Ticats frustrated to the end

Blue Bomber Clint Kent  and  Hamilton Tiger-Cats #80 Chris Williams during CFL playoff action in...

Blue Bomber Clint Kent and Hamilton Tiger-Cats #80 Chris Williams during CFL playoff action in Winnipeg at Canad Inns Stadium. Nov. 20, 2011. (QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

HAMILTON - There has always been something refreshing in the way Avon Cobourne expresses himself, never mincing any word and never afraid to wade into any topic.

When he indulges in social media, Cobourne stirs the pot, providing fodder that can be interrupted in so many different ways that it leaves one, at times, scratching their heads in disbelief.

But at the end of the day, Cobourne is a winner, a guy who knows what it takes to get to the Grey Cup, a guy who has been in a winning culture and understands the sacrifices necessary to win.

It’s why his words on Tuesday, a day when the Ticats officially cleaned out their lockers, will resonate well into this off-season, a time when so many changes are possible it would be foolish for anyone to think they know which direction the franchise will take.

“A lot of changes need to be made,’’ Cobourne began when it was his turn to meet the media and reflect on a regular season that was as rocky as the team’s post-season.

“We need our players to focus more; we need our coaches to focus more; we need to grow up more than we are right now.”

And there you have it, the gridiron gospel according to Cobourne, who isn’t used to answering why a season did not end with a Grey Cup ring, or at least an appearance in the CFL championship.

Before he huddled with reporters in the Hammer, Cobourne received a call from Montreal, where someone asked how the running back was coping.

“He asked how I felt and I just feel the Grey Cup is not going to happen if I’m not in it, to be honest.

“But the show goes on. It’s hard to deal with it.”

Imagine being in the shoes of Ticats president Scott Mitchell and general managr Bob O’Billovich, the two men who will ultimately decide what changes get initiated in Hamilton.

It’s inevitable that changes will be made, the unknowns being how many and how deep.

First and foremost, the Ticats must not believe that they are as close to winning a Grey Cup as many believe they are, especially in the wake of a playoff win two weeks ago that was seen as a long-awaited breakthrough.

If the goal truly is to win a title, then what must motivate the Ticats is the embarrassment that unfolded in Winnipeg this Sunday in the East final.

What must gall the organization is the three points Hamilton’s offence produced and the utter ineptness in stopping the run, even when everyone knew the Bombers would be running the football.

What must irk upper management is the way Hamilton was so ill-prepared to deal with the elements in the Peg and how utterly deficient the game planning was on both sides of the ball.

As Justin Hickman so succinctly said when it was his turn to address the media: “Last week doesn’t shelter or hide how we played all year. It was tough to watch.”

When he looks back at Sunday’s 19-3 loss, Hickman pulled a Cobourne by refusing to pull any punches.

“We were real inconsistent as a team for the whole season. And that’s how we ended it. To me, it wasn’t a shocker how we played on Sunday because that was the way we played all year,’’ said Hickman.

Like Cobourne, Hickman couldn’t single out any reason or area to explain the roller coaster that would turn out to be the 2011 season.

“The inconsistency isn’t on just one person,’’ added Hickman. “It was everywhere.”

And for that reason it’s hard to properly address what is required in Tiger Town to move the team into the ranks of serious Grey Cup contenders.

It’s why Dave Stala, or any other veteran for that matter, can’t provide any answers, only express disappointment and dissatisfaction at what unfolded.

“We just didn’t come out on the weekend,’’ the Hamilton native said. “It’s how our season went. We were up and played great in Montreal, then down.

“Look at our record, that’s how it was. I’m not satisfied. Being 9-9, 9-9 and 8-10, that’s mediocre. We got to be consistent. We’re too much up and down.

“We’ve go to find a perfect level and I don’t know what it is. We got to make some adjustments. I’m not here to win one or two playoff games. I want to be in the Grey Cup. I want to win a Grey Cup.

“We’re not good enough yet.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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