Five reasons why the Ptaszek hire makes sense for Ticats

The decision by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to hire Stefan Ptaszek as their offensive coordinator resembles the perfect play call: it’s timely, it makes complete sense and yet nobody saw it coming.

The Ticats made Ptaszek’s hiring official on Thursday, offering him an opportunity to step up to the CFL ranks after a decade as the head coach at McMaster University. While the 45-year-old’s lack of experience in the pro ranks could be seen as a drawback, he’s a perfect fit for this team at this moment in time. Here are five reasons why.

1. Ptaszek is fully versed – and embraces – the Canadian game. Many coaches who come from the U.S. have to adjust their schemes and coaching style to fit the CFL game, which can be a time-consuming process (a luxury the Ticats don’t have.) He not only understands the game conceptually but he understands the need to develop and utilize Canadian talent, something some American coaches often don’t initially understand or eventually chafe at.

Having been a head coach for ten years, Ptaszek will also be fully versed in the CFL game’s unique rhythm, quirky rules and clock management issues. He won’t necessarily be asked to take the lead on those issues, but his input will be valuable.

2. He doesn’t have to call plays right away – and he probably shouldn’t. The learning curve for coaches who make the transition from the CIS can be a steep one but by coming to a team with a fully-formed offensive system in place, Ptaszek won’t have that burden and instead will be able to develop under an experienced head coach and offensive coordinator in Kent Austin. He’ll have some of his own ideas and Austin will no doubt be willing to incorporate some of them but Ptaszek will be operating with a more significant safety net than most new coaches get.

3. He’s a known commodity. Ptaszek was drafted the by B.C. Lions in 1994 by current Ticat general manager Eric Tillman, with whom he’s kept in touch over the years. The team’s assistant general and director of Canadian scouting, Drew Allemang, has a good working relationship with Ptaszek and there are enough players in the Ticat locker room who are familiar with him – including Mac alum Mike Daly – that by training camp his reputation as a good coach and a decent guy will have already been established. There will be, of course, an adjustment period but Ptaszek isn’t a complete stranger.

4. He’s a good fit for the culture. Ptaszek is known as a smart, hard-working coach who demands a lot from his players while also treating them with respect. He’s a family-first guy, which also lines up nicely with the Austin Way. One of the reasons Ptaszek was selected over some of the other experienced candidates was because of the sense he would simply be a better fit.

In a larger sense, it maintains the organizations commitment to hiring and developing Canadians in football operations, a list that includes former head coaches Greg Marshall and Marcel Bellefeuille, a number of assistant coaches, Allemang and assistant general manager and director of football operations Shawn Burke.

5. It’s a good fit for him, too. Ptaszek had been at Mac a decade and had already achieved the ultimate success, winning the 2011 Vanier Cup. This gives him the opportunity to take the next step in his coaching career without having to uproot his family while also walking into a situation with an almost unheard of level of stability: Austin just signed an extension, ownership is rock solid and the team looks well-positioned for an continued run of success.

The decision to hire Ptaszek looks like a smart decision but, as with all play calls, it’s hard to know for sure. Yes, it looks good paper. Now let’s see if it works.

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