Ticats OC Stef Ptaszek looks to play bigger role this season

For the third straight season, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have a new offensive coordinator: his name is Stef Ptaszek.

Of course, Ptaszek held the title last year but it would be a stretch to say that he fulfilled the duties in the traditional sense. Hired on May 5 after the sudden departure of Tommy Condell, just weeks before the opening of training camp, Ptaszek faced a learning curve that resembled the Chedoke stairs – steep, unrelenting and precarious.

“It was almost an impossible job last year for him,” acknowledged head coach Kent Austin. “He’s come a long way in his understanding,”

After 13 seasons coaching at the Canadian university level, including the last 10 as the head coach at McMaster, Ptaszek had to learn an entirely new offensive system – the one designed by Austin – as well as the nuances of the professional game. The challenges were big – scouting reports on defensive players and schemes for the other eight teams – and small: the names of 100 or so Ticats players, coaches and staff.

“I’ve always been good with not having all the answers and the amount of things I was able to absorb was outstanding,” Ptaszek said. “I was proud of the role I was able to play but that role needs to expand in order to help us going forward. I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Last season, Austin handled much of the game planning, the scripting for practice – what plays the offence will run – and called plays from his headset on the sideline. This year, Ptaszek expects the offensive staff to take over the first two, which should – in theory – allow for the third to follow.

“I think coach Austin knew he had a burden to support us on a regular basis throughout last year,” Ptaszek said. “But we’ve got to be more independent and allow coach to cherry pick when he can step in and feel completely confident when he needs to step out. And that’s different from last year.”

It’s not like Austin doesn’t have other things to worry about. The team will have a new defensive coordinator in Jeff Reinebold – who moves over from special teams – while newcomer Dennis McKnight takes charge of the kick and coverage units.

But how much independence Austin gives Ptaszek, however, remains to be seen: he’s yet to officially hand over the play-calling responsibilities. The former CFL quarterback has always stressed the collective nature of his offensive philosophy but what the Ticats run is usually referred to as ‘Austin’s offence.’

“Game planning is a collaborative effort with all of us, it’s not just me having my fingers in the pie – as long as it’s apple or blueberry,” Austin said. “Everybody has their proverbial fingers in the pie. Roles and expectations as to how the game plan is arrived at is clearly delineated and I have a role in that, Stef has a role in that, the other coaches have a role in that.”

With the benefit of a full off-season, Ptaszek spent the winter studying offensive strategies from across the CFL as well as expanding his knowledge of defensive coverages and concepts. That hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“The thing about Stef is that he has a very high ceiling because he’s very bright. He’s also a guy that’s humble enough to want to learn and he has a great desire to be good,” Austin said. “He worked really hard this off-season and I think you’re going to see a tremendous growth in him.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (831 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

9 Comments on Ticats OC Stef Ptaszek looks to play bigger role this season

  1. Lindsay Wilcox // May 13, 2017 at 8:37 am //

    Stef has the T & A – talent AND attitude – to succeed in the role with new responsibilities.

    • Pussycats // May 13, 2017 at 10:18 am //

      Yes, but the question remains: Will Austin step back enough to allow him to fully experience his T&A and show the team and fans his stuff? I suspect that Austin will continue to have MORE than a few fingers in the pie based on past history and if things start badly likely both hands in which would be unfortunate in the development of Stef and the other coaches on the team.

  2. One big challenge for OC Ptaszek is to learn how Austin thinks… What would KA do in this situation? What play would KA call? Because unless SP emulates KA he’ll never be given the keys to KA’s offence and be allowed to drive it by himself…

    • Agreed. Perhaps the year of “mentoring” was quite helpful for him that way.

      It may also have been helpful to his career as a pro coach, to have that slower ramp-up. Maybe he sticks in the CFL long term and maybe not (he’d be highly sought in USports if he wanted to return), but the leap between university and pro football is big.

      Maybe having earned some respect from Austin, he will be able to more easily add to the offense. Just about everyone here who follows the Ticats would like to see more of a running game, for example.

  3. This is most likely a make or break season for KA and SP. If Stef is not allowed to make his mark in a more considerable fashion, he may take another opportunity in the CFL or even return to university ball where he clearly was given that trust and grew extraordinarily.

  4. Was SP really OC? Was he learning the ropes of pro ball last season? Some KA has been with Ti-Cats, and even when TC was OC, there in has been virtually no running game. Ti-Cats offensive is almost predictable, with a non existent running game. IMO you have to have a balanced offensive attack, and keep the defense on their toes. We have a very cable tailback in CJ Gable, he should be utilized more often. Obviously our offensive line has not been the best for protection for AN and opening holes for the run game, this that’s why KA play selection, elects to even throw on 1st downs. Just why did TC leave, just before training camp in 2016?. Maybe KA wants and demands all of his fingers in the proverbial pie?. Is KA a team coach or a “dictator”? That really doesn’t listen to other coaches input or suggestions? As obviously CIS ball is a vast difference then Pro ball, but SP did display a vast imagination of play calling when HC at McMaster. Time will tell this season, with an improved offensive line, and a healthy Collaros and Gable, with a relatively new receiving core, it should be a interesting 2017.

    • Philski // May 14, 2017 at 3:18 am //

      Agree on all fronts – especially the running game…or rather lack of it. Gable is underused and I don’t blame him for getting frustrated last season. Had his share of injuries…yes…but when healthy as good a dual threat to run the ball and catch passes as anyone in the league. Whether Austin allows Stef to coach unimpeded though is another question. His perpetual stubbornness in his 4 year reign thus far has been his greatest liability and retards success. I do believe this upcoming season is the crossroads for the Austin era – hopefully his legacy will be more than a questionable call in the 2014 GC denying the TC’s their rightful place in the Promised Land.

  5. Dario Cueto // May 15, 2017 at 11:27 am //

    Hey, yo … the Dario Cueto here … I have it on good authority that Johny Manziel has enetered in negotiations with Bob Young. The plan most likely would be for Manziel to apprentice under Collaros until Labour Day & the unleash his talents in the CFL. Holla if you hear me !!!

    • Philski // May 16, 2017 at 3:53 am //

      Sad day in Hamilton if that happens my friend. TC’s are in no position right now to go into the salvaging business. They need something to kick start them and get those butts back into the ever increasing empty seats at TH’s but signing this guy is not the answer. The good ship Austin is taking on water right now and this season I believe will see it either navigate it’s way back into calmer waters or sink into the abyss.

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