TORONTO - Some random observations and other thoughts after the stunning debacle at the Rogers Centre on Friday night, when the Argonauts embarrassed themselves in their biggest game of the season, falling 30-3 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and in the process failing to clinch a playoff spot in the East Division.
The Argosí locker room was not a happy place to be in the minutes immediately after the loss, weíre told, with a few more F-bombs than usual.
Which, to be honest, is the way it should have been after such a demoralizing loss.
If itís true that head coach Jim Barker apologized to the team for taking quarterback Cleo Lemon out of the game, even for only a couple of series, itís difficult to imagine why.
Hereís the dilemma for Barker, if he really does stick with Lemon.
The 31-year-old hasnít been inching forward, and in fact, has taken a few steps back in the past several weeks (see chart).
Perhaps Barker thinks it might be too late to make a quarterback change.
If Lemon is the leader that Barker thinks he is, how is that leadership defined with three games left in the regular season?
Barkerís stubbornness in keeping Lemon in the game has to be wearing thin among some of the players. Dalton Bell was asked to run a pretty conservative offence in his only start a couple of weeks ago versus Saskatchewan. And if Bell isnít upset about being tossed in for just a few plays so Lemon could take a breather, he should be. Where Barker has shown more than enough confidence in Lemon, he has not shown enough in Bell. A playoff spot seems fairly certain. So why not let Bell, even after throwing an interception to Markeith Knowlton, stay in the game? Lemon had not done anything to that point, and didnít after, to merit chance after chance. Still, there are some who think Lemon is a better quarterback than he has shown, and itís play-calling that is holding him back.
The Tiger-Cats are doing exactly what the Argos can only wish for ó growing toward a culmination as the playoffs approach. Not only are the Ticats winners of seven of their past 10 games, quarterback Kevin Glenn and his receivers have settled into a nice groove. The Tiger-Cats have scored 25 points in each of their past five games, while the Argos have not scored more than 24 since beating Montreal 37-22 on Aug. 14, a span of eight games. And while Arland Bruce III, and to a lesser extent, Marquay McDaniel, get most of the attention, not enough is said about the talent of Dave Stala, who almost always makes a catch when itís required. Bruce has topped 1,000 yards, while Stala (920) and McDaniel (886) are getting close. If Stala and McDaniel reach the milestone, it would mark the first time that three Ticats got 1,000 yards receiving in one season.
BAGGS vs. FOLEY
The Argos signed Ricky Foley last month with the idea that he would bring healthy doses of energy off the end and make life hell for opposing quarterbacks. Foley has done that in the past in the CFL but itís not happening right now, and Foleyís own words when he joined the Argos was that he usually gets his motor to top speed in the second half. Stevie Baggs, on the other hand, has been a force for the Tiger-Cats since he signed with Hamilton a couple of days after Foley became an Argo. He demonstrated that against the Boatmen, coming up with two sacks and a large effort on special teams.
The Argos wonít attempt any trickery on special teams unless they see something in the opposition that lets them think they can be successful. The Ticats, specifically special-teams co-ordinator Dave Easley, have to be given credit for taking the option away from the Argos. Toronto didnít try anything out of the ordinary, and once that was taken out of the game, the Argosí chances of scoring fell drastically.
Forget about Lemon, the stagnant offence, the poor play by special teams, another good effort by the defence wasted and the idea that the Argos soil the bed in games after big wins. The Argos have lost nearly as badly following other losses. The bottom line is that Barker has to try to learn why his players had nothing in a game that had so much on the line. For Barker, it might be like trying to grab at thin air.