EAST DIVISION FINAL
EDMONTON at OTTAWA
Mike Reilly's participation affects this game greatly. On Wednesday the Eskimos quarterback announced he's healthy enough to start Sunday's game at Ottawa which is the best possible news for Edmonton.
I have a lot of respect for Eskimo back-up James Franklin, but his body of work just isn't there. Mike Reilly is the #1 driver in this league. As long as he's playing for this team, they'll be in the vast majority of games that he plays in.
Reilly's typical of the QBs who've come into this league the past few years: he's just figured it out. He's filled in all the gaps, he overcomes any shortcomings within the organization and he's the ultimate leader. He'll always find a way to overcome any short-term or long-term liabilities his team has.
I'm not sure how settled in Ottawa is with regards to their QB situation however. They've made quite a commitment to personnel themselves however their Head Coach Rick Campbell, and the key coaches around him, have made their offense perform despite the uncertainty at the QB position which has been quite up in the air all year.
Edmonton would have a chance to win with Franklin too, but I'd hope it would mean they'd hand the ball off - more than they might otherwise - to #30 John White. He's as good of a back as there is still playing this year, but the only question is would they give him the ball enough?
Without Reilly, they'd have to use White to protect Franklin and have him carry the ball 22-27 times within the first three quarters. They'd have a chance to keep it close no matter what happens if they did that, and then the fourth quarter is dictated by how the game has gone. If they're leading, give White the ball on every other play (if not more).
Edmonton can win without Reilly, but it certainly becomes a lot tighter.
|Campbell and Nelson|
"Vanilla" means relying on better players and I don't think that's a sustainable formula for anybody. The New England Patriots are the best example of that. Personnel people from all 32 NFL teams would tell you Bill Belichick's never had the best personnel - they've had strong personnel - but not the best. Personnel doesn't ensure anything when the coaching is competitive.
This season in particular, the coaching is as weak in this league as it's been since I've been in it, top-to-bottom. I think the Roughriders have the best coaching staff top-to-bottom, but it just didn't produce wins this season, clearly.
But Ottawa has excellent personnel and they're gonna be tough to deal with. If Edmonton doesn't out-think themselves on offense, it'll be a good back-and-forth game. If Reilly plays, they'll be able to figure it out.
With Ottawa's Run Dense specifically, I don't know there's a whole lot they'll be able to do different than what they have been. There are things Edmonton can do offensively that'll make it tough on the opposition defense no matter who they're playing.
I don't know if they'll use multiple tightends, but that makes it tough on a defense no matter if it's Bill Belichick coaching against them or Mark Nelson and Rick Campbell.
I think this game could close but I don't know if the games will be as close as last week's games. The semifinals were outstanding.
From a traditional standpoint, looking at offensive production, Edmonton is no more dominant than they were during last year's Grey Cup run. In fact it's probably less-so, but the defense has come up and played better than they did at the beginning of this season.
The whole driver in the thing for Edmonton is Mike Reilly. He's been able to stir the cocktail this year with a brand new offensive system, not to mention new systems on defense and special teams, and be productive.
If you put a .22-calibre gun to my head, I would pick Edmonton to win this game.
WEST DIVISION FINAL
B.C. at CALGARY
I'd be surprised if B.C. wins it.
My biggest complaint about B.C. this year is the three coordinators (Khari Jones, Mark Washington and Marcello Simmons). I coached Marcello and have followed his coaching career. Khari got his first shot in Hamilton in 2008 with Marcel Bellefeuille and they are back collaborating again in B.C. This is Khari's first year really being a coordinator as it was Marcel's offense in Hamilton.
That's sort of like Scott Milanovich when he was in Montreal with Marc Trestman but there's a little difference between Marc Trestman and Marcel Bellefeuille, in my opinion. And Mark Washington has only coached in Canada and his entire time has been within Wally's system.
People who know, know that these are Wally Buono's defensive and special teams systems with the Lions. Wally has a very solid system and his thumb is all over that. He had it during the whole Benevides era in Vancouver for three seasons as well as last year with Jeff Tedford. But Washington has the title, and they've played good defense during his time there.
B.C. started the season strong, ended it weakly, and then had a solid outing last week against Winnipeg. Obviously Lions QB Jon Jennings made some mistakes early last Sunday and then came back and finished strong. But this is his first year of playing as a starter and he's going against Calgary.
Bo-Levi Mitchell started strong in 2014, dropped off in 2015, and the narrative was that Mike Reilly was the best QB in the West. This year with Dave Dickenson as Head Coach and John Hufnagel moving upstairs, Bo-Levi has had a resurgence.
Mitchell's got a sizable ego on him - but most guys do in order to succeed at this level. Reilly has a big ego too, but it's well-managed. Bo-Levi's is less well-managed, let's say, but he's a spectacular performer and that goes back to his high school days in Katy, TX.
Calgary's defense has performed way better than I would've anticipated with a first year coordinator in Devone Claybrooks. They've really been consistent.
TSN's Matt Dunigan calls it "Complimentary Football" in Calgary, a term which was stolen from the NFL.
To simplify that term for the readers, it means to "fill in the gaps". If you have a strong offense, there are inevitably times that it gets stopped. Now it's up to the defense and special teams to find a way to win. It works the other way when the music doesn't sound good on defense either. The other phases have to pick it up in order to get the win.
If anybody can play Complimentary Football consistently, it's John Hufnagel's Stampeders. But the term, especially coming from someone on the TSN panel, is just a pass for a weak offense.
If anything could trip up Calgary in this game, it's turnovers. Anything can happen in a game. And if B.C. runs the ball effectively and consistently, they'd have a chance but very few teams stay with it. Rich Stubler's done it for years; he dares you to run the ball. He doesn't think you'll do it and most teams don't.
ETCH ON THE TSN BROADCASTS
I enjoy analyzing it because the media has no problem criticizing everybody else, especially in Canada.
There is no competition for TSN up here.
In the U.S., there are media columnists making big-time livings simply covering the media. People are held accountable down there and there's significant competition. It's the same in the world of late night talkshows. My favourite was David Letterman, but he could never beat Jay Leno.
In Canada there's no competition, and here you've got TSN and they spend half their time telling each other how great they are.
Sportsnet doesn't have the contract, hence they have no games.
TSN has an awesome responsibility in this country to teach a sport that fundamentally is on the periphery. And here you've got TSN with people who are incapable of teaching the game.
I take it very seriously, obviously, and for them to be dismissive of a variety of coaches and players and think that they've got all the answers, well, all I can say is I'd love to have the opportunity to have that group of characters on the other sideline.
That doesn't mean they'd never win. They'd luck in to some wins but generally speaking it'd be a cartoon. Half the things they're saying are absolutely inaccurate. That's a frustrating thing.
They're dismissing of coaches. "It's no big deal to coach", or "Anybody can do it". That's the narrative.
Former NFL defensive back Ty Law is doing the same thing down in the States, making the rounds on TV saying that any success the Patriots have had over the years is because of great leadership in the locker room.
Let's see how that works out over time.
I do like following these guys and holding them accountable.
Rod has said, and touché, that nobody likes being criticized. I don't mind constructive criticism from somebody who's demonstrated success in my chosen field.
They have not.
In fact the one guy who's coached in this league is Matt Dunigan and he was 4-14 in his one season in charge of the Calgary Stampeders. That's just the reality of the situation.
Like I said, I'd love to coach against that whole group.
THAT'S IT! I'LL SEE YA WHEN I SEE YA