In Tiger Town, Scott Mitchell and Bob O’Billovich, president and general manager, respectively, of Hamilton’s perpetually unpredictable team, remain immersed in their off-season duties. The following is the top-five priorities that need addressing.
1. When they showed Marcel Bellefeuille the door, the Ticats were in the market for a head coach following three seasons under Bellefeuille where no winning record was produced in the regular season and just one post-season win was accomplished. What the Ticats need is a new face with a stern voice that demands accountability. The market, needless to say, is not exactly deep, but this is a franchise that simply needs a taskmaster, or at worse a facsimile.
If they look from within, then the Ticats are doomed. It’s why many believe the team is looking outside and any in-house interview is viewed strictly as common courtesy. George Cortez is close with Obie, has the resume, but it’s going to take a lot to woo him away from the NFL’s Bills. Argos’ Mike O’Shea, a relative newbie on the coaching scene, is as tough as they come, open to any suggestions and his sideline run-in with Cory Boyd during the season speaks to O’Shea’s passion.
2. The Ticats can’t start anew if a new quarterback isn’t put into place, whether that name is Henry Burris or any other signal caller. There’s a reason why this team never was able to make that important breakthrough and it starts with the player who lines up under centre. It would shock many if Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter are back in the Hammer, the two guys who have been together for the past three seasons. Dave Dickenson’s name has been linked with the Ticats as a potential head coach, but it’s too bad Dickenson wasn’t in his prime and poised to heave the pigskin with the Ticats. Glenn needs a change of scenery and the Ticats need to establish a clear path that identifies one guy who is expected to lead and take most of the snaps. Porter may be that backup guy, but Porter needs an opportunity to be a starter. He had a chance in Hamilton.
3. Youth was served, but the team’s inexperience got exposed when the stakes were high and the weather cold during the East final in the Peg. If Terry Grant makes it back from his gruesome leg injury, then the Ticats must entertain trade offers for one of Marcus Thigpen, Chris Williams or Bakari Grant. What the Ticats have in that trio is depth, an area of strength the team must explore to bring in some experienced receivers and address needs on the line of scrimmage and in the defensive secondary. Thigpen and Grant went from brilliant to invisible in one week during the post-season. Williams’ final play was that botched trick play on special teams where the cold clearly got to the CFL’s most outstanding rookie.
4. Being able to take on double teams, being able to stop the run and establish your own running game requires stout linemen. Red flags must have been raised in the wake of Hamilton’s 19-3 loss to Winnipeg, a loss that would signal the end for Bellefeuille but also reinforce the need to add linemen on both sides of the ball who can help control the line of scrimmage. Justin Hickman will pursue the NFL and if he finds that right team willing to give him a legitimate shot, then the Ticats will be in need of a sack presence. Stevie Baggs shows flashes, but he never did mix with Corey Chamblin’s defence. Team wouldn’t find a roster spot for Baggs in the semifinal in Montreal, which is all one needs to know about how the Ticats viewed Baggs. It might be the case where the Ticats look at their strength and linebackers and see if any deal presents itself that helps the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball.
5. Much like Hickman, Justin Medlock seems destined to audition for the NFL. Medlock should, but he’s no lock given the politics of four-down football. If Medlock does go south, then a huge hole needs to filled in the kicking game. A lot more will be known as the off-season plays itself out, but Medlock was too good this past season in his first year in the Hammer that he simply must give the NFL another shot. Another area worth watching is the secondary, which had more players line up next to unfamiliar faces than interceptions produced. Heck, even the pass-deficient Argos were able to exploit Hamilton’s defensive backfield in the regular-season finale, albeit a meaningless game for the Ticats, but a game that nonetheless revealed a shortcoming.