Friday, May 3, 2013

Time for a New Voice

The CFL Draft is just around the corner, and normally that means a plethora of half-educated posts from me about who the Ti-Cats should take. But as you've probably noticed, I've been absent from these parts for almost a month. The reason is that I have been trying to make a decision on the future of this blog and I have come to the decision that after three years of immersing myself in all things Tiger-Cats, now is the right time to step aside.

This wasn't an easy decision, nor was it a quick one. I started wondering to myself as early as last September if 2012 should be my final season doing this. The passion that I once had just isn't there. I don't know if the season in Guelph, the underachieving squad or just a desire for change is the reason I am making the difficult decision to stop.

I began doing this back in February of 2010 and it has exploded into something much bigger than I ever imagine it would, or could, be. This was supposed to be something just for family and friends, and as detailed during my Moncton excursion, it was only something that was supposed to last until the 2011 season and was started as a way to keep my family informed on what I was doing when I was going to take the season-long journey with the team. But it grew into something much more than that. Members of the Tiger-Cats, both staff and players read this, members of the media (as in, like, real writers) read this, as well as the countless nameless and faceless people who have stopped by over the years to get my take on all things CFL and Tiger-Cats.

There was a dearth of fan coverage when I started, especially among Tiger-Cat fans, and I tried my best to fill a niche that I thought needed to be filled. I may come off as combative, maybe even a bit of a jerk, but I never wrote anything I wouldn't stand behind. Whether you vehemently disagreed with me or supported my position unequivocally, I appreciate you stopping by and giving my opinion some consideration.

Because of this blog, I had the chance to sit in the press box at Ivor Wynne Stadium (a cool moment that I will cherish forever), get my opinion published in the Hamilton Spectator on more than one occasion and take part in other CFL writing endevours. I was able to use this space to promote my friend Steve as a Scotiabank Game Changer and did my best to press the league to get on the Movember train (and if anyone was at Mark Cohon's Fan State of the League address during Grey Cup weekend in Toronto last November, you know the CFL is trying to come up with ways to make that happen). I have been able to do things I never thought I'd do and help people in ways I never thought I could. And I loved all of it.

One of the best aspects of this has been interacting with the readers. Whether in the comment section or on Twitter, there are so many great CFL fans out there that it would take too long to list them all. Agree or disagree, interacting with undoubtedly the best and most educated sports fans on the planet has been a blast. I thank you all for elevating the discourse on all things CFL.

But like all great things, there is an end, and today is mine. And now is the time to hand the reigns to someone else. A new voice needs to be heard and I hope some fills the void I will create just as I filled the void before me. There are a vast number of Tiger-Cat fans out there and I'm sure one of them will take the opportunity to create something great.

So I will end this simply by saying thank you. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and gave my stuff a chance. Thank you for challenging me when you disagreed and complimenting me when you agreed. Thank you for taking time out of your day to care enough about my opinion.

Thank you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Williams Wants Out

So the to-do with Chris Williams a month ago was not much ado about nothing. It now looks like Chris Williams wants out of his contract and is actively trying to get the final year voided.

The crux of Williams' argument is that when he signed his contract back in 2011, the Ti-Cats did not offer him a minimum-length contract (one year plus an option) which the CBA states is a must, even if the team also offers a longer deal. Williams was inked to a three-year deal.

Reaction online to what Williams is doing has been swift and harsh, with many siding with the team and saying Williams is being greedy, not honourable and is damaging his reputation. I understand that sentiment, but I don't entirely agree with it.

Football players have very short careers, so getting as much as you can as quickly as you can is almost a must. Williams has been playing for peanuts the last two years, two years in which he won league awards, and is looking for a chance to make more money. Whether that be with the Ti-Cats or in the NFL is immaterial. He wants more money and he has earned more money. Fans are quick to jump on a player's back when they believe he is being overcompensated, but when a guy has performed beyond his contract and wants a substantial raise, he is accused of being greedy.

The idea that he is doing something wrong by not honouring his deal is somewhat laughable. Football contracts are not guaranteed and therefore are pretty much not worth the paper they are printed on. The team can cut a player in a heartbeat, and when they do, no one thinks twice. When a player wants to break his deal, he gets labelled as a malcontent. Williams is getting bashed for not being loyal, but no one rips the team when they aren't loyal and cut a guy for someone cheaper or younger.

Williams has a bit of leverage after two award-winning seasons and he is using it. I don't see anything wrong with that. Like everyone else, I want to see Williams back, but I won't hold it against him if he chooses not to return or is successful in getting his deal voided. Williams will not be attending the team's voluntary mini-camp later this month and it is entirely possible that we have seen the last of him in a Ti-Cats jersey.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Is Chris Williams Done as a Tiger-Cat?

It was a normal Monday night and then Drew Edwards dropped a bombshell: Chris Williams' days as a Tiger-Cat might be numbered.

Williams has deleted the tweet that was the crux of Edwards' post, but Drew was kind enough to retweet it, so we still have it:That definitely doesn't sound positive.

It is very concerning that Williams appears so angry, but I have no idea what his problem is – O'Billovich's firing? Cortez's? – but it seems to have angered him enough that he is willing to publicly state that he won't be coming back (even if he's since purged his timeline of the tweet).

If Williams does not return, that will be a huge blow to the Ti-Cats. He has been an award winner in both his seasons in the team (top rookie in 2011, top special teamer in 2012) and his presence on both offense and special teams would be almost impossible to replace.

But if he is serious about not coming back to the Ti-Cats, then the team will have to trade him. And if they do, they will have to throw Williams under the bus and state that the reason he was dealt is because he didn't want to play in Hamilton any longer. Otherwise, the team will look foolish for trading an in-his-prime player.

My hope is that cooler heads will prevail, but a divorce could be coming. This is something that Ti-Cat fans, and fans of the other seven teams, will be keeping an eye on.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cats Make Front Office Moves

The Ticats made four hirings in their front office on Friday, naming Danny McManus the director of U.S. scouting, Drew Allemang the director of Canadian scouting, Shawn Burke as director of football administration and Eric Tillman as a consultant.

McManus, Allemang and Burke have all worked for the team previously, so the big news to come out of these hirings is bringing in Tillman.

To put it mildly, Eric Tillman is a polarizing figure. On the plus side, he has been a general manager for five different CFL teams over the course of his career and has won three Grey Cups in those stints. He is an astute football mind who has helped build winners almost everywhere he has been.

But a lot of opinions on Tillman changed two Decembers ago when he made perhaps the worst trade in pro sports history, sending future Hall of Fame quarterback Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts. He has also had some troubles in his personal life. He plead guilty to sexual assault on a teenage girl in 2010 while general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and was immediately dismissed as the team's GM.

But people shouldn't start worrying that Tillman will trade Henry Burris for a bag of shuttlecocks and $200 in pennies. Tillman is only a consultant and the final say on all matters still rests with Kent Austin. Austin will be the guy pulling the trigger, not Tillman.

And aside from the Ray deal, Tillman has shown he usually is right when dealing a player. The best example is when he shipped Kerry Joseph to Toronto in 2008. Many panned the move because Joseph had just led the Roughriders to their first Grey Cup win since 1989 and was named the league's Most Outstanding Player, but Tillman didn't believe Joseph was worth what he thought he was worth and sent him to Toronto. Joseph never recaptured his 2007 form and the Riders went to two Grey Cups with the team Tillman built (though he wasn't around for the second trip).

There really is no downside to bringing Tillman on as a consultant. He has a history of building teams into winners – say what you want about the Ray trade, but the Eskimos made the playoffs in both of Tillman's season as general manager – and has a good relationship with Austin, and can help the first-time GM navigate the waters in his first season at the helm of the Tiger-Cats.

Tillman brings invaluable experience and a history as a winner. He also has a chance to rehab his image with the Cats. This is a win-win from both sides, with little risk for Tillman and the team. All signs point to this being a successful marriage.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Grey Cup Rotation System Fairest for All Teams

The Grey Cup is headed back to the west coast as Vancouver will host Canadian football's biggest game in 2014.

This will be the second time in four years and the third time in nine years that the game will be played at BC Place. The only other bid was from Winnipeg, who pulled out to concentrate on bidding on the 2015 game, so Vancouver was the only option.

But the CFL is seeing a stadium-building boom right now – Winnipeg opens their new facility in June, Hamilton and Ottawa should be ready by 2014, and Regina will have their new stadium in 2017 – which means the league should change how the Grey Cup is awarded. Instead of a bidding process, the league should institute a simple rotation system. Here is how I would do it (starting in 2017):

2017 - Vancouver
2018 - Hamilton
2019 - Calgary
2020 - Montreal
2021 - Regina
2022 - Ottawa
2023 - Edmonton
2024 - Toronto
2025 - Winnipeg

This is the fairest system not just for the teams, but also the fans. The game isn't held in the same region of the country two years in a row, the games in domes (2017, 2020, 2024) are spread out enough to ensure the game isn't played in the cold too often (for people who care/worry about that kind of thing), and every team gets the game every nine years.

With places like Hamilton soon able to host the game, all nine CFL cities will be viable candidates for the Grey Cup. It makes little sense to continue to have teams bid on the game when the league can just put in a schedule that sees teams get the game when it is their turn. Once all the stadia are complete, we should never see something like BC (or any city) hosting the game multiple times in less than a decade (let alone multiple times in less than half a decade). If every team can host, every team should host. The CFL has a chance to once again do right by its fans and I hope they make the necessary changes to ensure Grey Cup equality amongst their nine franchises.