‘No-excuse football team’: after being tabbed 2021 Grey Cup favourites, Ticats suffer nightmare 0-2 start

Photo courtesy: Hamilton Tiger-Cats/Arthur Ward

The visitors locker room inside Mosaic Stadium was quiet while head coach Orlondo Steinauer addressed his team following a second straight loss to begin the 2021 season.

It was a moment filled with reflection and mixed with the shock of an 0-2 start that was completely unexpected. Steinauer delivered a direct message to his football team:

“We got a lot of football left. We’re not executing at a level that is required to win football games. They know, they’re not happy, they understand, but it starts with me,” Steinauer said.

“I’m going to look at myself first and I want them to look at themselves.”

Steinauer stated the Tabbies are in “information gathering stage” after losses to the Blue Bombers and Roughriders. The data gathered will show the Ticats have played eight quarters of football this year and turned the football over nine times with four interceptions, three fumbles, and two turnovers on downs.

“That’s the statistic that just never really lies in football,” Steinauer said.

Starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was picked off two times in each of the first two games and twice versus Saskatchewan. A.J. Hendy took the football away from Masoli with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter. On the next series, Masoli was looking for Brandon Banks, but the ball ricocheted off his hands and Blace Brown made a diving interception.

“I thought in the beginning we protected a little bit better. We had some issues there and we thought we addressed that both by scheme and personnel. We seemed to start decent but we’re not finishing decent,” Steinauer said.

Masoli’s interceptions led directly to 10 Riders points, extending the advantage to 27-8. That led to No. 8 being benched and Dane Evans entering the game. He completed 3-of-10 passes for 21 yards and could be seen visibly frustrated on the sidelines after failing to put together any drives.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen at a lot of positions heading into the bye week and heading out of it,” Steinauer responded when asked who would be his starter at QB in Week 4 against the Alouettes in Montreal.

Hamilton hasn’t started 0-2 or worse since 2017 when Kent Austin fired himself following an 0-8 start. The Tiger-Cats did not make the playoffs after finishing 6-4 that year. It’s the same season Steinauer was coaching at Fresno State University and the only time in that span since his arrival in the Hammer in 2013 the Tabbies have missed the post-season.

“We’re a no-excuse football team. We’re not playing well enough to win football games and we gotta figure it out,” Steinauer said.

“I’m not overly discouraged, I am far from happy or satisfied. We are who we are in 2021 and at the end of the day, we gotta be better.”

The Tiger-Cats are scheduled to host the Grey Cup in December and were tabbed as favourites to win the CFL title following a franchise-best 15-3 regular season the last time CFL football was played prior to the COVID pandemic.

“It’s a different football team here in 2021. This is not the 2019 football team. Other teams aren’t the same as 2019. I only address it because the media addresses it,” Steinauer said.

“For the players that were here, they may be a little bit shocked, but for the majority of the ones that weren’t, they wouldn’t know any different.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.