Milton: Many questions for Ticats and the answers could be painful

There’s lots of blame to go around, and some of it might not even land right on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats: hello CFL on-field and review officiating; hello, you three-points-not-six Saskatchewan Roughriders.
But despite bad luck, bad calls and bad injuries, in a team game it’s team blame and in this case ‘team’ extends well into the front office.
The ultimate Friday the 13th doubleheader—when late pass interference penalties which guaranteed that one eastern team would lose and the other would win turned out hideously opposite to what the Ticats required—was just a karmic, if entertaining, punctuation mark on the entire season.
Symbolism run rampant. Too much reliance on hope and “process”, too little doing what it takes when it took it.
Despite hard evidence of a vastly improved line, quarterback play, secondary and running game, the Ticats were essentially looking for a miracle over the final two months of their CFL schedule. Notwithstanding lots of magic bits since August ended, they’ll spend the next three weeks understanding that divine intervention is a lot less reliable than self-intervention.
The Ottawa Redblacks will host a playoff game while the Tiger-Cats are visiting their hometowns because the Redblacks took charge of their own fate more often, and at the right times, this season.
It was they who, knowing the Ticats had completely squandered an excellent effort in losing narrowly to Calgary, collectively decided they weren’t going to leave their future to a final game against Hamilton and beat the Riders.
If was just one Friday night, but it represented a season: the Redblacks had a sense of occasion, and the Tiger-Cats did not.
 Hamilton was at home, which is where you want to be—correction, should want to be—if the game is close. But in June Jones’ inspiring term here so far, all three losses have been close, and at home. And this Home, Unsweet Home theme isn’t limited to Jones-ing, it goes back 13 months now. 
Why couldn’t this team win at home except on Labour Day, which almost shouldn’t count? Why, on a piece of real estate that has seen some of the greatest moments in local sports history, did they find so many innovative ways to lose here?
 Those are among the questions we all have, but there are many more, too numerous for the space here.
It’s become obvious with Jones’ arrival and a turnaround that was remarkable in its starkness that the team needed to hear a much different voice and approach than Kent Austin’s.
Austin had clearly figured that one out. But why did it take until the eighth straight loss to execute a change? The same results-based evidence was there after week seven….and six, and five. The season was clearly slipping away.
And why was there such serial nose-thumbing toward the running game? Yes, the Ticats made the Grey Cup without big run obligations in Austin’s first two years, but defences do adjust and this year some kind of consistent running attack was required because there were problems with the edges of the offensive line that made passing hazardous for the scoreboard and Zach Collaros’s health.
It’s not always about success at running, but a commitment to it that the other team can see, feel and hear. Under Jones, it has been there, and we have seen the results, all positive. It all just feels so obvious now.
On that point, why did it take so long, and so many auditions, to end up with offensive tackles who made the difference for the quarterback and for the three interior linemen?
And why did Jeremiah Masoli not get a significant look earlier? Even as part of a definable package each game?
Even though the serial losing stopped with the coaching change, the questions won’t. All three recent losses were affected by timing issues: late-game time-count violations; lack of understanding of CFL timeout rules and the like. Where was the timing help for Jones, who had a lot on his adjustment plate?
And in the midst of this came the Art Briles mess which cost the team many of the community votes it had not already lost because of the horrible record. It was so deaf, dumb and blind, it should have been accompanied by tunes from the rock opera Tommy. 
With Austin now upstairs this organization suddenly feels a little top heavy with GM Eric Tillman and the rest of football ops already there too. More hands can make lighter work but can also get in the way of clarity.
The Ticats still have three games to play, and maybe one of the biggest questions—what do they do about Collaros?—can be answered within them.
But there are many, many, more still searching for answers.
Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (244 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

35 Comments on Milton: Many questions for Ticats and the answers could be painful

  1. Hey Milton – tell your buddies at TSN to bring back Sunday CFL games and not worry about NFL Sunday ratings

    Oh ya – if they can’t see past their nose – they can hand the 3 down ball off to ESPN ( they claim) the CFL product of football is catching on with our Southern friends

    • WHY? sunday games?
      The NFL kills when it comes to Sunday TV ratings.
      Many of us are FOOTBALL fans and Sunday is NFL, the CFL is for Friday night and Saturday.
      CFL product catching on in the US??? seriously? there are FEWER games on ESPN this year, NONE in August or September and only 2 in October.
      They will show only ONE semi playoff – not both.
      If the US ratings were high all playoff games would be shown plus more games in Aug, Sep Oct

  2. Austin, Austin and Austin. His 1st couple seasons he adapted. Once it was his team he stuck with his guys.
    He cut Green and stuck with Gable. He stuck with Collaros when everyone new they needed a mobile QB to move the chains with his feet. He stuck with the OC even after 2016 showed he wasn’t the answer.Why they went with Swindle as the starting tackle is anyone’s guess. He did get lucky with the kicker. And,yes hindsight is 20/20.

    • Generally agree … though from what I recall, the OC called one game and Austin called the rest, until Jones showed up/was promoted.

  3. Good analysis Mr. Milton! Not many of the Ti-Cat faithful will be happy about this recap, but, I don’t see much that is not correct!! Will be an interesting off season for sure??

    • ESPN is correct. Many veterans and conservatives in the US are sick of spoiled rich NFL Football players disrespecting the flag and checking out CFL. Once they do they realize how fun the pass happy brand of Football is.

      • Footballisagamenotlife // October 16, 2017 at 11:56 am //

        Another bull crap response about the flag and veterans. You and they only think that way because the is no willingness to think about the why. So keep ignoring the problem while making excuses for not dealing with the major social issue at hand.

        • ………and if our players sat for the National Anthem because of the treatment of Indigenous people are minorities the CFL and the fans would be in an uproar.
          Yes protest but NOT during a National Anthem

    • Most of the Ticat faithful who have been paying attention have been saying the same thing for something like two years now.

      Not sure who is supposed to be unhappy about this recap.

  4. But why did it take until the eighth straight loss to execute a change? Because they were waiting to see if Manziel would commit to the CFL. Once they did they were able to lure June JOnes out of retirement in Hawaii who has been waiting to coach someone like Manziel since he co-invented the run and shoot. The two are related. Jones thinks he can show everybody that he was right all along and with the right QB the Run and shoot can thrive.

    • Or was it that Austin kept thinking the turnarounds from previous years would show up?

      Interesting theory but as Austin has paid lip service to the run for years – he is definitely stubborn.

  5. The whole season was disastrous from day one of the season. Starting at a dismal 0-8, it’s kind of difficult to dig themselves out of that proverbial hole. As stated, Austin’s playbook, with essentially no run attack, and a predictable pass happy offensive,with a hapless O Line. Gave Zach Collaros a poor start himself, with the play calling and no protection. Injuries played a huge part too, with both offensive and defense. Yes the officiating was questionable at times, but good teams bounce back from that adversity. There was no home field advantage, as maybe all tickets were sold? But the stands sure looked sparse, especially last game against the best team in the league and the significance of the playoff hopes. Almost resembling BMO field’s attendance, which is not positive for Ti-Cats fan base or the league. Mr. Young I think has some serious decisions, to be made. I realize the executives are under contract, but maybe it’s time for a change of scenery at the top too? Been a very disappointing season for this die hard Ti-Cat fan. Hoping 2018 is our year,and fans come out and support our team and city, once again.

  6. The Cats made an amazing comeback after the 8th game thanks to the changes to personnel on and off the field of play. June Jones looks to be a really good coach, Masoli has always had it in him to be a good CFL starter, spirits lifted when he was given the leadership role. Many teams never come back like the Cats did after going 0 and a bunch, so give lots of credit for the overhaul to Austin who made the right moves before the season ended. Still three games left, and if the team can finish off well, no reason to cry in our beer. There’s always next year.

    • Yes a good finish to the year, but too little too late.
      Ottawa woke up and said “enough of these 1 point losses”
      Should be interesting next year. Ticats may have a winning record, but ALL the experts predicted the Ticats finishing first this year!!

      • Must have checked with different experts as I recall some picking either the Argos based on the Popp/Trestman combo or Ottawa based on Desjardins’ saavy moves.

  7. The 0-8 start begins and ends with Kent Austin. He must be fired.

  8. Ticat problem is Complacency….the CFL system of divisional play supports this. It enables weak teams(arguably all east division) to make playoffs with losing records. Eliminate East/West divisions and top 4 teams make playoff. If that means domination by west geographical teams, so be it. Rewarding bad product retains bad product and stymies change.

    • Not really, the Ticats got their just desserts.
      They were NOT rewarded for their bad product and record, they were eliminated.

  9. You said it all Steve. Thanks.
    There is one more thing that worries the heck out of me. Austin is the one who got us into this mess…..and now he is supposed to get us out of it? Where is he going to get the new skills he will need to be successful?

    • Not sure that with a limited role compared to the many hats means new skills are needed. A few that were already there have to be sharpened and the rest are no longer relevant.

      Some of the trades after he had a more limited role seemed to me to help the team.

      As long as Austin works well with the HC and the smaller skillset is done well, I don’t see why there is a problem verus “a run game would help but I won’t commit to the run”.

    • Austin? or was it the bad play of Collaros?

      • Austin wouldn’t try Masoli or any of the other changes Jones made so he as decision maker is the guy.

        We didn’t get a chance to see how Masoli would have fared earlier this year … but with his overthrows, two & outs – I suspect he would have done a bit better but not enough to make a difference.

        Or to put it another way, Jones’ changes to personnel as well as the game plan IMO make it impossible to compare, unless Collaros gets to play under the new system.

  10. What about this scenario Stefan platzek promoted to hc and June Jones oc. Masoli re signed and your 3 qb in camp are Masoli collaros and Manziel fighting for the 1 and 2 spots and golson in developmental role . My only question is with collaros getting paid a half million there is a chance he is not on this team come camp.the reason why I say stef to hc is he knows the nuances of the cfl game and his age menas he would be around for a while and with jj calling the plays they still have the run and shoot offence which game them success in the last few games just a thought but yes it will be an interesting off season

    • Ptazek is one of the reasons why the offense played so bad. He was an ex-CIS coach, couldn’t handle the major league and the ex-NCAA and ex-NFL players.
      Jones has a new Offensive assistant, what use is Patazek?
      Terrible play calling by Patzek. “you aren’t in the CIS anymore”

      • Austin said he gave Ptazek one game this year then took back the play calling. The issues were the same up until Jones took over.

        I for one am not convinced Ptazek had the freedom to call the plays he wanted.

  11. If Jones stays and we don’t get a good look of Zach’s fit in the next three games then I expect him to be gone in the off-season. I’d like to see Masoli 1, Golson 2 and the new guy brought in as a 3.

  12. Saynotoapathy // October 16, 2017 at 2:01 pm //

    Injuries were one of the many many factors that sunk the Ti-Cats this season. I have seen bad luck but this was ridiculous. For example, in the season opener Ti-Cats lose deep threat Terrance Tolliver for the season. With much anticipation, Ti-Cats insert mini threat Willie Quinn into the Calgary game. He ends up injured out of the game on the sidelines on crutches.

    • Injury doesn’t explain the bad play of Collaros.
      Injury doesn’t explain the bad play calling by the Patazek.
      Other teams had injury problems too, if you lose Tolliver then you recruit another tall ex-NFL receiver.
      Quinn was injured but you insert Banks.

  13. Fire Austin and Platzek. Hire Milanovich as OC who can
    tell Jones not to pass on 3nd and 1. Play Collaros for
    the next three games to determine if he still has it.
    If so let Masoli go and keep Collaros amd Manzel as the
    1 and 2 QB’s.

    • You make some good points.
      There is no way that Masoli will stay when Collaros is making $420k.

    • If Jones has brought in his choice for OC in Morrison, who is going to dictate to him that Morrison is out so that Milanovich is in?

      Last I checked, if GM has confidence in the HC – the HC chooses the staff.

  14. Cudo’s to Kent Austin, knowing a change was required and getting a replacement with the experience and Talent that June Jones has! It’s pretty difficult to turn a team around mid-season, and the last few games have been really exciting! Now at least they have 3 games to assess what talent they have that’s worth keeping for next year. I believe the players gave their all when given the opportunity, Zach was always on the sideline wearing his helmet, ready to go in if needed. And, after an 0 and 8 start, we’re not in last place. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, because I believe the team will continue to improve.

  15. Tommy Joe Henley // October 17, 2017 at 10:39 am //

    Have a pop quizz on the rules each practice.We kill ourselves half the time.

  16. There are a few teams that are now breathing a lot easier with the Cats no
    longer in the playoff race.
    Argo’s and Ottawa…come to mind, bottom line.

    • That’s part of the disappointment of the losses where a few more time eating drives or different game decisions likely result in more wins.

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