Matthew Cauz is the Weekend Host for 'GAME DAY' on TSN 1050 Radio. Previously, he was a producer and football analyst for SUN TV where he appeared regularly on the “Casino Rama Grill Room” and he spent seven years working for TSN's “Off The Record”. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mcauz56.
I was reading Bob Irving’s piece on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quiet off-season when it struck me just how similar the free agency storylines regarding the Eastern Division are to what we saw in the NFL's NFC East before the start of the 2011 season.
If you remember ,everyone was dazzled by the assortment of players picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles as they went through the available free agents like a Kardashian does unwitting athletes. Everyone was proclaiming the Eagles the “winner” of the off-season and projecting a deep playoff run.
On the flip side were the New York Giants who stood back and watched as their best wide-out and tight end signed elsewhere while generating an Eeyore level of excitement from their own fan base to for the lack of talent brought back in return.
In August it was doom and gloom for the Giants while Vince Young was predicting the Eagles were the “Dream Team” of the NFL.
Now let’s turn our gaze to the tale of two cities between Hamilton and Winnipeg.
Beyond re-signing some key veterans, Winnipeg has welcome to their fold no new talent while in the process losing blue chipper Brendon LaBatte and the inconsistent yet dangerous Greg Carr.
This is a team that is preaching patience and faith from their fans, that there is enough young talent ready to step up and help maintain last year’s success. That is a noble and wise approach to building a strong franchise, a consistent winner, but it is also really boring!
Come on Winnipeg, the off-season is not about being prudent! It’s about making a splash, getting on the front page! Aren’t you tired of reading about the Jets fighting it out for the final playoff spot in the NHL?
And what about the fans? With no games going on, the only way you can entertain them is by bringing in shiny new players and raising expectations. Yes you don’t win games on paper, but in February if you don’t spend a ton of money, how do you know who is winning?
Speaking of winning, if you ask most fans they would say Hamilton has been the victors so far.
Andy Fantuz will help stabilize a young wide receiving corps, and his arrival will mean Dave Stala should be a match-up nightmare taking on opponents second best defensive backs.
Henry Burris will be out to prove Calgary let him go too soon and Greg Peach was a need pick after the loss of Justin Hickman to the CFL’s expansion team south of the border, the Indianapolis Colts. (Jerrell Freeman as well! Hey Indy stay away from our stars, I enjoying watching them up here.)
Now that is how you win an off-season! A new quarterback, the #1 free agent available and bolstering your pass rush. You could learn a few things Winnipeg.
Of course the Giants won the Super Bowl with their home grown talent at defensive line, quarterback and a diamond in the rough wideout named Victor Cruz. The Eagles finished 8-8 and were a punch line for much of the season.
This is not to say that Buck Pierce will be wining the Grey Cup or that Quinton Porter will be comparing Barton Street to South Beach. Just that we shouldn’t get too excited about the Tiger-Cats – of course it is hard not too – or write off the East Division Champion Blue Bombers.
Football isn’t the NBA; you can’t plug in some new pieces and expect a championship. Winning in this league comes from player development, Canadian talent, a winning system implemented by a confident coaching staff that is not afraid to delegate and good health. Unless of course you have 28 year-old Doug Flutie, then all bets are off.
Hey, I love what Hamilton did. They went after quality people that have succeed over a long period of time. But I am also more than willing to give Joe Mack and the Blue Bombers the benefit of the doubt.
Some other quick thoughts:
(1) The B.C. Lions have not made life easier for the division’s quarterbacks who are either young or inexperienced in Calgary and Edmonton or are coming off a down season (Darian Durant). Using free agency to stack your secondary with such a ridiculously high level of star power is just plain mean.
(2) Here’s hoping for a bounce back and healthy season for Rob Bagg.
(3) Offences should be happier with Jerrell Freeman, Solomon Elimimian and Justin Hickman all signing in the NFL
(4) Not since 2005 have the Argonauts had such stability at quarterback. Looking forward to seeing Ricky Ray throwing to Jason Barnes on the fast track at Skydome. Yes I still refuse to call in Rogers Centre.
(5) After allowing the second most yards through the air, Montreal did the right thing to focus on defence with the signing of Mark Restelli, Aaron Hunt and Rod Davis.
(6) Going to be weird not have Gene Makowsky in the league. One of the smarter players in this league, I’m glad Gene didn’t try to hang on for another year with another team. Just can’t imagine him in any other colour than Green & White.
(7) Week One Schedule: Ricky Ray as a visitor in Edmonton and a Grey Cup rematch between Winnipeg and B.C. Can we get this whole winter and spring thing out of the way please?