• Reeve Batstone

Better Late Than Never


Photo: Courtesy Toronto Argonauts


After a familiarly dismal first half performance, MBT and the Argos offence awakened and beat the hapless Elks in a completely meaningless game. This game had zero impact on the standings for the Argos. In other words, it had no upside in terms of reward but only the catastrophic risk of losing top players to injury. Unless the Argos really don't have any long-term plans for Chad Kelly, he should have started to give him meaningful reps to develop and evaluate his potential better. They did this last season with Anthony Pipkin and later released him. MBT and Muamba should have been rested for this game. Losing either one of them to injury would effectively end any realistic chance of finishing first or winning a playoff game. As I have been saying for more than a month now, no matter what happens in their other games, the Argos will need to split their home and home v Montreal to finish first. The win v Edmonton changed nothing.


Contrast this with Mike O'Shea's decision to rest Zach Collaros and three starting o-lineman v BC on Saturday, and give Dru Brown the start. O'Shea has done this before. There is a reason he is gunning for a three-peat in addition to good personnel and coaching, its called wise judgement. He is not trying to pad the stats. The Argos dodged bullets in Edmonton. It was this kind of poor judgement that led Rick Campbell to leave Nathan Rourke in games that had long been decided. It came back to bite him and you see the consequences. MBT isn't the same player as Collaros but he is as important to the Argos as Collaros is to Winnipeg. A serious injury to MBT would have cashiered the Argos season.


TSN was gifted 3.5 outstanding CFL games this past weekend and they conveniently overlooked that fact that this was a completely meaningless game in the standings but hyped it as though it was.


Edmonton QB Tyler Cornelius was showing obvious signs of a concussion following a hellacious hit, and should not have been returned to the game. The fact that Edmonton replaced him with Tre Ford until he threw an interception, is an indictment all on its own. Big fail by the Elks and CFL in allowing this to happen, and TSN for not calling it out. They both get an F with conviction. Not professional grade.


Positives:

MBT had a passing efficiency rating of 111 and did not throw any INTs but he will never get the respect he deserves until he wins the Eastern final. He has been on a lot of teams in his career but is no longer a journeyman. This is his 6th year with the Argos, twice as long as most professional football careers last. He is as resilient as they come and will be the Eastern all star QB again and will lead the league in passing yards. Cody Fajardo has been sacked more often this year but no QB in the league has been blown up as often as MBT in the last three seasons. He has been hammered.


The o-line opened up good running lanes for Ouellette who capitalized for 9 yards per carry on only 10 carries.


Their middle linebacker, not their safety, led the team in tackles with eight.


Boris Bede was perfect on five FGs.


Negatives:

A comically bad kick return accented with a forward pass. Not necessarily a bad idea, but very badly executed.


Last week I questioned the choice of penalty challenges, this week I will pile on. The Argos are now 2 for 11 on challenges this year with several coming in the first half. This is a terrible track record and they need to review the process they are following, if not the timing and person providing this advice. Dinwiddie is following recommendations which have not been professional grade. On Saturday the Argos challenged for a penalty in the first half which is very rarely called, and had little impact on the play. It was a very poor decision. Unless the play is a game changer and is clearcut these challenges should be reserved for the second half, period. Perhaps Dinwiddie needs to channel Billy Beane from Moneyball. Beane is famously a disciple of probability. When he arrived to the Oakland A's he knew the value (statistically) of his hitters not swinging on the first pitch. He fined any of his players who did so. Beane went on to revolutionize baseball and professional sports with analytics. The Argos coaching staff took a step back this past week. If they want to finish first and advance to the Grey Cup, they need to renovate their decision-making criteria on challenges, and fast.


I agree with Milt Stegall of the TSN panel, the Argos are very inconsistent and could reach the Grey Cup, win it in a close game, or get blown out. They remain an enigma wrapped in a mystery inside a riddle. They need to win one of their two final games to realistically get that chance. I like their odds but if they don't win, it will herald a sad end to a promising season. The next two games will require that their best players play like their best players. Anything less will end in disappointment.