August 17, 2012
All about winning for Argos coach
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
Rightly or wrongly, whether it’s fair or inherently misguided, the Argos will be judged, among many fans, by how they play here Saturday night against the host Stampeders.
When a team under-performs in a home loss as the Argos did against the B.C. Lions, when changes are initiated and a few feathers get ruffled, the magnifying glass grows thicker.
It’s all baseless in an eight-team league, where only two don’t qualify for the post-season, but the Argos are in a unique position in a unique year, where every move gets dissected.
As he addressed the media on the eve of Saturday night’s kickoff against the Stamps, rookie Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich once again reinforced how the decision to part ways with Cory Boyd had nothing to do with sending any messages, real or imagined, and more to do about football and winning games.
Say what you want about Milanovich, but he is no fool and he doesn’t play games. His only focus is to ensure the Argos improve, or at least are moving in the right direction when the final third of the CFL schedule kicks in, a time that ultimately decides a team’s football fate.
Anyone who knows anything about the game could see the Boyd move coming, as far back as late November when Milanovich was introduced as Toronto’s new head coach. In his passing offence, ball security, pass protection, route-running and timing are key components needed in a running back — moreso when your franchise is poised to play host to a milestone championship.
Because of that, Boyd’s shelf life here was limited and, in a league that is so fan-friendly, his release spoke to the naivete of those Double Blue supporters who expressed outrage. However, at the end of the day, football is a business and every move has to be considered, whether fans like it or not.
In Chad Kackert, the Argos have a capable running back, not the downhill type of a Boyd. However, like Boyd, when he joined the team two years ago, all Kackert has craved is an opportunity. He’ll get that and how long he remains the incumbent will be based on how he plays, which is all one can ask.
As long as the Argos defence continues to play well and as long as special teams don’t commit some game-changing sequence, the Argos will be fine.
But it’s on offence where the Argos must improve, an area that showed signs of what could be achieved when Calgary visited Toronto back in Week 2.
In the last six quarters, though, the Argos offence has not produced a touchdown and quarterback Ricky Ray has shown that he can’t do it alone.
And while the spotlight was on Boyd’s release during the week, the fact remains the Argos did show a higher effort level, one of the hallmarks Milanovich has demanded.
“Our first day (when preparing for B.C.), we got away from our foundation,’’ Milanovich said. “This week, we had a very good week. Our effort level was high and we were intense.”
Ray noticed it and hopes it carries over against Calgary, a team that is no stranger to the veteran pocket passer following years of playing in Edmonton when the Battle of Alberta was as intense as any Argos-Ticats meeting.
“Just getting our energy back as a unit, it’s what we’ve been missing the last few weeks, that energy you need to go out and play fast and physical,’’ said Ray.
“I think, offensively, we need to become more physical. Obviously, it starts with the guys up front, but the receivers and the running back position need to be physical.”
And then there’s the issue of protecting the football, an area Ray did not handle well in last week’s loss to the Lions.
When the Argos gathered as a team on Friday, one of the first topics was Thursday night’s loss by Hamilton in Winnipeg.
“It was brought up,’’ said Milanovich. “All the guys said turnovers. It’s one thing to understand it, quite another thing to do it.”
The Ticats committed six in Winnipeg while the Argos had four last week.
Ball security gets coached on every play in practice, but until it becomes a habit, turnovers will be made.
Winning is also a habit. And at the end of the day, it is the only measuring stick the Argos will be judged on.
NOTHING PERSONAL, ROBERT
Robert McCune has been around the football machine long enough to put aside personal feelings.
It’s too bad the fans don’t embrace the same philosophy, too often getting caught up in following a certain player, growing emotionally attached and then feeling betrayed when a trade or a release is made.
As he spoke to the media on Friday, McCune appeared in the same room he would routinely eat dinner in, and share stories with teammates, during training camp.
Then, along comes the decision to cut McCune and suddenly he is an Argo.
“When we got here and arrived downtown, I smiled,” said McCune in describing his emotions as the Argos arrived in Cowtown late Thursday. “It was good to see the city. It’s nothing personal. I understood.”
And to think McCune was considered a core guy in Calgary, a pillar inside the locker room, which would hardly describe Cory Boyd’s time in Toronto.
“It’s good to be back,’’ added McCune. “This room is where I ate during training camp. I’m okay and I’m just getting to go out there and play the game we play.”
It’s all McCune can do.
“Calgary was a good city, it’s not as big as Toronto, but I enjoyed it.’’
ISAAC READY FOR ROUND 2
In the game within the game, the Brandon Isaac versus Nik Lewis matchup is as big as any Saturday night.
In Week 2, Lewis scored two touchdowns in a three-point Stamps loss, including a major where Calgary’s veteran slotback was matched up in man coverage against Isaac, an ex-Stamp who used to go mano a mano in practice against Lewis.
“Patience,” began Isaac in describing the key to defend Lewis. “You have to understand that Nik is a very intelligent guy. He makes calculating moves.
“You have to understand him, attack him and wear him down. For me, I just have to be physical with him, be smart and play hard.”
Back in Toronto, Lewis got the better of Isaac in a basic one-on-one coverage. tying the game late.
Isaac is certainly looking forward to Saturday night and making plays.
“During my two years here in Calgary, Nik and I went at it in practice every day,’’ said Isaac. “We carried it for two years, a rivalry I enjoy.
“If I see Nik after the game, I’ll give him some love, but when I’m between the lines, I disrespect him.”