When Bart Andrus returns home to Montana at the end of the Argonauts' season, more than a few things will nag at him.
The learning curve for Andrus in his first year as head coach of a Canadian Football League team has, to say the least, been steep and riddled with potholes.
"Looking back, I would probably take a closer look at how some teams were building themselves ratio-wise," Andrus said yesterday. "Our base plan was to make sure we were solid defensively. If you're giving up a lot of points, it's going to be tough.
"And early on in the season, we probably should have made more of a conscious effort to get our running game going."
The Argos slipped to 3-12 with a loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night and with three games left in the season, will miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
There were factors Andrus could not control, and one of the Argos' big bugaboos has been unforced mistakes. Fans could pool their resources and buy the team from Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, never mind David Braley, if they had a nickel for every time a receiver dropped a ball that hit him in the numbers. Partly as a result, the Argos have scored the fewest points in the league and average the fewest yards of offence per game on average.
"We have been the Murphy's law team," Andrus said. "If something could go wrong, it did, at the worst time.
"We can't have (receiver) Chad Lucas ... dropping a routine out for a first down (as happened on Friday). We can't have P.K. Sam drop a first-down conversion. The thing hit him right in the chest. The confidence level of our quarterback is pretty low right now."
It might sound crazy, but the Argos are in a better frame of mind than they were at this time a year ago, when they were playing out the string under Don Matthews. Andrus has had disagreements with veterans, but this team has not quit on its coach.
"Last year there was a lot of turnover and a lot of unrest in the locker room," running back Jeff Johnson said. "Now, the coaches believe in the guys we have and there's more character. Everybody is going to rally and see if we can finish the season on a positive note."
One integral player who might not be around next year to help in a possible resurgence is defensive end Jonathan Brown. The Argos would be wise to re-sign the popular competitor, but the six-year Argo is a free agent and intends to test the market.
"We'll see what they want to do," Brown said. "It's going to be fun to explore, but that is not to say I won't be back."