Complacency the key

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

There's no shortage of theories as to why the Calgary Stampeders are mired in a nasty three-game losing skid.

Perhaps the most logical one is that a sense of complacency may have crept into the club's locker-room.

Many of the Stampeders are on long-term contracts and not 'playing' for their jobs.

No one could blame the organization for doing what it did when the new ownership group took over in January 2005.

Because they were short on talent, the Stamps had to bring in pricey CFL free agents and mine the U.S. for players, many of whom were signed to lengthy deals.

By all accounts, the football operations side led by president Ted Hellard, head coach Tom Higgins and GM Jim Barker has assembled an outstanding collection of talent.

It makes Saturday's 19-9 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the third defeat in a row, troubling to explain. The Stamps have as much skill as any team in the league and experienced coaches with strong game plans.

One could argue football contracts are not guaranteed, meaning jobs are always on the line, but until the axe swings on somebody important, does it create a sense of urgency?

Certainly we're not suggesting cutting Nik Lewis or John Grace on a whim but if complacency sets in, how are things supposed to change?

The precedent has been set already this season by a pair of coaches looking to shake things up on their underachieving clubs.

In B.C., former Stamps coach Wally Buono benched his No. 1 running back Antonio Warren, upset at not getting an extension -- then cut him outright for newcomer Joe Smith.

In Hamilton, veteran receiver Craig Yeast didn't make it home as a member of the Tiger-Cats after Friday's loss to the Blue Bombers. Head coach Ron Lancaster had Yeast clean out his locker mere minutes after the game.

All those moves were meant to motivate the players that remain and the Lions have responded with back-to-back wins.

Higgins doesn't see anything as drastic happening with the Stamps.

"That's one of the most interesting things about coaching is the human performance aspect. It's psychological, it's innate, it's individual," Higgins said.

"(Shaking things up) is easier said than done. If there's somebody within our makeup that could help us get better, we would have to consider it.

"I don't see anything coming out of this as earth shattering. Other than a full 60 minutes, not taking unnecessary penalties and making plays on a more consistent basis, then we'll be talking about how this is the team we thought we could be in 2006."

Higgins doesn't completely agree with the theory complacency is brought on by long-term contracts, but doesn't dismiss it out of hand.

"It's as individual as the persons themselves," Higgins said yesterday. "Everybody is motivated by different things. It's a good group.

"You build a team with good people who are good players and that's the biggest disappointment (in losing).

"I don't think there's any complacency.

"I truly believe they've been ready to perform and always have been prepared. Where you fall short is when it doesn't happen for some reason, particularly with the guys you truly count on."

Although the 3-4 Stamps are searching for answers to their many problems, Higgins argues handing out extensions to every player they liked isn't a factor.

"I don't believe it's ever a mistake," Higgins said. "That is something everybody else would like to do.

"It brings long-term stability. Right now, we're not having the short-term success. Now there's a certain amount of pressure placed on the football team to be able to compete against the 'Riders here at home.

"That to me is going to be a telltale sign of exactly where we are and how things will play out. It becomes critical. Without putting any more pressure on anyone else, they know it."

The Stamps take a three-game losing streak into Saturday's rematch with the Roughriders, which will decide the season series between the clubs and possibly playoff positioning down the road.

Higgins said he can't put his finger on exactly what is wrong with his club right now but with a rematch against the 'Riders, he doesn't have much time to figure it out.

"This is a very important game for us," said Higgins, who is looking for different things to spark his club.

"The 13th man did a great job for them in Saskatchewan, so hopefully we can elicit a 13th man for us at home.

"We're looking for answers when the answers are almost clear -- not quite, but almost.

"We have to look under every rock and find out exactly what we could possibly do to not beat ourselves first and give ourselves a chance to win."


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