Our most popular (and controversial) stories of the year

“All you guys do is publish click-bait.”

That’s the single biggest criticism we get here at 3Down – along with “you guys hate the Riders” and “why don’t you ban that donkey guy?” – and while I don’t agree with that sentiment (we run lots of different of content, the vast majority of which isn’t remotely contentious) that complaint might better be rephrased this way:

“Why do you guys insist on running stories people want to read?”

A look through our top-10 most-read stories of 2017 shows a cornucopia of controversy. We don’t run these stories because it brings us some perverse glee; we run them because they’re news and because, well, people read them. And lest you think it isn’t working: our traffic is up almost 200 per cent from last year.

And no, we don’t hate the Riders. That they’ve been at the centre of controversy for much of the last two seasons has more to do with them than us, quite frankly. They also have a strong fan base who consume anything and everything Riders (including our content.) As for Donkey… that’s whole other post.

While we’re here, thanks to all our readers and (most of) our commenters for making this year the most successful in 3Down history. From a personal standpoint, this site has exceeded my wildest expectations and we’re hoping for even bigger things next year.

Anyway, here’s the list. And here’s hoping 2018 is just as fun – and interesting – as 2017 was.

No. 10: Ticats discussed Zach Collaros trade with Riders, received offer from Argos

“Prior to the 29-year-old being benched by new Ticats head coach June Jones, Hamilton was presented with a potential deal from the Argos that would have included three Canadians and a high draft pick. Since Collaros was demoted that proposal fell by the wayside and his trade value has since diminished.”

This is the first of a number of Justin Dunk scoops on this list and the fact that it involved a high-profile quarterback and the Riders didn’t hurt, either. Thing is, Collaros’ future is still a storyline heading into 2018 and the deal the Ticats turned down may look pretty good when all is said and done.

No. 9: Argos make Marc Trestman highest paid coach in the CFL

“Head coaches in the CFL generally earn in the $275,000 to $400,000 range while those with a dual general manager-head coach title can expect a salary in excess of $500,000. For Trestman to be among the top-paid executives in the CFL while solely a head coach is likely to garner attention around the league.”

Given that the Argonauts went from missing the playoffs to winning the Grey Cup the following year, spending big bucks on Trestman’s deal seems to have paid off handsomely for the Argos.

No. 8: Scouting note on every single 2017 CFL draft pick

This was our 2017 CFL draft live blog which featured Dunk and other 3Down contributors providing instant analysis on the CFL draft as it happened. And no, he didn’t break the picks before they were announced on TSN… for this year at least.

No. 7: Riders workout Johnny Manziel. Team denies it.

“Sources with 3DownNation.com say Manziel was put through the paces by the Riders in Florida in advance of last month’s Senior Bowl. Manziel is on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ negotiation list, having been added on Sept. 9, 2012, and Saskatchewan did not have permission to conduct a workout.”

Hoo boy. This is actually the second version of the Manziel workout story which included denials from the team and news that the CFL was investigating. The first version of this story repeatedly crashed the site, to the point where we eventually upgraded our servers. Just including this story on the list will no doubt spark another round of criticism in the comment section and there’s no question it’s the most controversial story we’ve done. One more note: Saskatchewan Roughriders vice-president of football operations and head coach Chris Jones was fined $5,000 by the CFL for meeting with Manziel’s publicist just over two months later.

No. 6: Duron Carter says Bomber fan spit on him, calls them ‘worst in the league’

“Fans responded, most expressing sympathy for Carter – who had 10 catches for 101 yards, including another spectacular grab – with some apologizing on behalf on Bomber fans. But this being social media, a Bomber fan used poor grammar to chirp Carter and call him names.”

No player garnered more attention than Duron Carter in 2017. He made great catches, played defensive back, got into shoving matches with opponents, fought with teammates (more on that in a bit), gave away footballs to cancer-fighting kids, took fans to the movies and played some remarkable football.  Love him or hate him – and there’s plenty in both camps – but Carter was the single biggest newsmaker in the CFL this season.

No. 5: Ticat players slam Kent Austin, don’t want him to return

“Guys really started to get frustrated in training camp. Then when we started losing, there were guys speaking up in the locker room, guys who you wouldn’t expect to speak out,” one player said. Said another: “It became evident he had lost the locker room.”

Dissension in the Ticat locker room had been the source of speculation for some time but things boiled after the season when players, speaking on the condition of anonymity, blasted their former coach and current director of football operations. But owner Bob Young immediately defended Austin – and called me naive – and though he acknowledged discussing other opportunities, he remains with the club.

No. 4: Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell defends hiring of Art Briles

“…Art Briles is a good man that was caught in a very bad situation. Clearly, some serious mistakes were made along the way but we feel strongly that people deserve second chances and that’s what we’ve decided to do with Art Briles.”

The Ticats decision to hire Art Briles, who was fired as the coach at Baylor University after a sexual assault scandal, made headlines across North America – very few of them good. The team reversed the decision just hours after this story was published and Mitchell and team owner Bob Young apologized.

No. 3: #WhatAboutKaren? Bad CFL officiating costs woman a million dollars

Kuldys is the contestant in Safeway’s Touchdown to Win contest – which pays $1 million if two kickoffs are returned for touchdowns in the same game – and looked have the money in her pocket after Bomber Ryan Lankford took the opening kickoff 105 yards for a score and Argonaut Martese Jackson followed that up with another one late in the second quarter. But just as Jackson crossed the goal line after 109 yards, out came a penalty flag.

Karen Kuldys’ losing a million dollars on a bad penalty call – “Oh, they called that,” said TSN play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert at the time – became national news as Milt Stegall’s half-time plea “what about Karen” quickly trended on Twitter. CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the next day that “the call could have gone either way,” while offering the family of Bomber fans free seasons’ tickets and a VIP trip to the Grey Cup.

No. 2: Interview: Canadian football video game almost ready for launch

“Though the last twelve months haven’t gone exactly as David Winter hoped, he still can’t help but feel optimistic about the future of his soon to be released video game, Canadian Football 2017.”

Yeah, the popularity of this story surprised us too but it goes to show the level of interest from CFL fans in a quality video game. Canuck Play’s final product was largely disappointing and while CFL’s kid-oriented Football Frenzy, released in September, was amusing enough, the wait for a high-quality, CFL-licenced Madden-style video game continues.

No. 1: Incident at practice could lead to Duron Carter suspension

“The altercation – believed to be a fight – took place between Carter and a defensive player and sources say it could lead to Carter being kept out of  Friday’s game against Calgary and possibly longer.”

Yep, Duron again. The practice incident and Carter’s cryptic Tweet – “It was fun while it lasted” – sparked a flurry of speculation around what happened and what would happen next. The Riders downplayed the incident and Carter started at defensive back the following week (after getting chirped by Bo Levi Mitchell) where he promptly returned an interception for a touchdown.

In a year filled with controversy, it seems only fitting that the league’s most controversial player should top this list.

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