In their fourth Grey Cup appearance in the past five seasons, the Calgary Stampeders washed away the bad taste of two straight losses in the big game with a dominating 27-16 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks Sunday at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
The Stampeder defence led the way on the day forcing six Redblack turnovers and even though Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw two interceptions, he was solid in leading an efficient and opportunistic offensive effort.
Trevor Harris may have had the most disappointing day. After a six-touchdown game in an East Division final victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Sunday he threw a trio of interceptions and was off just a hair all game.
Both quarterbacks seemed a tad uncomfortable all game, but the timing was interrupted because of the terrible field conditions. The field was a skating rink and the enormous field logos didn’t make it any better.
Yes, it was the same for both teams (which is something a grumpy uncle or someone pining for the “good ol’ days would say) but it’s an unnecessary element the teams had to deal with and it impacted the play and the entertainment value of the game. Conditions in Edmonton were a bit of a mixed bag all week ranging from plus to minus temperatures even into game time and that just may have had an impact on the field.
However the conditions on a snowy Grey Cup in Ottawa in last year were better as were recent field conditions in Regina and Winnipeg. Field conditions were unacceptable when one considers the Grey Cup to be the premier marketing vehicle for the league to the professional football stage around the world.
Looking from far away at both teams, they are almost mirror images of each other. Both relied on solid quarterbacking play all season and constantly received outstanding efforts from their Canadians.
The Stampeders fill out their Canadians in a little different way, but when you have one of the best defenders in the CFL in linebacker Alex Singleton, it’s easy to do. Add a solid duo in their receiving core with Lemar Durant and Juwan Brescacin, and they are able to run just a pair of Canadian offensive linemen. Toss in the rotation of Derek Wiggan and Junior Turner at defensive tackle, and you see there is great depth with their Canadians.
Ottawa is a little more traditional with all-Canadian receiver Brad Sinopoli, quality reps at wide receiver from Julian Feoli-Gudino and a strong and deep offensive line (five-deep at the center and guard positions). Throw in former all-star safety Antoine Pruneau and the Redblacks had one of the stronger groups of Canadians in the CFL.
This is where the Saskatchewan Roughriders can take the next step in their development. They are able to scout out and find some great Americans to fill out the roster, but at times it feels like the organization tries to survive their Canadians (in both salary and numbers) than winning with them.
Injuries did take a toll on Canadians in 2018 and there are great building blocks with Brendon LaBatte, Zack Evans, Dan Clark and, when healthy, Marc-Olivier Brouillette. Hopefully Micah Tietz can stay healthy and take some solid reps at defence, Jake Harty recovers from a season ending knee injury and finally a solid, safe draft will help. But in the end, the lack of production from the home-grown talent hurt the Riders.
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It took a while to sink in, but the cap on the number of coaches and the operations salary cap implemented by the CFL is completely near-sighted. It is nothing but a ploy to eliminate one of the CFLPA’s negotiating points: that the coaches are so well paid and why isn’t there a little more for the players?
Here’s where it will hurt the CFL:
- The competition for quality young American coaches. Yes, a salary cap evens the operational playing field across the CFL, but it makes the playing field across the game of football uneven.
NCAA coaches are well paid, across the board. Not even looking at head coaching roles (which the lowest paid is $390,000 in 2018), assistants are making some very good money. For example, to lure Kent State Golden Flash tight ends coach O.J. Santiago (a Canadian) his salary just to come to Canada would have to start at $75,000 CAD. This is because his 2017 salary is $54,000 USD per year, which is 948th on the list of assistant coach salaries in the NCAA according to the USA Today annual salaries list.
Let’s not even start with what some U.S. high school coaches make.
Restricting the number of coaches to 11 does free up a little money, but when some of the teams have already released coaches and cut the salaries of those remaining, good luck recruiting fresh blood.
The CFL will continue to be the coaching retirement home for the likes of Jerry Glanville and June Jones.
There are just 27 USports head coaching jobs and maybe double that for full-time assistants. This is a very thin pool of coaching talent to draw from.
The entry level quality-control coaches and unit-assistants are crucial in the development of professional coaches in Canada.
One way the CFL can help that is make four of the 11 coaches Canadian, just like how there is a Canadian player ratio. This is where you can tell the CFL didn’t completely think this through.
- This will also hurt the development of future CFL players. With 11 coaches, the young Canadians and new Americans will not have the opportunity for one-on-one development. There is a finite amount of practice time each week, and without the opportunity for some quality time with a coach on the field or in the film room, the quality of play will drop.
- Finally, if the CFL puts the final part of this operations salary cap into play, say goodbye to the numerous free-agent and mini-camps during the spring. Now with the AAF scooping up players the need for quality scouting across North America will only increase.
This is just one of the many things that will be bandied about during what will be one of the most important off-seasons in the history of this great league.
Canadian to watch in the NCAA
Rysen John – Jr.
Receiver – Simon Fraser
High School – Vancouver College
The final Canadian to watch in the NCAA for the 2018 season is from the lone Canadian school in the NCAA, the Simon Fraser Clan.
Rysen John had a breakout junior season with the Clan with 50 catches for 706 yards and six touchdowns. He was named a GNAC all-conference second team with three other teammates including sophomore defensive lineman Isaac Evans from Coquitlam, B.C.
John will no-doubt be one of the top receiving prospects in the 2020 CFL draft.