn’t had stable guidance at the top since the days of Jake Gaudaur, and that’s back when Johnny Esaw was handling play by play for CTV. Since those golden days of Canadian football, the league has come perilously close to folding a number of times, seen Montreal disappear and return twice and recently seen the once flagship franchise in Ottawa sink once again. In between, there have been more commissioners than you can reasonably remember, Doug Mitchell, Donald Crump (he of the famous bullwhip picture), Larry Smith, , Michael Lysko, and then Wright. There were 11 commissioners in total since the league was formed, but really the head begins to swim after the Gaudaur years!

Wright brought some high profile advertisers into the CFL marketing fold, for which he should be commended, the television ratings have never been stronger for the league and for the most part it’s on much firmer ground than those desperate days of US expansion not so far ago.

But in the end it was on his watch that the Renegades once again disappointed football fans in the nation’s capital by folding just before this season began. Wright seemed to be asleep at the switch as that franchise tumbled into the abyss as the Glieberman road show claimed its second Ottawa franchise in a decade. He should have been on top of the chaos in Ottawa from the end of last year and ensured that Ottawa was in a solid place to return to the field this year. Instead, he let things fester and run out of control, to the point where the team folded and football suffered yet another black eye in the most hard done upon city in the circuit, give them a decent football team and one can see Ottawa returning to the glory days of yore, but right now football is treated with nothing but snickers in the country’s fourth largest metropolitan area, not a good thing for a professional league.

He also did not deliver on the much desired tenth franchise, a situation that seems to find far too much tire kicking and wheel spinning and not near enough concrete action. Most importantly for his own salvation, he could not bring on board the two key votes that never seemed to like his style, with Ottawa gone it seemed only a matter of time before the nays outweighed the yeas.

It will be interesting to watch how he handles his duties as the days dwindle and his term in office expires with the Grey Cup. He’ll turn over the keys to the executive offices as soon as he hands out the Grey Cup, the only question is does he hand them over to someone who is willing and able to do the job required, or just flips them to the governors and tells them to run it as they wish.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Search for a new Commissioner begins!

Tom Wright advised the CFL Board of Governors this afternoon that he will not seek a renewal of his contract after this season. The CFL issued the following news release to spell out the process to come. It was released on the CFL Insider e mail service.

Statement from the Chair of the Board of Governors

Dear Insider,

The League announced today leadership changes in the CFL's Office of the Commissioner. Tom Wright notified the Executive Committee of the CFL's Board of Governors today of his decision not to seek a renewal of his contract following the 2006 season.

The Canadian Football League is a dynamic organization and a rare institution that helps define us as a country. Each year, it also brings together football fans and Canadians from across the country. As Commissioner, Tom Wright has been a positive force in the growth of the CFL and the new vision for the League.

The CFL has a process in place that will enable the organization to identify and recruit a new Commissioner for the 2007 season. We will also work with Commissioner Wright on a recruitment plan and ensure a smooth transition. The CFL brand is stronger than ever. We are confident that we'll find great candidates that will be interested in working with the CFL team to continue to build the brand and game in Canada.

We look forward to accomplishing great things in the remainder of this season and thank you for your continued support.

Gene Dunn,
Chair of the Board of Governors

Some Dramatic plays highlight the CFL’s third week.


Week three brought some more drama to the fields of the CFL, as the Hamilton Tiger Cats watched as once again Henry Burris did the unimaginable and led the Stampeders down the field at McMahon Stadium to steal away what should have been a Hamilton victory. Greg Marshall could only watch and shake his head as the Stamps controlled the ball and the clock masterfully in the last three minutes of play to claim victory once again in a last minute fashion. This years version of the Cardiac kids, seem to thrive on the idea of a last minute victory, which is good for the fans but probably hard on the coaches.

Burris led the Stamps down the field and Sandro DeAngelis booted the winning field goal on the last play of the game, securing the 23-22 win for the stamps and putting the Tiger Cats in a hole early on in this CFL season as they now stand 0-3. The latest loss leaves coach Marshall in a bad situation, as he tries to turn around his team with high expectations and a so far slow delivery schedule.


The BC Lions were on fire and totally dominant in the first half of their week three contest with the Toronto Argonauts, the air attack and the running game combining to take complete charge of the situation.

So confident was Wally Buono about the state of his team that he pulled Dave Dickenson after the first half, turning the game over to Jarius Jackson who took over the offence and struggled to put up the same kind of attack as Dickenson.

The Argos battled back in the second half as Spurgeon Wynn a former Lion, began to untrack his offence and make a game of things. Ricky Williams while certainly not reaching his expectations yet, had a decent second half and began to find more room on the field to run the ball and set up the Argo attack, Williams even managed to score his first CFL Touchdown at BC Place in the losing cause.

In the end though, the Leos brought Dickenson back in to quell the sudden Argonaut fire and that was that, another Lion win at 26-19 and the Argos suddenly a struggling team with 1 win and 2 losses to show on their first three weeks.


The final game of the week was a coming out party for a fairly potent looking Winnipeg Blue Bomber squad. Kevin Glenn had a field day in the air and Charles Roberts ruled the ground as the Bombers took the Eskimos to school at CanadInn stadium with a 46-10 victory.

The Eskimo defence was ripped apart by Glenn as he tossed at will, gobbling up yardage and touchdowns at a rapid clip. For Ricky Ray it was another frustrating game, his Eskimos couldn’t cross the goal line and frequently found their drives stalling out short of the Bomber end zone.

The Bombers went into the season with a much discussed defence, one which many CFL head coaches said would be a squad to be reckoned with. Last week Glenn and the offence made a case for the other side of the ball as well, suddenly a Bomber team that was full of question marks in the pre season is starting to gel quite nicely.

While it’s still far too early in the season to think about the Grey Cup, it’s not totally out of the question that the host city of this years Grey Cup may have a home town squad to cheer for in the final battle of the year for Lord Grey’s Mug!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Final snaps of July

July 17 "Better safe than sorry"
July 16 "I knew exactly what I was doing"
July 13 "It's flying by, I'll tell you that "
July 12 "I'm still just a kid, I don't focus too much"
July 11 "It's probably the best move I've made since I've been here,"
July 10 "He was very confident and calm"
July 8 "His job security is the same as mine - we are all week to week"
July 5 "The time has come for me to pursue other career opportunities"
July 3 "Quite frankly, it shouldn't be too hard for players to dress properly"
July 1 "Greg Marshall (Winnipeg's defensive co-ordinator) is going to have them ready to go and we have to match their intensity"

Opening Kick Offs for July

July 17 Berry still happy with Blue's progress
July 17 Under further review, replay's a hit
July 17 Criminal problems haunting Riders
July 16 Reality Check for the Blue
July 16 A finicky offence
July 16 Riders take advantage of Lions mistakes
July 13 Mac and Flutie among the nominees
July 13 Is Marshall for the Mustangs?
July 13 Off field problems plague Keith
July 12 Ti Cats to have fun again
July 12 The Miracle worker
July 12 Lions lose Simmons for season
July 11 Bring back the Rens
July 11 Bombers back on track
July 11 Stamps wary about Ti Cat game
July 10 The Wright or Wrong move for CFL
July 10 Kyries comes a callin'
July 10 Marshall gone after four games
July 8 Edmonton survives the storm
July 8 Wynn left wincing
July 8 Rambo Rumblings
July 5 Wright tenders resignation
July 5 Maas looking for a breakthrough
July 5 Tiller gets to where he wants to get
July 3 Eskies punt the punter
July 3 Big Blue are back and the fans are too
July 3 Montford is back in Edmonton
July 1 Taman on a hot seat
July 1 Argos leave BC looking for answers
July 1 This years Cardiac kids