No lifejacket for Boatmen

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Ball of Confusion. It should be the Argonauts' new theme song.

Yesterday it was bodies in; bodies out.

Former CFL all-star linebacker Tim Strickland is gone -- an Argo for a week. Never passed the team physical. Never played a game. At least he never messed anything up -- which puts him one up on much of the rest of the roster.

The Matt Hewitt era is over. Most people didn't even know it had begun. The linebacker is gone before anyone got to know him.

So, good luck David Lofton. The defensive back from Stanford checked in yesterday with high hopes and a resume that includes a five-game stop in Hamilton last season.

Oh, and get ready for Quarterback Controversy: The Sequel. Cody Pickett's streak as the starter might not hit two games. Just another day in Argoland where the only thing cast in cement seems to be an offence that has scored just 13 points in its past two games. Not that it's Pickett's fault the receiver masquerading as Bethel Johnson wouldn't recognize a football if it hit him in the hands, nor is it his fault guys fumbled and twitchy linemen turned third-and-go into punting situations.

One sleepless night and two days after getting whacked 34-4 by Calgary, Don Matthews says he's not sure who gets the call for Saturday's rematch in Toronto, Pickett, or the veteran Kerry Joseph. Figures. The only thing consistent about the Argos this year has been their inconsistency.

It already is making Matthews, who only has had the job for two weeks, a little crazy.

"When you lose a football game ... it's a traumatic thing. And, I'm an old man. We took the red-eye home and got back at 6:30 in the morning. I tried to lay down and take a nap. Couldn't sleep. I didn't go to bed until about 11 that night and that's because you're running on adrenaline, you're trying to figure out ways to make things better. Every coach is the same. The good part is I do believe we've made strides. The frustrating part is the score that you read in the paper."

Yesterday morning he watched film of the Calgary game and emerged to tell reporters that he believes this team has "the talent to be successful".

But, then, he gets paid to say stuff like that. So far, the evidence suggests otherwise.

He points out the defence has improved against the run. He notes that eight times it held the Stampeders to two plays and a punt.

Offensively? "Believe it or not, we were better against Calgary then we were the week before against Winnipeg (a 39-9 loss). The protection we had last week was outstanding. The week before was like a jail break. We've corrected some things."

But when the CEO of the team, Mike (Pinball) Clemons, goes on radio and announces that this is a team in transition and when half the defensive players are so new they wouldn't recognize each other outside a football uniform, four more wins before the end of the season (which is what likely is needed to make the playoffs) seems out of reach.

"When I was brought here it wasn't a sweet sailing ship. There were some issues. It can't all be done at once," admitted Matthews. In any case, it's difficult to blame him for having second thoughts about starting Pickett again.

"It's frustrating but he's the coach," Joseph said, choosing his words carefully. Chances are he gets the ball Saturday because Pickett looked almost as much out of place behind centre as Joseph did standing on the sidelines.

"I just come in and get the game plan ... I'm not a selfish person and really all I want to do is help this team win," said Joseph, who, coming from a deeply religious background, has put his fate in "the hands of the Lord."

Which is fine. Unless the Almighty is wearing Double Blue, in which case, precedent being what it is, he'll probably drop the ball.


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