January 7, 2012
Ticats giddy over new coach Cortez
By Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency
Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ owner Bob Young is so excited about hiring a new coach he couldn’t even wait for the team’s own news conference.
Hey @Ticats, we’ve hired George Cortez as new HC of #Ticats. Check out www.Ticats.ca. So excited had to tell someone!” Young wrote on his Twitter account, using his handle, @CaretakerBob.
Cortez has spent the past two seasons as the quarterback coach with the Buffalo Bills. But that came after he earned his reputation in the CFL for being an offensive guru.
Cortez, 60, will be reunited with quarterback Henry Burris, who the Tiger-Cats acquired last week from Calgary. In 2008, Cortez was the offensive coordinator as Burris led the Stampeders to the Grey Cup championship, winning MVP honours. Burris was also named the West Division most outstandng player, but hadn’t been as effective since Cortez left.
During Cortez three seasons at the helm of Calgary’s offence, the Stamps ranked near the top in virtually every offensive category.
This past season, Cortez helped Ryan Fitzpatrick get off to a productive start, earning the quarterback a long-term deal with the Bills. Buffalo, however, tailed off in the second half, missed the playoffs again and head coach Chan Gailey and his staff are coming under increasing scrutiny, so Cortez might be changing logos at just the right time.
The Ticats also talked with Winnipeg defensive coordinator Tim Burke. Calgary offensive coordinator, Dave Dickenson, opted to stay with the Stamps after talking to the Ticats.
“I am very, very excited to announce that George Cortez has been hired as the new head coach and director of football operations ... George’s track record of success speaks for itself, including more than 30 years of coaching experience in the CFL, NFL and NCAA,” Young said in a statement, after leaking the information via social media. “We’re extremely confident that he will build us a championship-calibre program here in Hamilton.”
Of course, that’s pretty much what they said about Marcel Bellefeuille, too. And, he was fired in November after the team — expecting to challenge Montreal for the Eastern Division title — completed an uneven season with an 8-10 record. When fired, Bellefeuille had a 27-35 record. In three-plus seasons Bellefeuille’s teams never finished better than .500.
All of which means that at some point the fingers stop getting pointed to the coaches, and people start wondering about general manager Bob O’Billovich. Not to suggest that he’s in imminent danger of being, ahem, downsized.
This is pro football. It’s about winning. And Hamilton hasn’t won the Grey Cup since the late Ron Lancaster was the head coach in 1999.
Cortez’s challenge will be to instill consistency into a lineup that could look invincible one game, utterly clueless one week later, upset the Alouettes with an offensive explosion in the East semifinal, then look like they couldn’t find the end zone with a seeing-eye dog in the futility of an East Division championship loss.
Cortez, perhaps, is the man to finally show them the way to a Grey Cup. After all he has won four — in 1992, 1998, 2001 and 2008.
The Ticats will introduce Cortez, along with Burris, at a press conference Tuesday. Unless, of course, the owner can’t (giggle-titter-Twitter) wait that long.