Kicking their chances away?

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

To their own playoff detriment, Pinball Clemons and Doug Berry stubbornly stand by their wobbly kickers.

Loyally and foolishly.

Engaged in a strange bout of playoff roulette -- an East final game of chicken, so to speak -- the head coaches wait to see who will blink first, each of them desperately and privately hoping their Grey Cup fortunes do not come down to a single kick on Sunday afternoon.

Statistically, Troy Westwood is the worst placekicker in the Canadian Football League. In a sport where 80% should be expected, Westwood made good on just over 60% of his field goal attempts. From 40 yards or longer, the percentage drops to a pitiful 16.6%.

How he lasted the season is a tribute to the myopia of Bombers management.

Noel Prefontaine is everybody's favourite Argonaut. He punts, he kicks, he hits people, he makes tackles, and he can be a quarterback in a pinch. Only this year, he suffered a concussion in the opening week of the season and seemingly forgot how to kick. Another concussion since then hasn't helped.

Statistically, Prefontaine isn't a whole lot better than the inaccurate Westwood: On most teams, a 66% kicker (28% from 40 yards and longer) ends up as an unemployed kicker.

But because it's Prefontaine, and punting is what he does best, the Argos hope, shrug and look the other way.

"He's our field goal kicker and we love him," Adam Rita, the general manager, said.

"He's our guy when the game is on the line," Marcello Simmons, the Argos' special teams coach, said.

All that sounds wonderful at a tribute lunch, but ask yourself this: How much is a Toronto appearance in a Toronto Grey Cup worth to the owners of the Argonauts and to the CFL?

Put a price on it. If you're David Cynamon or Howard Sokolowski, do you really want Sunday's game to come down to a Prefontaine field goal?

Would anybody be comfortable with that?

Prefontaine is the first to admit he isn't exactly comfortable. Every day he wakes up hoping today will feel better than yesterday. He says he hasn't felt in the groove "not one day this season.

"It's crazy. I don't always have a clear picture of what I'm doing, of what I'm doing technically wrong. It's an uncomfortable feeling," Prefontaine said.

"I still have dizzy spells. Sometimes on the field in games, in practice, I'll do something I've never done before. It'll be completely foreign to me. I'll think: 'Where did that come from?'"

And it's not just that.

"If you look at how we win football games, we win them with D (defence) and special teams. And part of that is kicking. Let's be honest, we need all the points we can get," the kicker said.

In the meantime, the most accurate field-goal kicker in football history sits at home in Florida waiting for somebody to call. Mike Vanderjagt -- 9-for-9 in CFL playoffs, 86.5% in the NFL -- doesn't really want to return to the CFL after 10 years away but it's not like he has a lot of alternatives if he wants to play.

Vanderjagt had a chance to kick for a CFL team earlier this season but chose to decline.

According to NFL rules, he can play in the CFL and return to the NFL this season but only if he doesn't play in the last game of any team's season. For example, he could kick for the Argos Sunday but not in the Grey Cup game if he wanted to kick in the NFL this year. And the situation is similar with the Bombers. But if he kicked for either team and they lost, he would forfeit whatever chance he had of kicking in the NFL this season.

All of which represents a gamble -- for the Argos, for the Bombers, for Vanderjagt.

It's a gamble if you do. It's a gamble if you do nothing.

"He has struggled this year. There's no way to say it any other way," Prefontaine said of Westwood. "He has struggled. I've struggled. I feel for the guy. I feel for myself."

And if I was the Bombers or the Argos, I would feel for my wallet right about now and find a way to sign Mike Vanderjagt in time for Sunday's game.


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