The Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost 24-10 to the Edmonton Elks on Thursday night at Tim Hortons Field. Below are my thoughts on the game.
Before Thursday, you could look at the Ticats and know where they stood in the pecking order. They were nowhere near the upper echelon but they also weren’t in the basement either.
When you lose to a previously winless team, to the cellar you go.
The Tabbies have scored the second-fewest points and allowed the most, not a recipe for success. They have dealt with a number of injuries but so has every other team. They are without their starting quarterback but so is more than half the league.
This is a full-on disaster of a season and one that looks to get worse before it gets better.
Six of their nine remaining games come against Toronto (twice), B.C. (twice), Montreal and Winnipeg. Hamilton has gone 0-5 against those teams so far this year and unless they find a way to pull off a couple of gargantuan upsets, this team maxes out at six wins. Six wins will not get you in the playoffs, even in a year that features only four good teams.
A coaching change didn’t work and I doubt the return of underperforming veterans will either.
Hamilton’s defence was its typically ineffective self against the Elks, especially in the first half. Tre Ford looked like a Canadian Lamar Jackson, picking up chunk yards on the ground before killing the Ticats with his arm.
Mark Washington escaped a lot of criticism as fans flocked to throw dirt on Tommy Condell’s grave but Thursday exposed him to the harsher light. The Tabbies have been an abomination defensively since the season began and that continued against the Elks. They gave up 378 net yards, 165 of which were on the ground; 18 first downs; and 7.6 yards per play.
Changes need to be made to both scheme and personnel. The coaching staff has got to find a way to get athletic defenders Kyle Wilson and Carthell Flowers-Lloyd on the field more. If their playing time comes at the expense of higher-priced veterans, so be it. What they are doing is not working and hasn’t since the season kicked off.
Can’t blame Tommy
When the Ticats “mutually agreed to part ways” with Tommy Condell and replace him with Scott Milanovich, many fans hoped this would be the dawn of a new day.
Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.
The Tiger-Cats were once again listless on offence. They scored 10 points, including just one measly point in the game’s second half, and Condell is no longer around to blame.
The Ticats’ players continued to make too many costly mistakes. Anthony Johnson, making his first start of the season, dropped two easily catchable balls that could have extended drives. Taylor Powell was stripped by Ed Gainey on a scramble after he was flushed from the pocket because of poor play from his offensive line.
These are the same types of errors that have hampered this team through the first eight games and continued to do so despite the change in play-callers.
People are going to give Milanovich more leeway than they did Condell and that’s understandable. But Milanovich’s hiring was never going to provide a quick fix to Hamilton’s offensive ineptitude and, in fact, things are actually worse than I thought they would be.
Everyone wanted to blame Condell for this team’s shortcomings but if Thursday night proved anything, it is that he might not have even been the biggest problem with the offence.
Whatever Freaky Friday-like body swapping that took place between Marc Liegghio and a competent kicker seems to have worn off because the former Bomber showed why he is just that, a former Bomber, on Thursday night.
An abysmal outing saw Liegghio miss three of his four field goal attempts and his only convert attempt. It was one of the worst performances I can remember seeing from a Tiger-Cats’ kicker in nearly 20 years.
A 14-point loss cannot solely be blamed on one player but Liegghio taking 10 points off the board can certainly be pointed to as a major contributing factor.
Mr. Figueroa, are you healed yet?
The Ticats need to find replacement tackles quickly because, as I have said before, Brandon Kemp and Kendrick Sartor are not starting-calibre CFL linemen.
Both men were once again manhandled by the opposition, as Taylor Powell seemed to be running for his life on almost every snap. The Elks sacked Powell seven times and made him escape the pocket at least a dozen more.
The Ticats have a lot of linemen on the injured list right now and until they get healthy this offence is going to continue to struggle.
Orlondo, the cowardly coach
Orlondo Steinauer has never been much of a gambler but he continues to take his conservatism to new heights each week.
Against Edmonton, he once again punted in plus territory and made one of the most cowardly calls I have seen when he kicked a field goal just before halftime.
With nine seconds remaining and two timeouts, Steinauer opted to “take the points” instead of drawing something up to take a shot at the end zone. When the field goal unit trotted onto the field, the boos from the stands were the loudest I have heard from a home crowd toward its own team.
Steinauer has made some questionable decisions over the last couple of seasons but this one might be his most indefensible.
Speed round of good
Not a lot of good things to cover, so I will once again fit them all in one place.
James Butler continued his domination over the Edmonton Elks. The running back’s two best games this season have come against Edmonton where he has over 300 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Butler is now on pace to be the first Tiger-Cats rusher to eclipse 1,000 yards since DeAndra’ Cobb did it in 2010.
Taylor Powell had another fine performance. He executed Milanovich’s quick-release passing game well enough to have a long completion streak going deep into the second half. He was far from perfect but that should not be the standard a rookie quarterback is held to and he continues to be Hamilton’s best quarterback option until Bo Levi Mitchell is ready to return.
Tim White had his best game in over a month, leading the team with nine catches and 101 yards. White will need to continue to post numbers like that if this team is going to have any hope of a turnaround.
Dylan Wynn played his first game in almost a year and while he did not register a stat, it was still nice to see a player who works as hard as anyone get back onto the field after a long layoff.
I am going to get political here so if you don’t want to read about climate change, you can just skip this entry.
Thursday’s game featured an over 100-minute long weather delay thanks to lightning and these delays have been occurring much more frequently in recent years. Weather delays happened before but we are now seeing multiple long delays each season and it feels like we can’t go two weeks without a game being halted due to some type of adverse weather.
If you think these delays don’t have to do with the climate crisis we are all facing, you are burying your head in the sand. We have seen concerns about air quality from wildfires causing possible game cancellations and we have had more lightning delays than I can count. These extreme weather delays are the norm now and that is because of climate change.
There are probably some of you who will read this that think the climate crisis is a hoax or not as big a deal as those trying to fight against make it seem. While delaying a sporting event is on the lowest end of concerns, how anyone can see these things happen with more frequency each year and not be a least a little concerned is alarming to me.
I know these paragraphs likely won’t change your opinion but maybe they made you think for a second about the possibility of climate change being important. If that happens, I will consider this a success.
Who’s next for Wall call?
With Darren Flutie taking his long-awaited place on the Tiger-Cats’ Wall of Honour on Thursday, it got me wondering about future inductees.
Flutie was the last no-doubt member of the 1999 title-winning team that needed to be inducted and now the cupboard looks fairly bare.
The years following his tenure with the team were not exactly filled with excellence. Only recently have we seen legitimate future Wall candidates emerge, players like Simoni Lawrence, Brandon Banks and Ted Laurent.
Lawrence is a lock to make it after his career is over, while Banks and Laurent have decent shots to be enshrined as well.
But after that…
The Ticats had some very good players during their leaner years; names like Markeith Knowlton, Dave Stala and Jamall Johnson come to mind. I am not sure if they are Wall calibre though, despite how beloved they remain, because their tenures or their peaks were too short.
With a dearth of quality options, I wonder if Flutie’s ceremony will be the last one we see for quite some time.
Sitting at 3-6 was not where this team expected to be at the halfway point and things are about to get treacherous.
Hamilton’s second-half schedule is a murderers’ row and it begins next week when they travel to Vancouver to take on the Lions. B.C. is a true championship contender and Saturday’s clash could be a bloodbath.
The Tiger-Cats are not a good football team and they are going to have to beat some good teams if they want to salvage this season. Given how poorly this team has played in the first half of the season, that might be an impossible task.