How Hamilton manages to lose on a bye week and other thoughts

August 29, 2017 - 8:35am

You have to admire how Hamilton can manage to lose on a bye week.

Usually it is Saskatchewan under Chris Jones who manages some Homer Simpson like D’Oh moment like Vince Young, or Trent Richardson or let’s say, Greg Hardy. So while the Riders may now be moving past their need to try out every failed NFL high draft pick, it seems Hamilton is choosing to boldly demonstrate what happens when you hire guys about 20 years past their best before date and put them back on the sidelines.

Hamilton started their bye week by having Kent Austin walk away from the sidelines and letting June Jones take over as coach. A reasonable move showing a degree of self awareness that Austin was no longer communicating effectively with his players and there needed to be a fresh approach to the team.

Jones was an interesting choice considering he was on the sports administration side of things now with his coaching days seemingly behind him, The problem is at this time of year, you don’t have many options if you hire a new coach who is not on your staff in an effort to stem a losing season.

So after giving Jones the keys to the coaches office, things got interesting with announcement that Art Briles was going to join the Hamilton staff and then wasn’t.

I have several football sites I like to refer to, ranging from U Sport to CFL to NCAA to NFL and Googling Art Briles is relatively easy and you had to wonder how Hamilton’s brilliantly written initial release on Briles imagined they could skate past his Baylor experience. That experience includes being complicit in covering up or ignoring multiple incidents of rape, assault and other stupidity all for the sake of a winning NCAA program.

 But I kind of think it might have gone something like Kent Austin steps down as coach and decides for the sake of appearances to let June Jones fill out his staff and Jones calls his old buddy Art and offers him a job and Kent doesn’t want to seem like he is interfering in a new direction by the team since he has already lost the team. The carrot may have been Briles connection with RG III who is on the Ti-Cats neg list and that might send up a flag that Zach Collaros may not be in Hamilton next season and I might suspect Hamilton might be interested in talking with Edmonton about James Franklin and his availability and perhaps even his willingness to agree to a contract on being traded to Hamilton if RG III fails to come north.

But the timing of the move, coming on the CFL’s successful Diversity campaign, and considering Hamilton was hosting a woman’s football clinic on Monday, really hit all the tone deaf markers. From a football perspective, Briles ran a gimmick offense at Baylor, which kind of fits June Jones when you think of it, and was not a value added choice for the Hamilton staff. It is a lousy time to try to fill out a football staff, what with the NFL getting underway along with NCAA so the only people available are those out of work. But Hamilton could have done so much better,  and while the CFL will always be full of people looking for second chances, this indicates that perhaps the problem in Hamilton extends more than just the sidelines and extends into the front offices.

Meanwhile in Riderville, there is a sense following Friday’s game against Edmonton of asking the question – Did we really see that? Is this the Rider team we have heard would emerge at some point?

Mind you it came at the expense of an Edmonton team racked with injuries and whose replacements of replacements were eventually proven to be not quite ready for prime time. So if Winnipeg, who make more field goals than touchdowns could beat a battered Eskimo team, then the Riders could certainly match the effort and probably do even better considering they did it on Edmonton’s home turf.

The Riders roster likely see the introduction of Chad Owens as Christion Jones, who has been doing very well in returns, got injured. The Rider backfield may see some shuffling with Kaci Rodgers being out with a shoulder injury. But the week is young so it will be interesting to see how things develop on the defensive side.

The addition of Owens will be interesting on the return game, although perhaps Greg Morris could be back to return kicks despite a few bobbles now and then. However it may be time to see if Owens can do more than perhaps stand on the sidelines.

So while the Riders get back to 500 with a pair of wins over western division opponents, they have another challenge this week against Winnipeg. Winnipeg has been winning close games using a good defense, nice special teams play and that’s about it. The thing with winning close games is once you do it enough times, you begin to expect you will win those games and that confidence is a tought thing for other teams to overcome.

So it should be a good match-up, with two teams full of confidence and a stadium lookng to avenge the opening day loss to the Bombers that got away from the Riders. Compared to the last two years, this year’s Labour Day game should be a fun match-up and won’t answer all the questions for each team, but will create an interesting conversation.

And as they said on Stampede Wrestling.. in the meantime and in between time….we have some football this weekend!

Ottawa takes a two game winning streak into Montreal who made it close like I thought against the Godless Winnipeg Blue Bombers, ruled by the Ice King  and his horde of shuffling zombies, but failed to complete the deal when Darian Durant showed why he was moderately successful with yet another interception. It’s been interesting to contrast and compare Durant with Kevin Glenn this year and while the numbers are roughly the same, the Riders seem to be better with Glenn.

 Montreal’s defense has held them in most games and the problem is their offense failing to connect at crucial moments, and whether that is a basic unfamiliarity between all the major working parts since they have been thrown together by Kavis Reed or whether they are not that good is an interesting clinic for Henry Burris to address on a half time segment. Ottawa should be feeling relatively good about themselves although they almost choked Montreal style against BC by letting them back into the game last week.

 The difference between Ottawa and Montreal at this point seems to be consistency and while Montreal plays better at home, Darian Durant’s lack of consistency leads me to think that at some point Friday night he will throw an interception late in the fourth quarter and Ottawa will emerge with a 27-24 win because Ottawa not only loses by a small margin, they also seem to win by not very much.

On Sunday the Ice King known as O’Shea brings his white walkers to new Mosaic Stadium, still reverbing after Guns and Roses rocked out on Sunday night, against Chris Jones, the father of dragons. Winnipeg is feeling much better about itself but again, the ratio of Winnipeg field goals to touchdowns indicates an offense that is not as efficient as it imagines, relying on its defense and raising the spectre that if Winnipeg finds itself facing a team not wracked by injuries or from east of Thunder Bay, and it falls behind by a significant margin, it may lack the skill to score more than a last minute field goal.

The question is whether the Riders are that team to pop the Winnipeg balloon following an impressive win against the Edmonton Wildcats, uh Eskimos. If Winnipeg’s win over Edmonton was thanks to Edmonton’s injuries catching up with them, then the Riders win could easily be classified in that category. But then again, if you can’t take advantage of those types of situations then maybe you’re not ready to move on up in the western conference.

The first game between these two was a high scoring entertaining affair, even though the Riders blew it with Weston Dressler running free like some ice dragon through the Eastern Wall. I think this one will also live up to the entertainment value and this time the Ice King will shuffle back to Winnipeg with his hordes and their zombie tails between their legs thanks to a 31-30 score for the Riders.

On Monday there is an interesting set of match-ups, OK, probably only one real match-up as the Edmonton Eskimos go to Calgary with two losses in a row and Eskimo fans blaming the Refs for not calling holding on the Riders offensive line to well, how bad their kicking and defensive backfield seems to be.

The Eskimo defensive backfield seems to be one big donut with a hole in the middle and while the Eskimos are getting back some of their walking wounded, they seem to be lacking some continuity.  That might spell problems against Calgary, but Bo Levi Mitchell has been dealing with shoulder problems and Calgary’s defense came through against Toronto but their offense was no real big shakes. That and perhaps some injury to Jerome Messam has me thinking that this could be an interesting affair but if the Riders can confuse Mike Reilly with a three man rush, I wonder what Calgary can do with a four man rush. Probably rack up a 31-24 win.

Finally we have Toronto going to Hamilton where the Hamilton rebuild is not going well following the Art Briles fiasco. This is June Jones first rodeo as the head man in Hamilton and the interesting question is whether Zach Collaros is back on the same page as his coach or if Collaros will be cut loose or traded.

 Collaros benefited from once upon a time stepping in for Ricky Ray and then making his way, Drew Willy like to Hamilton but after blowing out his ACL has looked more like Willy during the dark days of his imprisonment under the Ice King in Winnipeg.

 Toronto has a good defense, but their offense relies on an offensive line that provides marginally better support to Ray, but can be overwhelmed by a more determined group of defenders. The difference in this game will be Toronto’s defense will be better than Hamilton’s, because even with two weeks to prepare for this fiasco, if Art Briles is the best Hamilton can do, then maybe the problems in Hamilton go a lot deeper than just who is on the sideline. Toronto wins this one 31-22.

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