Too Early to Give up on Ticats Season

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REGINA, SK - JULY 08: Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin on the sideline during the game between the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on July 8, 2017 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

Despite becoming the undisputed laughingstock of the CFL in the opening third of the season, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats deserve kudos for their recent coaching staff moves. It remains to be seen how they will affect the Ticats season – which has been atrocious so far.

June Jones – a Good Start

It’s unlikely the hiring of new assistant head coach June Jones will breathe new life into this rump of a season if he’s allowed to install the run-and-shoot offence which made him famous in the NFL and NCAA. It’s a quirky system that produced mixed results down south and has proven downright disastrous for any Canadian team who has tried it in the past thirty years.

But some of Jones’s plays could provide Zach Collaros a new wrinkle to throw at opposing defenses. Kent Austin’s offense has become a little too vanilla in his five years in Hammertown, opening the door for a run-and-shoot package to be introduced in a limited role.

Firing Reinebold a No-Brainer

The firing of Jeff Reinebold as defensive co-ordinator is, however, a game-changer. It’s been said repeatedly over the years that the quirky Reinebold was a good character for the CFL but not a good fit as head coach. His recent history in Montreal and Hamilton suggest he’s not a good defensive coordinator either. The offence shoulders much of the blame for the Tabbies’ lacklustre start, but coughing up an average of 39 points per game isn’t going to get it done either.

Marc Trestman learned this lesson about Reinebold the hard way in Montreal. He saw the worst defense in his five years there under Reinebold; the charismatic coach cost him a shot at a third Grey Cup with the Alouettes. Jeff Reinebold is a good guy, good broadcaster, good position coach, and good special teams coach. But he has no business running a team or defensive unit.

Awful East Division

The biggest factor keeping the Tiger-Cats’ Grey Cup hopes alive have nothing to do with their latest moves. Nor is it their inept personnel department, which seems more interested in grabbing headlines by putting NFL quarterbacks on their negotiation list than they are in actually finding affordable young talent to stockpile onto their roster. The bulk of the credit goes to the rest of the CFL east division.

Entering play this weekend, none of the other teams have seized control of a division: nobody appears to really want it all that badly. All the Tiger-Cats really need is to sweep a home and home with the Argos and win their game in hand to catch the division-leading Argos. And Toronto are now without Ricky Ray for a while, giving the Ticats even better chances.

This is bad news for an east division trying finally to earn some respect from the rest of the country. It’s fantastic news for Kent Austin, who’s taken Hamilton to Grey Cup games after 1-and-4…and even 1-and-6 starts, respectively, in his first two seasons in Steeltown.

Harold Ballard’s teams from 1984 to ’86 strung together starts of 2-8-1, 1-and-6, and 1-and-5 to make it to the Grey Cup for those three seasons, and the team was still treated like royalty around the city.

It’s all enough to say we’ve seen sicker dogs than this one get well.

Jacques Chapdelaine’s conservative play calling in Montreal has yet to inspire confidence in anyone that the Alouettes are unbeatable. And if Trevor Harris’ first seven games are any indication, he’s hardly proven to be a “clutch performer” for Ottawa.

It’s unlikely the Tiger-Cats will make the postseason given the greasefire their season has been to date. But a comeback and Cinderella run is entirely possible.

Can’t write this crew off 2017. At least not yet.

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