'Gades falling behind eight-ball

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

Not so long ago, an eight-win season figured to be easily within the Renegades grasp.

And eight was considered enough. Eight would be a franchise best. Eight meant the club would be obliged to pick up the option year in coach Joe Paopao's contract. And eight -- in this, the season the Ticats were de-clawed -- would give the Renegades their first-ever playoff berth.

But now they have lost four straight, including a nightmare which saw them surrender a whopping 61 points on home turf and the follow-up chance to show their fans they have some pride. And now, because of their poor play and inability to come up with answers, the Renegades appear in serious danger of missing that mark of eight.

At 5-7, it would mean they only need to play .500 in their remaining six games, and two are against horrible Hamilton. But for the last month, Ottawa has been the worst team in the CFL. And suddenly it's conceivable it could finish 5-13 for the second year in a row.

"Not even close," objected veteran centre George Hudson when asked yesterday if '05 was starting to resemble '04.

And why not?

"A, we're competitive. B, we've got the people, we've just got to get the (crap) done on the field. Last year we had a rag-tag group ... we were just trying to make a lineup from what was left over after all the injuries. Now everyone's here, we've just got to get it done."

The Renegades' next opportunity is Thursday in Calgary, where because of an injury to Henry Burris, the Stamps are being directed by rookie QB Jason Guesser, who was formerly on the Renegades' neg list.

The Stamps and Saskatchewan have become the two teams Ottawa must worry about most.

Both improved to 6-6 on the weekend and, while Calgary holds down third place in the West on the tiebreaker, if the season ended today the Roughriders would also get into the playoffs at Ottawa's expense on the crossover format. (The fourth-place team in one division gets in if it has more points than the third-place team in the other division).

While players profess their love of Paopao, they say reaching the eight-win plateau so his option is picked up is not their focus. Many are even unaware of the clause in his contract.

"We just want to go out and win .... we're not thinking about coach's contracts," said Hudson, who doesn't appreciate the "8 Factor" negotiated by former president Brad Watters is public knowledge. "It's nice if we get the eight wins that Coach P. needs, but right now we just want to get in the damn playoffs."

Hudson believes it's a sentiment shared throughout the organization, contrary to ridiculous rumblings that the Gliebermans want Paopao to fail so they can replace him.

"I don't know what they're thinking over there, but why would any ownership want their team to lose?" said Hudson. "They don't have to hope for us to win or lose. They can fire him whenever the hell they feel like it."

Linebacker Kyries Hebert points out it's not just the coaches who are on the hotseat.

"We want to have our contracts renewed too," he said. "Each individual should have an incentive to make sure you secure their job.

"We just have to focus on winning every game that we play. Eight wins is not our goal. Our goal is to win 11. It's not too late for that."

Say that for the Renegades -- through their swoon, their confidence has not waned.

FAMILY AFFAIR

"Sometimes the ball just doesn't roll your way. If you keep on going, eventually it will," said defensive tackle Jerome Haywood. "I love Coach P, just like everyone else does. Coach (Greg) Marshall and coach (Richard) Harris ... these are great guys. We want to win for ourselves and for them. We're a family. We're all we got."

EXTRA POINTS: Slotback Yo Murphy missed the last half of practice yesterday after feeling a twinge in his quad. His status will be evaluated today ... Asked if he would consider replacing Kerry Joseph this week, Paopao replied: "It's not the quarterback's fault. He's one of our better players. He's played well all year. He's the last guy we're going to change."


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