Defensive coordinator change worked wonders for 2017 Ticats (& Bombers should take note)

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats fired defensive coordinator Jeff Reinebold in early August of last year. Changing coordinators mid-season often reeks of desperation and, at 0-6, that’s exactly the state in which the Ticats found themselves a little under a year ago.

Reinebold was replaced by linebackers coach Phillip Lolley, a 64-year-old career assistant with no prior coordinator experience at the professional level. After a shaky start — the Ticats gave up 76 points in lopsided losses to Winnipeg and Ottawa in Lolley’s two first games as defensive coordinator — the switch produced outstanding results for Hamilton’s young defence.

Stats (avg. allowed per game) Reinebold Lolley
Points 39.0 25.9
Total yards 487 367
Time of possession 33:46 29:46
QB efficiency 120.11 90.59
Sacks 1.67 3.17
Forced fumbles 0.67 1.25
Interceptions 0.67 1.00
First down 5.62 5.67
Second down 9.10 5.79

Following Lolley’s promotion, the Ticats saw a thirty-point drop in average opponent quarterback rating, a four-minute drop in average opponent time of possession, and a 120-yard drop in average opponent total yards. The team doubled the number of sacks and forced fumbles they were able to generate per game, while also producing a 33 percent increase in interceptions. Lolley’s unit also held opponents to an average of just 5.79 yards on second down, a 3.31-yard decrease following Reinebold’s dismissal.

Perhaps most importantly, Hamilton held opponents to 13.1 fewer points per game under Lolley, a major contributing factor to the Ticats’ impressive 6-4 finish last season.

It was tremendous improvement from a unit that changed very little in the way of player personnel after the coaching change. Lolley’s turnaround wasn’t predicated upon improving the talent on the defensive side of the football, but utilizing it in better and more productive ways.

Hamilton’s defensive turnaround last season is one from the which the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can learn. Replacing a coordinator mid-season isn’t without risk, but it can also prove to be a viable solution.

Winnipeg’s defence is simply under-performing. The unit is struggling with yardage once again — currently ranked eighth in the league, the defence is allowing 288 passing yards per game — but is failing to produce the high number of takeaways it has in past seasons.

Giving up gobs of yardage was somewhat understandable when the Bombers were generating more turnovers than any other team in the CFL. The takeaways appear to have dried up. The yardage? Not so much.

The Bombers are simply too talented to squander another season due to sloppy defensive play. Richie Hall and his players have become very adept at verbalizing their insistence that the unit’s play will improve. Fans have grown tired of hearing such promises — it’s time to show (not say) that the club’s defence can get the job done.

All of this will prove irrelevant when and if Winnipeg is able to eliminate the missed assignments, explosion plays, and soft zone looks that have limited its defensive success over the past three seasons.

If not, the Bombers have a bye week in early August following a soft intermediate schedule that features a pair of two-game sets with B.C. and Toronto. A failure to show meaningful improvement against the Lions and/or Argos should result in a change at defensive coordinator.

It worked for Hamilton. It could work for the Bombers.

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
John Hodge
John Hodge
About John Hodge (378 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

16 Comments on Defensive coordinator change worked wonders for 2017 Ticats (& Bombers should take note)

  1. Ron Montgomery // July 7, 2018 at 1:27 pm //

    Perhaps they should hire Phillip Lolley. He is available

  2. Coaches Don’t play in the Game
    Players Do
    And ya the players mistakes that make coaches look bad
    Yet you seem to think a coach change will make players better or are you saying Ritchie is not a good coach

    • mr62cats // July 8, 2018 at 7:59 am //

      Roland: I think you have missed the point of Hodge’s post. Results matter!

  3. Thor the Asgaurd // July 7, 2018 at 2:29 pm //

    Calling out for a Coaches Job is below the belt. Richie Hall is a good DC. As long as the players buy into his system.
    I’m not sure what’s going on this season. It’s so early and you have this article. When the Bombers haven’t had their starting QB. So the defence is spending more time on the field.
    Then you have Milt Stegall telling national Televison audience that he feels that Riders head coach figures he’s smarter than everyone else. Man when a color commentary Guy is suggesting he knows something about a coach. When in reality is nothing more than his own speculation. That is bad color commentary. The poorest I’ve seen on TSN.
    Here is a little info Stegall. The minute a Head Coach starts listening to the fans or the commentary and implements their ideas. It’s not long after that head coach is sitting with those fans. Good lord Milt Stegal your a second year Commentary guy and your acting like you are smarter that the coaches and GMs. So now who thinks their smarter than everyone.

  4. Ron Tuthill // July 7, 2018 at 2:31 pm //

    John you and your other colleagues use a word that I find very offensive. Reinebold was not ” fired”. He was relieved of his duties and asked if he would stay on as ST coordinator but he declined the offer. To be “fired” there is heat and anger involved. Did he bad- mouth the team? No. Did he steal from the team? No. Did he commit an act so outlandish that the team was so mad that they told him to go? No. Usually when a coach or manager or player is let go there are tears involved and the team only does it to better the team as a whole. The word FIRED get’s thrown around all to casually for my liking.

    • Best CFL FAN // July 7, 2018 at 3:26 pm //

      It has to do with the structure of the contracts. Coaches are guaranteed for length of the contract. Why do you think they held onto KA after they decided he wasn’t working out? They had to pay him anyway so they made up a new mgt position for him. With JR they made him quit by transferring him to a crappier job. So they could then justify not paying him out.

      But look up “constructive dismissal” in the law books.

  5. Paul Bomber // July 7, 2018 at 2:36 pm //

    Coach? Players? I dunno… but after what you would have to call a major re-tuning (maybe not an outright overhaul) of the D and still no pass coverage, shouldn’t someone be asking “Why are we getting the same results with new players?”. O’Shea’s loyalty is admirable, but it’s not always in the team’s best interests.
    I’ll put my money on Wpg tonight, but it’s almost a bit of a trap game in some respects. And with BC’s strength against our weakness (the passing game), especially after watching Hamilton get humbled by a supposedly irrelevant Rider team, nothing is guaranteed in the CrazyFootballLeauge.

  6. Jose Perez // July 7, 2018 at 3:41 pm //

    Perhaps this article should be meant for the BC Lions and Mark Washington who should of been let go years ago. His D technique is straight up garbage and of old like Wally he’s been using the same crap Wally has been having since he got to Vancouver. Three man up front is wack to me. Doesn’t stop the run game and it shows in the last two games. Now going up against the bombers tonight …we will give up more yards on the run than the last two games. Secondary is also weak and need better direction with better coaching. Rant done!

  7. BC Bomber // July 7, 2018 at 3:43 pm //

    I have to agree, Paul. I have nothing against Mr Hall personally, but 3rd season with same results? And improved talent each year. Contrary to some earlier posters, I’m not putting the failures on the players. They are playing Hall’s system and Hall’s plays, and they can’t seem to stop opposing offenses. That speaks to me of getting outcoached by the opposing teams. Last week’s paranoia to stop the big play cost them underneath all night. And Hamilton kept max blockers in, why did we not drop linebackers into short coverage to fill the gaps? I think we have the talent to play some man, too. Too much zone, not enough adjustments in game, not enough creativity on D, imo. Hoping for the best tonight and a breakout game for the D!

  8. The Bombers D looks fine to me, and if you don’t believe me , just ask any Offensive coordinator in the western conference.

  9. Macavity // July 7, 2018 at 4:47 pm //

    To Thor specifically, though others can take notes. What proof do you have that Hall is a good DC? Saying he is bad at his job is not a ‘below the belt’ hit, it’s pretty much a fact. Even if it was in doubt, calling for a change at coach is no different than asking for a change at QB.

    I have not met ANY other fans in Winnipeg who do not think Hall is the single weakest link on our team. He has a functional scheme, but does not adjust to his opponent game-to-game and does not adjust within a game. I don’t know if you and Roland are his relatives but his defense relies entirely too much on giving up yards while hoping for a screw up/turn-over. Hamilton was an excellent exposure of the flaw, with max protection, we can’t disrupt the QB, so those short throws just keep coming all day long and wear the D out.

    A GOOD DC would have had something else to move to in that circumstance. Hall did not.

    If we’d picked up a DC like Thorpe of Steinauer this team would have Champions written all over it. As it stands, it’s all about the O and we know how that works in cold play-off games….

    P.S. Did you hear O’shea having to inform Hall that the Ti-Cats were in field goal range already?

  10. Way it is // July 7, 2018 at 7:16 pm //

    Bombers need a new DC and they need it now! Hall has had plenty of time to right the ship, but hasn’t! In pro sports results matter and Hall hasn’t delivered in three seasons! Bye bye!

  11. Richie Hall is the Bombers only weak spot.

  12. Jim Bob // July 8, 2018 at 1:14 am //

    1 game does not dictate a season. Bombers defense LOOKED GREAT against the Lions in game 4. Hall and company will do just fine in 2018. Let the season play out and the defense will just keep getting better. O’Shea will see to it no doubt.

  13. Keep Ritchie Hall, nothing wrong with a bend but do not break defense. Hodge lacks patience and impartisality.

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