Ticats head-hunting for a coach

Argos special teams coach Mike O'Shea, a former CFL linebacker, is a candidate to become head coach...

Argos special teams coach Mike O'Shea, a former CFL linebacker, is a candidate to become head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (QMI Agency)

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

Hamilton Tiger-Cats general manager Bob O’Billovich believes he has a Grey Cup team. All he needs now is a Grey Cup coach.

Oh, and maybe, a new quarterback.

“I think the pieces are there, we just need the right guy at the helm to bring out the best of what we’ve got,” O’Billovich said Thursday, one day after firing head coach Marcel Bellefeuille.

While expressing high regard for Bellefeuille, who took a 3-15 team in 2008 and brought it to within a game this year of going to the Grey Cup, O’Billovich sensed a stagnation.

Instead of Bellefeuile, who can be both laid back and meticulous, the Ticats need someone with a little more bombast, an edge, some of that old “Tiger-Cats Eat ‘Em Raw” attitude. We’re talkin’ Rex Ryan without the reality show or a Leo Cahill clone.

“Marcel had a lot of good qualities as a coach. But we had to find somebody who our players will respond to, I don’t know, a better leader for lack of a better description. Somebody just a bit more demanding,” O’Billovich said.

In other words, he’s looking for Don Matthews — The Sequel. “Whoever our coach is going to be has to have the respect of his players,” said Obie.

Not to suggest Bellefeuille wasn’t respected but while he might not have lost the locker room, he did lose some people in the room. Several veterans were upset when Arland Bruce was traded, and when Maurice Mann lost his job after being injured. The quarterback indecision that saw Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter shuffle in and out proved unpopular, and former CFL sacks leader Stevie Baggs was not always a happy camper.

“It’s hard to pinpoint (what went wrong). Every coach has a different personality. Marcel can’t pattern himself after Vince Lombardi because he’s not like Vince Lombardi. That’s not his style ... I want to talk to guys and find the one who comes across as a good leader,” O’Billovich said.

Bellefeuille has done much of the dirty work, helping restore the foundation of a floundering team. O’Billovich believes he has a “nucleus of good young players who will be around for years” to win. What he believes is necessary is a coach who can close that deal.

That someone will have to come with CFL experience.

The candidates include Toronto special teams co-ordinator Mike O’Shea. Then there’s Calgary assistant and former star quarterback Dave Dickenson. Both would have instant credibility in the dressing room and O’Shea has that hard-nosed edge which O’Billovich is seeking. The downside is neither has the head coaching experience O’Billovich prefers.

Columnist Steve Milton, in the Hamilton Spectator, speculates Kent Austin, currently feeling very cosy at Cornell, or recently fired Kansas coach Turner Gill, should be on anyone’s list.

”(Experience) is the major criteria,” said O’Billovich. “Our game is so unique with the ratios and three downs. It’s hard for guys to come in here and do a good job. Even as well as Marc Trestman has done in Montreal, when he came up here he’d been a guest coach with the Alouettes for a number of years. So, he had a good feel for what the game was all about. To get a guy out of the U.S. who hasn’t had CFL experience would be a step backwards.”

And this club knows all about steps backward. This is a team that won a playoff game for the first time in a decade and got to the East Final. It also regressed to an 8-10 record after two 9-9 seasons.

“My biggest concern with Marcel as a head coach was that we were spinning our wheels. We weren’t moving forward ... those were all good accomplishments but we’re after the big prize and we need a new face at the helm to get us over the hump.”

That could also include a new face at quarterback. Porter wasn’t good enough to unseat Glenn. And, Glenn wasn’t good enough to prevent Bellefeuille from benching him, creating more ill feelings. It’s evident O’Billovich is looking to upgrade and there is persistent speculation regarding the arrival of Henry Burris.

“That’s the key position with any pro team ... the major cog in winning. We have to be more consistent at that position. I know (Bellefeuille) was trying to get the most out of what we had this year in Kevin and in Quinton.”

Their “most” never seemed quite good enough. Just as Bellefeuille’s best didn’t prove good enough.

“That’s the bottom line in this business. Nothing good happens when you don’t win,” O’Billovich said. “How you do it doesn’t matter, it always comes down to did you win or lose.”

THE SEARCH BEGINS

There are plenty of potential candidates for Hamilton’s head coaching job but one of the most interesting would be Mike O’Shea, currently special teams co-ordinator in Toronto. He is reviled by Ticats fans for deciding to sign with arch-rival Toronto rather than return to Hamilton in 1996 after a failed National Football League tryout. A return to Hamilton to try and lead them to a Grey Cup would be a delicious irony. Below is a list of potential early-line candidates to take over Marcel Bellefeuille’s job.

1. Mike O’Shea, special teams co-ordinator, Toronto Argonauts

2. Mike Benevides, defensive co-ordinator, B.C. Lions

3. Richie Hall, defensive co-ordinator, Saskatchewan

4. Corey Chamblin, defensive co-ordinator, Hamilton Ticats

5. Dave Dickinson, offensive co-ordinator, Calgary Stampeders

6. Kent Austin, Head coach, Cornell, NCAA

7. Turner Gill, Former head coach, Kansas, NCAA

8. Greg Marshall, Former defensive co-ordinator, Hamilton

 


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