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Around the CFL: August 2, 2006

<p>The ground game, featuring running backs such as Joffrey Reynolds, Charles Roberts, Robert Edwards and Joe Smith, is clearly becoming more prominent in the pass-heavy CFL, and it's at least partly because the league's quarterbacks and receivers are growing older and becoming less productive.</p>

The ground game, featuring running backs such as Joffrey Reynolds, Charles Roberts, Robert Edwards and Joe Smith, is clearly becoming more prominent in the pass-heavy CFL, and it's at least partly because the league's quarterbacks and receivers are growing older and becoming less productive.


Chaps such as Damon Allen, Danny McManus, Terry Vaughn, Ed Hervey, Ben CahoonandMookie Mitchell simply can't contribute to their teams the way they once did.


Quarterbacks Anthony Calvillo, Dave Dickenson and perhaps Kerry Joseph are still holding their own, but even they are not performing with thesort ofconsistency we've become accustomed to seeing from them over the years.


The one exception to the age problem in the CFL is receiver Milt Stegall of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.


At the end of last year, Stegall strongly considered retiring. Stegall was never fleet of foot to begin with, but hesaid after last season that he was slowing down and, after a dreadful season for the Bombers in general, he mentionedduring a post-season stint as a television analyst with The Score that he might want to pursue a different line of work.


When the Bombers firedJim Daley as their head coach after last season --he was a terrible choice as a head coach, by the way --Stegall's enthusiasm was renewed and he figured he'd give it another shot in Winnipeg under new head coach Doug Berry.


Berry and the Bombers are glad he did, to say the least,because, at 36, Stegall is on pace to set the CFL's single-season recordfor most yards receiving.


After seven games, Stegall has caught 50 passes. He caught 52 passes all last season. He's on pace this season to amass 2,201 yards, which would erase the record of 2,036 yards, set by ex-Calgary receiver Allen Pitts.


"Stegall's amazing," Vaughn mentioned. "He's slow, but he somehow gets past his defenders. And when he does, there's no catching him."


That was quite evident a couple of weeks ago, when Stegall grabbed a long Kevin Glenn pass between two of the Edmonton Eskimos' defenders and then trotted for a 100-yard, game-winning touchdown on the final play.


After the game, Stegall called himself "Black Jesus."


Last week,during a shutout rout over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Stegall again toyed with his opponents and wound up being chosen the CFL's offensive player of the week.


After the Hamilton game, Stegallwasn't calling himself Black Jesus any more.Instead, he said: "I'm the black Ben Cahoon. I'm the tall and pretty Ben Cahoon."


Immediately afterthat29-0 pasting of Hamilton, by the way, Ticats interim head coachRon Lancaster picked on one player -- veteran receiver/kick returner Craig Yeast -- and cut him mercilessly in front of the whole team.


Lancaster has been around long enough to know that football is a team game, and unloading Yeastin that fashion showeda lack of compassion and a lack of understanding.


"I thinkLancaster is classless and full of himself," one of the Ticats told me. "He tries to be a dictator. He tries to tell us what we should eat, where we can go, who we can talk to.


"Well, in this day and age, that's not going to work. We're adults and we can make our own decisions. This is a guy who is showing that the game has clearly passed him by.He's disgusting, and what he did to Yeast was uncalled for."


Lancaster did admit in an interview this week with The Hamilton Spectator that he should have been more diplomatic in cutting Yeast, but the damage already is done.


In fact, the aforementioned Ticat said: "It doesn't matter what Lancaster says the rest of this year. He's lost our respect. And thereality of the situation is that this club was way too premature in firing Greg Marshall. He should not have been fired and Lancaster certainly was the wrong guy to take over. Most of the guys on this team feel this way, believe me."



Kent Austin was a formidable quarterback during his days in the CFL and, entering this season, he was perceived as a sharp offensive co-ordinator with the potential to become a head coach some day.


The perception, however, is changing.


The Toronto Argonauts' offence has been mostly lamentable this season and it's attributable not only to injuries but to a lack of imagination and creativity. That'sthe fault of Austin, who serves as the Argos' offensive co-ordinator.


And, while the Toronto hierarchy isn't thinking of coaching changes at this point, it undoutbedly will after the season is there isn's considerable progress in the second half.


And then Doug Flutie could be coming back to Toronto as the Argos' new offensive co-ordinator next season.


The B.C. Lions' Wally Buono is once again proving that he is the bestgeneral manager/head coach in the CFL.


He replaced Antonio Warren a few weeks ago with the aforementioned Joe Smith, and the latter is shredding defences.


He allowed middle linebacker Barrin Simpson to jump to the Bombers as a free agent, and yet Simpson's replacement,Javy Glatt, has emerged from the proverbial nowhere to look like the top middle linebacker in the CFL. Glattis the CFL's defensive player of the weekafteran outstanding effort against the Argos last Saturday.


The Calgary Stampeders have been plunging and some of the players tell me they're concerned that quarterback Henry Burris is losing confidence.


Of course, it doesn't help when a usually solid receiver such as Jeremaine Copeland keeps dropping passes from Burris.


Something is wrong in the Calgary offence, for sure, and if there's no improvement against the Saskatchewan Roughriders this week, look for a major shakeup early next week.


Copeland, incidentally, was caught by TSN cameras laughing after dropping passes from Burris in Regina.


"To me, as a person," Copeland told The Calgary Herald, "I've got to laugh it off. I'm not going to sit around and get mad at it, man, because if you (dwell) on the play too long, it will carry on to the next couple of plays. I kind of laughed it off and guys on the sideline were laughing just because they know that (dropping passes) is not me. That's not what I do."


Calgary GM Jim Barker is keeping busy, not only showing up on the sidelines during games as an aide to head coach Tom Higgins, but also in off-field negotiations.


Wisely, Barker is close to signing two of the CFL's brightest stars -- the aforementioned Joffrey Reynolds and kicker Sandro DeAngelis -- to new, long-term contracts.



Danny Barrett may have saved his job as Saskatchewan's head coach because of his team's triumph over Calgary last week.


I'm told assistant coach Richie Hall already was told that he was being considered to take over as a mid-season replacement.


Here's my own little ranking (out of 10) of the former-players-turned-analysts on CFL telecasts:



Darren Flutie, CBC -- 9. Sharp, astute and, most importantly, tells it like it is.



Chris Walby, CBC -- 8.5. Comes up with insight like none of his peers.



Glen Suitor, TSN -- 7.5. Energetic, informative but talks a bit too much and pumps up the CFL excessively.



Sean Millington, CBC -- 7. Not afraid to step on toes.



Matt Dunigan, TSN - 6.5. Can be funny and tells decent stories but, after his great CFL career, should open up a bit more.



Jock Climie, TSN - 5.5 Delivers interesting information from time to time but comes across as slightly condescending.



Greg Frers, CBC -3.5. Bland.



Leif Pettersen, TSN - 2. Doesn't tell viewers anything they don't already know or can't already see.



Chris Schultz, TSN - 1. Dull as dishwater and often incomprehensible.


From the email bag:


Hi Marty,


I found your rumour about Greg Marshall as the next Eskies coach to be hard to believe. Stranger things have happened. Danny Macoccia isn't gaining confidence pointswith Hugh Campbell, especially after the last second loss to Winnipeg and the Eskies poor offence production insix games.


Iam a big Marshall supporter, but I think he has to go through the ranks as an offensive co-ordinator or assistant coach before he tackles the head coach job again in the CFL . I wonder how reliableyour sources are on this one.


I don't think the so-called prosin Hamilton respected him because he came directly from aCanadian university (McMaster).


I wish him all the best. With a guaranteed contract, he has time to assess future coachingjobs in the CFL. I think he's had a taste for the CFL and won't want to return to university ball.


Thanks for reading my lengthyemail and I look forward to reading future articles you write in Metro. I have the site bookmarked.



Hi Rocco,


All I can tell you is this:


Two or three more losses for the Eskimos and Danny Maciocca will be replaced as head coach, most likely by Greg Marshall.






Hey Marty,


What the heck is happening to the CFL I love? I can't remember a year when there have been so many lousy games.



Hey Sherry,


Here's what I wrote in The York Report in Metro Tues., Aug. 1:


Despite all the adversity it has faced off the field, the CFL has survived largely because it has always offered an exciting product on the field.


Historically, the league featured lots of scoring, close games, plenty of long passes and wonderful catches, dramatic special-teams plays and fast-paced action.


No more.


Most CFL games this season have been painfully dull. Three of the four games this past weekend, for instance, were one-sided snoozers and the only match that was remotely entertaining - a victory by Montreal in Edmonton -- produced a mere 34 points.


Hamilton couldn't even score a point. Calgary couldn't score a touchdown and Toronto could only emerge with a touchdown in the final minute, on a fumble recovery.


Turnouts at CFL stadiums are decreasing, understandably, and, with a lame-duck commissioner in Tom Wright, nothing is happening at the league level to examine just why the product has deteriorated.


"It's ridiculous," Edmonton receiver Ed Hervey said. "People are soon going to stop watching the games on TV and stop caring because it's become bad."

Some of the theories circulating among the players:


• Officials are calling too many penalties.


• There's a serious dearth of decent backup quarterbacks, as illustrated in Toronto and Hamilton after Damon Allen and Jason Maas were injured.


• The new footballs manufactured this season are causing problems for QBs. Allen was on The Fan 590 reiterating what was printed in this column earlier this season -- that the new balls are heavier and more difficult to throw.


• Video replays, also introduced this season, are slowing down games.






Marty,


I've never heard you comment on U.S. expansion or what you have heard from the team owners, GM's etc. about the subject.


Halifax would be nice, but they don't have a stadium and won't have one unless the Feds build it for them for 2014.


I think Portland, Milwaukee, Detroit and maybe Hartford could work with the right owners. At least most of those cities have some kind of stadium. Players from those cities area or state could be their non-imports.






Alan,


The idea of U.S. expansion in the CFL is just like your surname -- wild.


It wasn't all that long ago, remember, when CFL expansion in the States failed miserably and blew up in the league's collective face.


Mind you, the money from the owners who paid for U.S. franchises came in very handy for the CFL and kept the league alive, but the league is doing relatively well within Canada these days and, if there's going to be expansion, it'll be within Canada.


In fact, as I wrote in The York Report in Metro earlier this week, Ottawa will be back in the CFL next season.






Good morning Mr. York - and indeed it is a GREAT morning when we hear that our beloved team (in Ottawa) might just be back next year.


I'm curious - did your source reveal any timetables for an official announcement ? We have heard that the end of September or possibly as late as the end of October would be the drop-dead date, but I wonder if that is still the plan. We hear more and more positive bits of news everywhere. Any information you can share would appreciated!


At any rate, thanks for brightening up my day! Have a good one !



Good morning Mr. Tanguay,


I'll reprint here the York Report that ran in Metro Wed. Aug. 2. You'll notice that I mention in my report that the league has set Sept. 31 asa date for approving new ownership. I could not say for certain whether this is a drop-dead date or not, but knowing the CFL as I do, I would doubt it.


In any case, here's the complete story reprinted:





Ottawa will return to the CFL next season -- for sure, a source told Metro yesterday.


"I can tell you here and now that Ottawa definitely will be back for the 2007 season," a member of the CFL's franchise committee said. "There's significant interest, legitimate interest. It's just a matter of who will

be the owners."


The source said outgoing CFL commissioner Tom Wright has focused on very little business this season other than re-establishing an Ottawa franchise.


"He's pretty well obsessed with it," the source said. "He has solid business people, with integrity and credibility, ready to start up next season."


Solid business people, with integrity and credibility, would be significantly different than the previous ownership of Bernie and Lonie Glieberman, U.S. businessmen who stopped paying the bills for the Renegades last year and wound up leaving the CFL with eight teams this season instead of nine.


The league has set Sept. 31 as a date for approving new Ottawa ownership.


Among the investors pursuing the Renegades are Golden Gate Capital Corp., a Toronto financial services company led by chief executive Anthony Primerano, pharmaceutical giant Apotex Inc., and a syndicate of minor-league baseball owners who are fronted by a former CFL player.



Message from Marty York:



After about three decades of covering the CFL in newspapers, magazines, on national television and on radio, the folks who run Metro newspapers have given me the opportunity to report on the league in a new and efficient way -- online, right here at

www.metronews.ca

. Here, I will have the space and freedom to cover the league the way that will best serve you. My reports will be updated at least twice a week and will include information you're not likely to find elsewhere. I will also give you my weekly CFL picks. And I welcome email from CFL fans -- send them to

marty.york@metronews.ca

. I'll publish some from time to time. I'm very excited about this venture, and I hope you will be, too.

 
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