‘This is awesome for us’: Argos won’t burn game-tape after ’embarrassing’ loss to Lions

Photo courtesy: Tiffany Luke/B.C. Lions

Toronto Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has been known to show his fire on the football field but standing in front of the media on Saturday night in Vancouver, he was meek and mild.

While their mythical namesakes once sailed through the great Clashing Rocks of the Bosphorous with nary a scratch, his version of the Argos had been obliterated from all sides and smashed to bits on their trip to the Pacific Ocean.

You might call the 44-3 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the B.C. Lions humbling, but that would imply the team had any ego left intact at the end.

“I’m totally embarrassed,” Dinwiddie said post-game. “I mean, that was a horrible display of football and coaches have got their hand in it as well. We’ve all got to find a way to look in the mirror and find a way to get better.”

On the spectrum of pro football losses, few rank more lopsided than what Toronto suffered Saturday. Defensively, the team was overrun from the opening whistle. The Lions punted just twice on the evening as Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke tossed an effortless 426 yards and four touchdowns. B.C. kept cooking up points despite several key losses to injury and the Argos kindly allowed the team’s fullback, David Mackie, to rush for 90 yards and a touchdown when the Lions were left without a tailback.

On the other side of the ball, the Argos mustered just 242 yards of offence and failed to find the endzone. An initially promising start to the game by quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was silenced by a goal-line stand on the team’s opening series and it all went downhill from there.

The team’s shell-shocked coach had no definitive answer when asked if his offence or defence was more concerning, but had no qualms with the Lions’ aggressive game plan even once the result was firmly in hand. You reap what you sow and there were no warriors springing from the soil for these Argos.

“We deserved to get our asses kicked. That’s just what it is. If they go for it down there, then get the stop,” Dinwiddie said, referencing a late-game third-down attempt from B.C. “I mean, let’s be men and figure it out. I don’t have any hard feelings about that. We just got embarrassed.”

The common refrain after a loss of this magnitude is that the team should burn the game film and move on. McLeod Bethel-Thompson whole-heartedly disagreed, calling on his teammates to own the loss in what was a brisk address to reporters after the final whistle.

“We don’t turn the page at all. We look at ourselves deeply in the mirror,” he said, barely hiding his own frustrations.

“This is great. We’ll find out who the heck we are. You’ve got two ways to go, either shrivel up or you stand up, be a man and take it. We’re not shying away from anything. This is awesome for us. We need it.”

While far from responsible for the loss, the quarterback’s own stat line was middling. He was an efficient 15-of-21 passing for just 178 yards and an interception, before getting pulled in the fourth quarter. It was a decision that led to a heated exchange on the sideline between Dinwiddie and Bethel-Thompson, but the head coach down-played its importance post-game.

“He didn’t want to come out. He wanted to finish the game and most competitors do, but it’d be foolish for me to leave him in the game,” Dinwiddie explained.

“He gets hurt and we lose our starting quarterback. I just lost my [right tackle], how am I going to lose my quarterback at the same time? He didn’t understand it. He wanted to play and I get that. But at the same time, I can’t jeopardize losing my quarterback.”

While the coach and signal-caller may need a more in-depth conversation to set aside any hurt feelings, both are already on the same page when it comes to the path forward. The Argonauts have two choices and eight days until they take on the defending champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“Are we going to implode or are we going to get better?” Dinwiddie asked rhetorically. “I hope we get better. We need to get better. I don’t even have the words to describe how bad I feel and everybody in that locker room does. And we should. We’re pros, we’ve got to be better than that. That was just flat-out embarrassing. It looked like a college team.”

“That was a tough loss. It sucks. I hate it, but we can’t let it ruin our season.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.