Milton: Organization to be reviewed but bet on Austin return

Scott Mitchell doesn’t think his Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have any issues attracting free agents next season, despite criticism some players leveled at team vice-president Kent Austin.

“No, I don’t think we’ll have any trouble,” the Ticats CEO firmly told The Spectator Monday afternoon. “I suggest that the guys we want to bring back next year, we’ll have here. If you asked, the overwhelming majority of players want to play here. We have signed 95 per cent of the free agents we want and, I believe, all of our own free agents.

“I do believe that most of the time, players are frustrated in situations like this.”

The situation was a number of players telling Spectator football writer Drew Edwards that if Austin—who, as VP of football operations, technically fired himself as head coach in late August and elevated June Jones to the position—were to return next season, even as vice-president, free agents would not come to Hamilton, and the team wouldn’t be able to retain some of their own free agents.

On Monday team owner Bob Young took to Twitter and characterized the complaining players as ‘cowardly’, and Edwards as a ‘naïve journalist.’ He also said there were only one or two players.

Well, our first response was: be careful with adjectives. In cyberspace, they’re a leading cause of harm. You shouldn’t question any of your employees’ bravery, the brutally hard-working Edwards is the farthest thing from ‘naïve’ and there were more than one or two players involved. Not that it needs confirmation, but the other half of the Spec’s two-man football bureau has been privy to a number of similar conversations and opinions from players. They were long-harboured and heart-felt and, actually, some were angrier than eventually portrayed in print.

So it’s probably best not for management to gloss over the complaints, and the support they’ve received from the hard-core fans who populate Twitter, blogs and chat rooms. For one thing, they represent some percentage of the market into which the Ticats’ business side must venture to sell tickets for 2018.

Like everyone else, Mitchell points out that this season was essentially cleaved into two distinct parts. There was the 0-8 start under Austin as head coach and the 6-4 record after Jones took the helm, simplifying certain systems and, by his own description, changing the culture in the locker room.

“Being a GM or a VP is not a popularity contest,” Mitchell said. “A lot of the positive things that happened from Labour Day on, Kent Austin delivered. He made a great decision to step aside for June to coach, and he made two good trades. John Chick was very popular, but (Adrian) Tracy led the league in sacks after Labour Day because he got to play more. And we’re all thrilled to have CJ (Gable) do well in Edmonton, but we will get a good player from that trade, and we had two or three other good running backs.”

Although Mitchell was clearly and strongly supporting his VP of football ops, he did say that there would be no immediate formal announcement on Austin’s near-future. And, because the coach—praised by everyone in the organization— ultimately works for the VP of football ops, Jones’s situation won’t be clarified until then either. Austin, though, is already under contract for two more years, while Jones isn’t signed for 2018.

“Kent and I have had lot of discussions,” Mitchell said. “Everybody in the organization was very disappointed, although after Labour Day it became a different and positive story.

“When you go through something like this, the organization will go over everything top to bottom. We’ll step back and make a comprehensive analysis of the organization, and Kent will be a big part of that.”

And, if we had to guess, he’ll be a big part of the next couple of years here at least, which will not go down well with some of the current players.

The comprehensive organizational analysis must include respectfully and objectively examining even those criticisms which management naturally considers off-base. Like the ones in Monday’s Spectator.

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.
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (92 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.

39 Comments on Milton: Organization to be reviewed but bet on Austin return

  1. Alex Droho // November 7, 2017 at 8:23 am //

    Kent could still be gone basis this statement from Scott Mitchell. “When you go through something like this, the organization will go over everything top to bottom. We’ll step back and make a comprehensive analysis of the organization, and Kent will be a big part of that.” Kent will be part of the analysis. What if the conclusion is that he must go?

  2. Well done Steve!

  3. Thanks also for defending Drew’s story.I was sure he would not have published it without the agreement of his colleagues and editor.

  4. Excellent article by Uncle Milty.

  5. Great summary by Mr. Milton. Fair treatment all around.

  6. Instead of venting here, those who feel that keeping or dismissing Mr. Austin may jeopardize the team’s chances of retaining Mr. Jones and/or the signing of potential free agents would be better served to call or email the Ticats’ ticket office.

    Just a better way to let your opinion be heard.

    • Alex Droho // November 7, 2017 at 6:16 pm //

      First off I agree with Nanaman. If enough season ticket holders do this then this is a referendum that will or certainly should be given due consideration. Secondly, at this time what value can Kent Austin bring to the organization that cannot be delivered by someone else? Does he have that great a pipeline to US talent? Does not look like he has any advantage in re-signing our free agents. Basis what other team’s free agents are hearing about Kent and the toxic environment surrounding him why would they sign here? Not sure what the value is that he brings at this time.

  7. Sea of Dead // November 7, 2017 at 8:57 am //

    As I suspected. Austin will remain as long as Mitchell is in place. Mitchell extended Austin after a very disappointing 2016 campaign and a good businessman would never do that unless he had a strong personal tie to the other. So we can’t rid ourselves of one hated loser until we boot the other. Unfortunately, both will continue to be a festering boil on the backside that will limit any team upside. Yes, we’ll likely lose some FAs and fail to attract others because of KAs retention. And I suspect that JJ’s positive team qualities (if he resigns) will be somewhat negated by the evil empire in the team box. A long suffering Cat fan base deserves much better than that.

  8. Sorry, but Drew’s article was a shotty piece of journalism. Did he ask Speedy B if the state attributed to him was accurate, did he follow up and get a quote from Banks – nope. Plum bad journalism. Further not putting the trades of chick and gable in context makes both drew and his “sources” look naive. Anyone with half a brain got what those trades were about cap space and health (Gable)and we’re smart decisions whether as a fan I liked them or not (not).

    • As if Banks would comment on that. He would be an idiot to say anything and since it’s about him specifically, it’s not like he can do it anonymously.

      And the context of the trades is irrelevant. Drew’s point is not to justify those personnel moves. It was that some players were unhappy to see those teammates sent packing. One even acknowledges Chick/Gable were sent away for nothing that helps right now. They’re upset no matter what explanation anyone attaches to the moves.

      • Agree good sir!

        • All Drew had to do was attempt to verify the quote attributed to Banks by an anonymous person. Just report hearsay via an unverifiable source without attempting to contact Banks is the mark of low level national enquirer style journalism. “Banks was unreachable” “Banks refused to comment” would have been sufficient, but the laziness of Drew allows the notion that he is just a hack looking to stir up to exist.
          That he allows a serious accusation about Austin engaging in sabotage” to not be rebutted or challenged is unexcusable. This isn’t just a gripe that Kent traded away good players for little in exchnage its a serious accusation that Kent tried to sink the team after promoting Jones. (which in itself makes little sense).
          Anyone with a football IQ of 3 can understand what drove those trades – money and opening space for Tracy in the case of Chick and money and fresh legs of Green in case of Gable. To claim it as sabotage is baffling given that our defensive line improved massively by giving Tracy more playing time. Our running game changed very little under Green.
          Furthermore it isn’t news to anyone that there were problems in the lockeroom between coach and team.
          Hopefully the dust of this idiocy will settle the Front office will focus on getting Jones and Lolley and then look at the finances of who can and who we can’t afford in the off season.

      • Sorry, my reply to you was meant to be a reply to ritch.

    • Ritch: Absolutely right. Drew published a report of complaints … but did not press the players for examples. He insinuated that Condell and Steinhauer left because of Austin … but where is the quote from either of them? Its been a year since those guys left … Drew can’t get a quote from either one that supports his thesis. Obie was much loved here and elsewhere but is famous for his cold blooded view of building a team: “better is better”. But Drew publishes a “sabatoge theory” about moving Chick and Gable. Sorry Milton … that is naive crap reporting. Drew lost me when his article started off quoting “nearly half a dozen” players had talked to him … well Drew was it four or was it five? You could feel the spin coming from the first sentence. No doubt in the world that Austin is a hard ass. No doubt in the world that the players did not like losing. And the evidence does suggest that Austin’s game plan was a big part of the losing streak. Okay … but the rest of Drew’s story is nonsense .. and Milton would not have published it.

      • Careful sir. If you do not trust and believe everything that is posted here you will be attacked for your logic, reason and for your daring to suggest that reporters on this site stick to their journalistic ethics.

        Prepare to have mud slung at you. I trust from your calm reasonable analysis that you most likely will not sling back.

  9. The “comprehensive analyses” should take into account one very special factor: fan loyalty.

  10. Brian Eggleton // November 7, 2017 at 9:32 am //

    Difficult to wear two hats….coach and GM…..glad when Austin stepped down from coaching (plus stepping back, when 0-8, stuff spiralled and couldn’t be coach and GM; and unbiased). Reviews should have been underway during the 2nd “season”; and hopefully after a short break they will confirm June and his staff are returning. During the post game, on the record exit interviews, themselves players said they learned a lot from June, and his staff….respect goes a long way in forming a successful “team”….and it seems to have taken place. To go out and get another new coach(s) and staff would again lead to a period of uncertainty so who knows (and for me it may be who cares…..this League appears to be struggling with a lot of who cares….so it could be wiser to run with success; affirm a good mid-season correction)

  11. Ticats have to sign June Jones and staff ASAP to build on the optimism and momentum from the last half of the season for both players and fans. Failure to do so will lead to a growing cancer within the team. If Jones does return and Austin stays, we’ll know either it is not an issue with Jones or he has
    assurances there will be no interference from Austin. If Jones doesn’t come back because of Austin, and key players leave, we will know there is a still major problem and next season will be another disaster.

  12. Once the coaching job is settled, they have to deal with their QB situation. Assume Zack goes back to the Argos, that leaves Masoli and Johnny Manziel to get signed. Manziel is a huge question mark. He could be great or he could be a disaster. They will need Masoli as insurance. But will he come back if Manziel signs? He might go to a team that’s desperate for a QB, like Montreal or Regina or even B.C. If nothing else, the off season will be interesting.

    • Or Zack stays and Masoli is an FA and goes to the Als along with Banks.
      Zack and Manziel and a tall FA receiver.

    • Balmy … my fear is that neither Zach nor Masoli will stay if they sign Manziel. Neither one of them wants to sit on the bench while Manziel does a two season audition for a return to the NFL. In particular, Masoli has struggled for years in the shadow of Collaros … he has established himself as a credible starter … why would he want to go back to holding a clipboard?

      Sign and trade Manziel to the Riders. Make the choice between Collaros and Masoli … and sorry Garney … I see that choice as a coin toss – Personally I would keep Masoli because the swap generates enough cash to keep all the key free agents. Collaros will end up in Toronto – great for the League because he will regain his form under Trestman and make the Argos a force. And Collaros will bring it hard every Labour Day … and it will be a great ticket.

      • What makes you think that Johnny Football can come in and learn enough about the CFL game in a short training camp to outplay either Collaros or Masoli who’ve been playing in he league for five years at least! Johnny will be the one holding the clipboard – he needs at LEAST a year to learn the nuances of our game- IF he’s willing to put in the time. And I’d keep Collaros ahead of Masoli, Sure wouldn’t want to see him back in double blue burning the Ticats anytime the 2 teams meet.

  13. RalphInTheCreek // November 7, 2017 at 11:31 am //

    It would be [email protected]#$N painful to watch Speedy play for Ottawa next year. I’m tiered of giving RB’s and others championship players.

  14. Mitchell and Austin are in bed together. Bob Young loves them both. As fans we are stuck with them for at least 2 years and have no say. Nor do the ‘cowardly’ players. I’ll be driving to Buffalo..

  15. tuesday weld // November 7, 2017 at 12:29 pm //

    Of course the Ticats will be able to sign free agents – there’s only 9 teams in the league. They just won’t get the pick of the litter.

    After the top tier guys are gone, there will always be some players who convince themselves that an extra 20k is worth 6 months working for an angry screaming guy (Austin, not Maas). Viola. Free agents signed. Guys who have options will probably not pick this option.

  16. ok now my speculative comments. No fact here at all. Manziel and Masoli on the same team. June Jones will figure out how to keep both happy. June is a fan of both. Masoli went to St. Louis HS in Honolulu where Jone was an administrator before coming to Hamilton. June was in Dallas coaching SMU around the same time Manziel was at [email protected] June said on tape Manziel can help any team. Masoli is a ready starter QB and Manziel is not. So Johnny should be a back up at the beginning. But Manziel is too talented to keep off the field. I envision June designing plays to put both Manziel and Masoli on the field at the same time. Manziel can throw on the run and in the pocket and once he gets down-field he is the equal of Barry Sanders (shout out to Windsor). Watch Youtube video Browns vs Kansas city 2015 he set a Browns QB rushing record that still stands. So wildcat, pistol, slot back, H back something like that. But moreover Manziel was a slot receiver before playing QB in HS. Imagine all that motion where he gets a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and can run or throw.
    And who will be guarding Masoli? Don’t fear the Reaper. Both Manziel and Masoli can contribute. Now lets gets weird. How about Two QB’s both in shot gun. Who gets the snap? Run? Throw? Talk about keeping the defense guessing. Dream big.

  17. I think the Spectator reporters like to stir the shit….

    • Sea of Dead // November 7, 2017 at 1:33 pm //

      No, that’s all coming big time from the top of the Cat house. Austin must be laughing every pay period … Where else can a guy get a 3yr extension after a dismal losing season (2016) and be retained the following year as VP after coaching the team to a pathetic 0-8 record. Of course he wants to remain here … He may even be appointed HC again if JJ decides to bail. We all can’t wait to see that again, can we? NOT!

    • Sea of Dead // November 7, 2017 at 1:49 pm //

      Oh ya, forgot to mention the owner even thinks of KA as the best CFL coach in history (despite his overall losing record). Makes you wonder how some guys like the Caretaker got to where they are today. I appreciate him stepping in and saving the franchise when he did but there is no doubt that his decision-making skills are highly suspect and that may be attributable to Mitchell’s influence.

      Can’t see JJ coming back if KA is retained as his boss and a better offer is made elsewhere. Ticket sales would plummet but the Caretaker is obviously willing to take that gamble.

  18. Oooohhhhhh boy things aren’t looking to peachie in tigertown . The brass of this organization better look long and hard in the mitrror and make the right decisions !

  19. You said it Fred seems they would rather see the Cats struggle rather than help ,Austin messed up but he is in the front office now so lets try to get June back sign our free agents and get back to football ,all this negative type of media may scare him away along with the free agents so all the negativity is doing nothing but hurting the Cats ,Lets look to the future the past is the past time to move on.

  20. what a mess Drew made of this…He should be fired.

    • TwoTurnTablesandaMicrophone // November 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm //

      Drew is simply doing his job. Cheerleading is only part his role, critical insights and analysis is the other important side of the business. If you only want positive upbeat stories go to CFL dot ca.

    • OttawaHamiCatsFan // November 7, 2017 at 2:21 pm //

      Drew is a good reporter along with Steve Milton. Both report both sides of the coin and are not just glorified cheerleaders. I may not always agree with what they right but I do respect both of them. The harsh reality is the Tiger-Cat franchise has been a train wreck for most of the last 17 years. Fans are tired of it and the current brass instills no confidence to the paying customers. The owner miscalculated and signed Mitchell and Austin to too rich longer term deals and is now between a rock and a hard place. This off season is crucial and further bungling by Austin and Mitchell will serve to do nothing but ensure that attendance drops next season. Screw up the coach hiring and free agency and this franchise is in trouble.

    • Idiot.

  21. Paul Smith // November 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm //

    Fortunately this “trash fire” isn’t burning out off control like the situation in Montreal but it is close.

  22. Scott And Bob…
    Need to pull their heads out of their asses…
    And show Austin the door, period.
    His time has come to an end.

  23. Blaming the messenger is never a good idea. The Ticat organization should thank Drew and Steve for reporting what they’ve heard from players. Unfortunately the Ticat organization seems like a old body’s club, where loyalty is not to players, fans or even to the game of football.

    I can understand organizational loyalty but football is a business where the one who produces a winning culture should be rewarded. In this case it would be June Jones who turned things around after becoming Head Coach and had players buying into a winning attitude. Then players themselves who’ve been part of the change including Masoli, Banks, Tasker, Lawrence, Leonard and Saunders come to mind.

    While Austin was good when he first started, I believe a toxic environment developed and for that Austin has to take responsibility. The team instead of loyalty to any individual, needs to look at improving the culture in the team and instilling players and fans with confidence. That means the old boys club may have to break up for the Ticat organization to grow.

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