There are certain axioms that everyone accepts, but sometimes are not true. Defense wins championships is the big one that has been debunked numerous time, including right here on 3DownNation a couple years ago.
But the 2017 CFL saw a few other long-held football tropes get a swift kick in the rear end, with proof that maybe the old adages aren’t so foolproof after all.
Belief: Can’t hire a coach late
Debunked by: Toronto Argonauts
Remember when we all mercilessly mocked the Toronto Argonauts for waiting until almost March to name their head coach for 2017? Remember how it happened almost three weeks after the start of free agency and reportedly cost them a number of top free agents, like Derek Dennis, Ernest Jackson and Chris Williams? Look at the Argos now.
Not bad for a team that had no clue what they were doing four months before the season started, eh?
Belief: Midseason coaching changes never work
Debunked by: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Midseason coaching changes in some sports, mostly basketball and hockey, happen frequently with not only good teams, but teams that eventually win championships.
Recently, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt midway through the 2015-16 season and went on to win the NBA title that June. The New Jersey Devils fired head coach Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the 1999-2000 season and went on to win the Stanley Cup that June. These are just two of a number of examples of this working in those sports.
But these types of midseason coaching changes never work in football, so when the 0-8 Ticats named June Jones the team’s interim head coach in late August, no one expected much. All Jones did was guide the team to six wins and very nearly got them into the playoffs. He was so successful, that the team has decided to bring him back and signed him to a three-year contract on December 4. So much for in-season coaching changes not working in football.
Belief: General managers need to be in place early to establish their vision
Debunked by: Edmonton Eskimos, Toronto Argonauts
Two teams that didn’t have a leader in their front office won 12 and nine games, respectively, got their teams into the playoffs, with one winning their division and, oh yeah, the Grey Cup.
The Argos didn’t bring in Jim Popp until late February (on the same day they hired Marc Trestman) and it was after the team lost out on a number of high-profile free agents because they didn’t have the vision to sell to the players. Well, Popp found some guys on the scrap heap, like Cassius Vaughn, and the team picked up guys like Rico Murray and Bear Woods when their previous team deemed them expendable, and all those players, especially Vaughn, played a huge role in the Argos winning the 105th Grey Cup just a few months later.
The Esks might have been in an even worse situation as they waited until April before they fired Ed Hervey and hired his replacement, former Ottawa Redblacks assistant GM Brock Sunderland. Sunderland came on board just 13 days before one of the biggest days for a CFL GM, draft day. All the Esks did: make solid choices, including two picks, fifth-round pick Kwaku Boetang and third-round pick Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, that finished the season as team award winners (Boetang as the team’s top rookie, Mulumba-Tshimanga as top special teams player). Not bad for a guy who had less than two weeks to prepare.
Belief: Justin Medlock is the greatest kicker in CFL history
Debunked by: Justin Medlock
No ill will meant, but Justin Medlock had a tough year, and an especially tough midseason stretch. His grip on the title of league’s best ever kicker became a lot more tenuous. He still led the league in made field goals, with 56, but he took 70 attempts and his 80 per cent success rate was dead last for kickers who attempted more than 30 kicks. He missed seven field goals over a six-week span, including an oh-for-three day against the Edmonton Eskimos in late September. Medlock found his groove again late in the season, but his 14 misses were more than his previous two seasons combined and almost double his previous record for missed kicks in a season, which was eight last year. Medlock is still in the conversation as the league’s kicking G.O.A.T., but he is no longer the unquestioned greatest ever after a rough 2017.