Opinion: Hamilton’s offence will improve under Scott Milanovich but expectations should be tempered

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made a major change on Monday, handing the offensive play-calling duties to veteran coach Scott Milanovich after mutually agreeing to part ways with offensive coordinator Tommy Condell.

Milanovich, who joined the team as a senior assistant coach in May, has been a successful play-caller during his time in the CFL, winning two Grey Cups as the offensive coordinator in Montreal and one as the head coach in Toronto.

The move has been met with near-universal praise with the belief being that Milanovich will turn around an underperforming Ticats offence. Through eight games, the Tabbies have featured one of the league’s worst attacks, ranking seventh in net yards per game and eighth in offensive points per game.

Milanovich’s offences in Montreal were prolific with the Alouettes finishing either first or second in scoring in each of his four years as play-caller. While his Toronto teams never reached those heights, he is still viewed as one of the league’s better offensive minds.

There will likely be a short-term bump to Hamilton’s offence, which is common when a coaching change is made. Milanovich is certainly set up to succeed out of the gate with Hamilton hosting the winless Edmonton Elks following their Week 10 bye. Edmonton has allowed the second-most points this season and gave up 37 to the Ticats when the clubs met back in Week 5.

Despite what is likely to be an impressive first outing, expectations for Hamilton’s offence to go from worst to first should be tempered.

The roster was put together for Condell’s system, not Milanovich’s, and changing schemes in the middle of the year is an incredibly difficult proposition. Midseason coaching changes rarely produce sustainable results because the roster was not crafted with the new scheme in mind. The Ticats don’t lack talent but they might not have the right talent to execute what Milanvoich wants to do offensively.

Even if this change doesn’t produce a vastly improved Ticats’ offence for 2023, the move could pay dividends for future seasons, especially at the quarterback position.

Milanovich had a hand in developing a number of current CFL quarterbacks, including Zach Collaros, Trevor Harris, and Cody Fajardo. All three came into the league under Milanovich while he was the head coach in Toronto and his tutelage helped all three become bona fide CFL starters with multiple teams.

With Bo Levi Mitchell on the shelf for the next month, the Ticats need to use this time to see what they have in rookie Taylor Powell. Matthew Shiltz is a known commodity and his upside is limited at this point in his career. Powell, however, is still moldable and there are few better to aid in the process of shaping a young quarterback than Scott Milanovich.

This move might also turn out to be good for Mitchell when he returns from injury, even if part of the reason he signed with Hamilton was getting to work with Condell. We saw Milanovich work wonders with both Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray in the latter stages of their careers and perhaps this move could do the same for Mitchell, who has struggled in his first season in Steeltown when not dealing with myriad injuries.

Giving Milanovich control of the offence will produce some short-term results but likely won’t change Hamilton’s trajectory in any meaningful way this season.

Where this move could pay off is years down the line at the game’s most important position.

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.