Stamps coach feels heat

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders might not being sinking (yet) but the team is certainly caught in rough seas, taking on water faster than its captain can bail.

For now, the skipper admits the storm surrounding his football team is taking a toll on the man paid to produce a Grey Cup this season.

"It doesn't matter how I feel. Sometimes you have to fake it and get yourself upbeat and get the team focused and moving forward," head coach Tom Higgins said after yesterday's practice.

"That's all you can do.

"The added challenge now is we have people who are starting to doubt themselves and that's a tough thing to overcome.

"Being the captain of the ship, which is the responsibility you take on when you're the head coach, you are still the morale co-ordinator, the disciplinarian, still responsible for all facets of the football team."

The Stampeders are listing after three consecutive losses heading into Saturday's rematch with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

After 24 years in the CFL and a highly publicized firing two seasons ago in Edmonton, Higgins is well aware his job could again be in jeopardy. Adding to the bench boss' mind-numbing conundrum is his current roster is essentially the same as the one that won seven of its last eight games in 2005 before losing the West semifinal.

A dynasty in the making, some thought, including some players.

Now what?

"That's why there are no obvious answers," Higgins said. "The guys we lined up with and counted on aren't playing the same way they did at the end of last football season. That's the biggest dilemma, the biggest challenge."

Complacency is a theory making the rounds but Higgins dismisses the notion.

"I thought we got over that (two weeks ago) when we played B.C. and got thrashed (43-20)," Higgins said. "I can guarantee you now there is no complacency on this team."

Adding to the confusion, each week a different player or unit authors the team's mishaps. Finding a clear-cut culprit isn't easy.

"It's not like we're not close," Higgins said. "If we were being completely blown out and destroyed and manhandled, then it would be a little bit easier to say, 'The secondary is not good enough or the defensive line is not good enough or the offensive line is not good enough.' That causes a lot of soul searching, a lot of sleepless nights."

If the Stampeders can't soon recapture the magic of last year's late-season run, there might be only one fall guy.

"You start to question what you do as a coach, even our coaches on offence and defence.

"The best thing you can do is stay the course and be patient. Now that only goes so far because it's starting to wear very thin.

"Eventually, somebody is going to say, 'Are you kidding me? It's not working, Tom. When are you going to realize that?'

"We're starting to get to that point where we now have to produce, no ifs, ands or buts."

That's what makes the 'Riders rematch so crucial. "This will be a telltale sign of where we are headed," Higgins said.

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THE RESULTS ARE IN AND SUN READERS SAY:

START DANNY MAC!

Yesterday we asked readers who the Stamps should start at QB Saturday vs. the 'Riders. You said ...

DANNY McMANUS: 59%

HENRY BURRIS: 41%


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