Year of wonder in dysfunctional CFL

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The 2005 CFL season should have started with such promise. After all, both the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had already been saved by new owners.

In fact, the 'Cats had turned their 2004 season around after recording but one win in 2003, earning rookie Greg Marshall coach-of-the-year honours. And the Argos won the Grey Cup. The B.C. Lions had gotten to the Cup final while new hope abounded in Calgary, with new owners and a new coaching staff; in Edmonton which had a new head coach of its own; and in Saskatchewan. There was even talk about expansion to somewhere in the Atlantic Provinces, most likely Halifax.

Instead, there were worries over Ottawa even before the Gliebermans returned and the Renegades remain an ongoing concern. CFL commissioner Tom (Do-) Wright demanded a new multi-year contract and the CFL board of governors declined to give him one, opting for an insulting one-year pact. Then there was the whole mess in Regina over Trevis Smith, who was charged with sexual assault and diagnosed with HIV. And don't forget that Edmonton-Hamilton fiasco involving Jason Maas that made the CFL look like a bush league.

The CFL still does not have a workable salary cap and Wright is working as a lame-duck commissioner. Two head coaches were fired after the season -- Winnipeg's Jim Daley and Ottawa's Joe Paopao -- while Saskatchewan's Danny Barrett somehow escaped a similar fate. Paopao was replaced by John Jenkins, who failed to last a full season as Calgary's offensive co-ordinator the year before while Montreal offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry replaced Daley.

DISASTER

Both Edmonton and Calgary enjoyed successful seasons, with the Eskimos beating Montreal in OT in the Grey Cup. The 2005 season was a disaster for Hamilton, Ottawa and Winnipeg and a frustration for the Roughriders. Both the Lions and Argos failed to return to the CFL championship in Vancouver.

The Leos were plagued with a QB controversy between Dave Dickenson and Casey (the Pouter) Printers all season while the Ticats failed to find one to replace the aging Danny McManus. Meanwhile, Toronto's aged QB Damon Allen had such a great season that he finally won his first most outstanding player award -- ever!

Both Calgary QB Henry Burris and Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo also enjoyed great years. Edmonton's Ricky Ray was solid until the playoffs when Maas got the Eskies into the Grey Cup.

Ottawa defensive back Korey Banks, Montreal tailback Robert Edwards, Winnipeg defensive end Gavin Walls, Calgary tailback Joffrey Reynolds and Edmonton kick returner Tony Tompkins were among those who established themselves as players to watch in the future.

And the governors continue to be among those who should be kicked for their mistakes.


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