Few quibbles with TSN’s all-time Ticats roster

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

When TSN announced they would be naming all-time rosters for the nine CFL franchises as part of their CFL 2020 show, I knew these lists would be used to generate debate and interest in the league while we await word on if a season will take place in 2020.

Last week, the panel named their all-time Winnipeg Blue Bombers team and there were some head-scratching picks — no Andrew Harris? Willie Jefferson on there after just one season with the team? — and I was ready to pick apart their choices for the Ticats roster, which they unveiled on the latest episode.

Then I saw the list and, well, it is really hard to find fault with any of their picks.

The defensive line is the highlight, with all four players — Grover Covington, Joe Montford, John Barrow and Angelo Mosca — being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. I doubt you will find a team that will have a better front four than the one selected for the Ticats. It’s why a player like Ted Laurent, who many feel deserves a place on this list, was left off. Who do you take off to make room for him?

Ralph Sazio at head coach and Bernie Faloney at QB were equal no brainers. While Ron Lancaster and Danny McManus will be fondly remembered amongst my generation of Ticats fans, there is no arguing with selecting the most successful head coach and quarterback in franchise history.

Prior to the list being unveiled, running back was a tough position for me to pick. There hasn’t been a ton of great backs in Hamilton history. A lot of short-term wonders — think guys like DeAndra’ Cobb — but few long-term studs. Troy Davis, however, was one of the few long-term studs. The franchise leader in rushing yards was an easy pick. As was Jimmy Edwards, who despite a short stint with the team made a huge impact.

Kicker, punter and returner was easy as well, with Paul Osbaldiston taking up both kicking spots and Brandon Banks named the team’s greatest return man. Banks was going to make the team, but where was dependent on what position they selected Earl Winfield for. Much like Banks, Winfield was phenomenal receiver as well as returner. Seeing as The Pearl is the team’s all-time leading receiver, they chose him at the receiving position leaving returner all for Speedy B.

Now we get to the spots where I think there is some debate for others to have made the team. Let’s start with receiver.

Earl Winfield, Rocky DiPetro and Tommy Grant were shoe-ins, and while I know Darren Flutie is an all-time great, I still think I would have taken Tony Champion over him. Flutie was tremendous in his five seasons in Hamilton, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t associate him with the team as much as I do Champion, who unlike Flutie was once a finalist for MOP. Maybe it is my nostalgia glasses or maybe it is just my remembering the greatest catch in CFL history, but Champion would be on my all-time Ticats team without a second thought.

You could also make the case for Hal Patterson being on the team over Flutie. Patterson won an MOP, albeit as a member of the Montreal Alouettes, but he had more all-star seasons with the Ticats than Flutie did. I am not trying to diminish Flutie’s accomplishments, but I am not any more convinced in 2020 that he belongs on the team than I was in 2012 when the Ticats named their own all-time team.

Offensive line is another spot where I think a case can be made for some other players. Four of the five selected are hall of famers, but they seemingly selected just the best offensive linemen without thinking about positions. None of the players picked were centres, and with Marwan Have being the standard bearer at that specific spot, I feel he should have been chosen. Also, Vince Scott and Peter Neumann were more known for playing defensive line than offensive line, so including them while justified from a legend perspective makes little sense from a positional one.

Linebacker may have been one of the toughest to narrow down to three, but once again the panel chose to ignore position. Both Ben Zambiasi and Calvin Tiggle played primarily MIKE linebacker during their careers, while Simoni Lawrence is obviously the team’s current WILL linebacker.

But where is the SAM and how do you leave that spot unoccupied when the team had arguably the best SAM linebacker of the last decade in Markeith Knowlton? The Monster earned his nickname over six mostly stellar seasons with the Ticats. The apex of which was winning defensive player of the year in 2010. I believe that when making up a team that each position should be represented, and I think Knowlton should have been on here in place of Tiggle.

A lot of great defensive backs have come through Hamilton and the five selected were amongst the very best. Maybe this is a testament to how great this position has been that names like Gerald Vaughn, Less Browne (who did make the Winnipeg all-time team) and Delvin Breaux were not named. Putting someone on means taking someone off, and I don’t know who you replace to get one of the these three guys on, but I know an argument can be made. But there are only five spots and I think they got this one right… maybe.

Lastly, the foundational players being Bernie Custis and Chuck Ealey were home-run picks. Nothing more needs to be said about the first black man to ever be allowed to play quarterback at the professional level in Custis and the first to win the Grey Cup in Ealey. Two perfect picks as the franchises foundational selections.

All in all, the team that TSN put together was pretty spot on. A few minor quibbles, but overall a solid list that mirrors the rich history of the Tiger-Cats franchise.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.