Sober Second Thoughts: Lions QB not an issue, for now

Boy, now we know why it’s called Sober Second Thoughts, because another home stinker by the Lions in losing 25-14 to the Toronto Argonauts Thursday actually might send a person in search of a drink

First things first: A look at the statistics, assuming you could find any along press row afterwards, would suggest the Lions might be wondering whether to change quarterbacks for their next game.

Travis Lulay had better numbers than Jon Jennings, just like Anthony Allen finished with superior rushing totals than Brandon Whitaker (above) of the Argos. Big deal. Whitaker and his team made plays when it mattered down the stretch. B.C. coughed up another fuzzball at home.

“We played well enough to show hope, but bad enough to lose,” Wally Buono said, summing things perfectly.

Lest anyone think there’s a quarterback controversy with the Lions however, think again. Jennings should start. Lulay should come out of the bullpen. That’s the way this team was set up.

Another start or two in which Jennings doesn’t move the offence and Buono may be compelled to think differently, but not now. Jennings was beaten by unfortunate throws which landed in the arms of Toronto’s Keon Raymond, who has now picked him off four times of his 12 career interceptions, and Argos defensive genius Rich Stubler. Jennings isn’t alone there.

Roster roulette: The pre-game conversation centered around which of the three new Lions starters, each of whom had CFL experience, would be watched more closely than any other. Kirby Fabien was at the top of the list. Anthony Allen might have been second. That changed quickly once Allen got the ball. It changed even more down the stretch.

It wasn’t that Bryant Turner may have worn down in his first game on the defensive line subbing for Mich’ael Brooks for the Lions but the fact there wasn’t sufficient resistance from one of the deepest position groups on Thursday’s roster.

For the first time in years, the Lions dressed seven defensive linemen but used rookies Darius Allen and Kache Palacio mostly on special teams. Using that logic, Allen (139 yards from scrimmage, 1 fumble) made a case to remain in the lineup when Jeremiah Johnson is healthy.

Dressing four import d-linemen wasn’t nearly as productive, and couldn’t make up for four turnovers, eight penalties, two lost challenges, two blown interceptions resulting in a nine-point swing, and no answer for Whitaker.

If Buono didn’t want to tinker early because of two wins, he has his chance now.

Box office blues: The Lions don’t play another game until they are handing out medals in Rio de Janiero but it remains to be seen whether that even becomes an issue with the dwindling football populace in the Lower Mainland.

It needs to be noted that despite the buzz associated with a 2-0 start, the Lions went in reverse at the box office, and not by a little, which clearly should raise big red flags at the Hamilton headquarters of recovering owner David Braley.

It’s fair to think that the numbers will pick up during five openings after Labour Day but it’s also too easy to dismiss the downturn Thursday as simply a weeknight opening against a traditionally unglamorous non-divisional opponent either.

The crowd of 18,921 fans Thursday was the lowest of the Wally Buono era and worst regular season draw since Aug. 21, 2002, when Adam Rita was in charge, and read deep into this recent bit of reporting it’s also now safe to even question that figure. That’s nearly 3,000 fewer than the Calgary regular season opener, when the paying customer had a right to be skeptical about the Buono effect.

Perhaps the only good bit of news is that commissioner Jeffrey Orridge made his second visit to Vancouver in his current job to see the slippage firsthand and will recognize that like the Toronto Argonauts under Braley, another team needs help too. It’s amazing to see how far expectations have dropped about a team which was averaging in the order of 28,000 fans a game just two years ago.

For all the gains made by the Lions gaining a football foothold on social media, the marketing side of the operation is obviously losing ground. Bob Ackles, who sadly passed away eight years ago today, thought he had turned this franchise when TV blackouts remained the norm. Sad to think how much more must be done once again.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.