'Idiot' hires new GM

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

FLAMBOROUGH, Ont. -- To listen to Bob Young tell it, the unnatural disaster that is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season is a product of idiocy.

What is refreshing about that assessment is that Young, the billionaire owner of the floundering Ticats, is referring to himself. We're guessing that this is a case of Young, the humble everyman, not taking himself too seriously, rather than him imparting an honest evaluation of his own intellect.

"This is the sad bit," Young said yesterday at a news conference to herald the arrival of the team's new general manager, Marcel Desjardins.

"People think that when I refer to myself as an idiot that I'm putting them on. The reality that Ticats fans are learning, to their dismay, is that I wasn't actually kidding. I am a bit of an idiot.

"It takes me awhile to learn new things. We are, as an organization, getting much smarter and with Marcel, we just made a quantum leap in the area of football smarts."

Three years ago, computer magnate Young salvaged the Tiger-Cats franchise from certain bankruptcy and perhaps extinction, then set about trying to build a business that not only would survive, but thrive.

The first season, 2004, was magic. The fan-centric business plan was wildly successful, helped along by rookie head coach Greg Marshall's team, which went 9-8-1 after a 1-17 season in 2003.

But last year's 5-13 record reminded Young that he, himself, wasn't infallible even if the fans kept showing up in large numbers.

"What we have understood from about this time last year is that this rookie owner has made a whole series of rookie mistakes at the outset," Young said. "The joke I make is that we started off with a rookie head coach, a rookie GM, a rookie president and a rookie owner. That's arguably three too many rookies. And that's the lesson we learned last year."

What he has learned this year is that it can always get worse. Marshall was fired after an 0-4 start.

After 11 games the Ticats are 2-9 but that record flatters them when taken in context of their recent pathetic performances.

For example, Hamilton has lost its past three home games by a cumulative score of 100-10. In that span, they have scored neither a touchdown nor a field goal. Their point total is a result of three safeties and four singles.

BLOODBATH

Life in the Ticats' lair has been a bloodbath ever since Saturday's 51-8 loss to Saskatchewan. Offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao and line coach Kani Kauahi were fired Monday and defensive lineman Adriano Belli was dealt to Montreal.

Ron Lancaster, pulled out of semi-retirement in what will surely be his final coaching assignment, is trying to sort through the mess to help the team regain its equilibrium.

With the annual Labour Day game against Toronto looming, he might start by appealing to his players' pride.

"We haven't scored a touchdown at home in three games and now we're playing a team that doesn't know what it is to give up a touchdown," Lancaster said.

"But I've been in the Saskatchewan-Edmonton series and the Edmonton-Calgary rivalry and now this one and some of the strangest things in the world have always happened on Labour Day."

And Desjardins will be watching and making notes. He has been the assistant GM to Montreal's Jim Popp the past five years of his eight with the Als. The Burlington native said he plans to spend some time evaluating the organization before making wholesale changes.

"I don't think things are as bad as people make them out to be," Desjardins said. "Obviously there are some issues in translation of game-planning to what's happening on the field. I don't think it's that bleak."

But unlike Lancaster, Desjardins has not yet experienced the dissatisfaction of the loyal Ticats followers in person. They were there, 28,000 strong even last Saturday, letting their displeasure show.

"I stood on the sidelines and couldn't blame those people for booing because it was bad," Lancaster said.

Question is, can it get even worse before it gets better?


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