CFL Beat: Your 2017 Season Wrap-Up

The Maestro
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The Maestro

The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn’t in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
The Maestro
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I know that this column revolves around Canada and a whole variety of Canadian things, which for a number of you, might seem like excessive jingoism, and I understand that sentiment. Oddly enough, after experiencing my first-ever Grey Cup live in the flesh, I can now safely say that apparently I’ve been unconsciously toning it down for you, a predominantly American audience.

This lady’s hat had a scrolling-text thing attached, and it was wicked. [DFO] should sell some of these for sure.

I will say this – I had an absolute blast. I can’t wait until the next Grey Cup I get to attend, wherever that may be – I was also grateful to be dressed warmly enough for it. But I can also completely understand if the whole experience would be too Canadian for Americans to properly appreciate – hell, it’s probably too Canadian for some Canadians’ preferences as well. That’s also fine. At any rate, considering it’s Canada’s 150th birthday, and the game was being played in our capital city of Ottawa, it makes sense to have pulled out all the stops for this one all the same. With temporary grandstands added in the end zones to add an additional 12,000 seats to the 24,000 seat venue, the already raucous TD Place was even louder than normal for this game, which added to the fun for sure.

Lots of snow and long lineups to get into the stadium – but unquestionably worth the wait.

For starters, I need to give a rundown of the clothing I was wearing to this game. It’s essential, in fact, because it’ll help you contextualize the weather. This game was played in the snow, with the temperature hovering around -2 degrees Celsius (about 28 degrees Fahrenheit), though in our section on the North Side, wind wasn’t much of a factor which was nice. Here’s a quick rundown of everything I had to put on to stay warm over the four hour period I was in the stands:

Layer 1: Boxer shorts, knitted wool socks, merino wool long sleeve shirt.

Layer 2: My lucky Ottawa REDBLACKS t-shirt, merino long underwear.

Layer 3: Flannel shirt, jeans.

Layer 4: Down liner jacket, snow pants (where I can’t do the button up because they’re a decade old and I’ve gotten too fat, but fuck it), lined winter boots.

Layer 5: Ski jacket, lined work gloves for winter wear, 2016 Grey Cup Champions ballcap (to keep the snow off my glasses).

Layer 6: Ottawa Senators toque, signed Al MacInnis Team Canada hockey sweater (in a section full of fans from all teams – I had Bomber fans in the row in front of me, Argo fans to my left, and Ti-Cat & Roughrider fans in behind me – I wanted to make a concerted effort to be non-partisan, if only for this one game).

All things said, I was perfectly cozy in this layering, and got to footballing pretty good.

Why was this Grey Cup so Canadian, you ask? Well, let’s see… it was snowing like crazy, we had the Prime Minister and his family in attendance, we had a platoon of troops marching out on field to stand at attention during the national anthem (which was sung bilingually, naturally), Mounties in their dress uniforms delivering the Grey Cup, and, of course, Shania Twain in all her glory. If only the snow hadn’t been so thick that the CF-18 Super Hornets could have done their fly-by. And fortunately for the 36,154 fans in attendance, it was also one hell of a game on the field too.

 

105th GREY CUP RECAP

Calgary 24 vs. Toronto 27

First Quarter

With the snow falling early on, both teams decided to stick to some fairly conservative playcalling, if only for the first while at least. Running the football seemed to be the way to go for much of the first quarter – passes were getting dropped and punt returns were getting muffed by both teams. Calgary opened the scoring on a swing pass from Bo Levi Mitchell to Kamar Jorden, who turned the corner and went 33 yards for a touchdown. The weather would continue to be a big factor for much of the first half – with snow affecting kicking abilities, the Stamps elected to go for two to start things off – and were unsuccessful on this attempt, with Mitchell’s pass over the middle ending up rattling off the crossbar of the goalpost.

Second Quarter

The Argos responded with a spectacular play from Ricky Ray to rookie receiver DeVier Posey – on 2nd and 10 from the Argos’ 10, Posey ran an out route and snagged Ray’s pass at the Toronto 44, then beat his man for a 100-yard touchdown, the longest pass in Grey Cup history. With the subsequent extra point attempt missed wide left, the score was knotted at 6, and Calgary pushed forward once again. Jerome Messam scored his first touchdown of the game with a 6-yard run, and the Stamps converted a two-point attempt when DaVaris Daniels caught a short pass from Bo Levi Mitchell. Later on, after stalled drives by both Toronto and Calgary, a botched punt by the Stampeders’ Rob Maver saw him forced to kick the ball out of the back of his own end zone, conceding a safety; however, in doing so, he likely saved a touchdown by preventing the Argos from recovering it. A Rene Paredes field goal as the clock expired in the half gave Calgary a 17-8 lead after 30 minutes of play.

Halftime

Shania Twain rocked the goddamn house. Literally. The North Side grandstands, built in 1967, were literally shaking as people danced along to her classic tunes, which admittedly had me somewhat concerned until I realized that AC/DC somehow hadn’t made the place fall down a couple years previously. Also, she entered the field being pulled on a dogsled. Yes, for real. You know you’re special to a country when you can get the entire crowd, regardless of age or gender to be dancing and singing along to lyrics such as “Man! I feel like a woman.” The all-red outfit was also a killer look, too. She’s 52 and looks at least a decade younger. Rock on, Shania.

[source]

Third Quarter

Toronto received the ball to start the second half, and capped off a four-minute, 8-play, 87-yard drive with a 2-yard run by rookie running back James Wilder, Jr. for a touchdown. A successful two-point attempt immediately afterwards cut the Stamps’ lead to just one point; at this point, Toronto began to really show that they had some life in them, and a win was now within the range of possibility. Calgary wasn’t done yet, though – just under five minutes later, Bo Levi Mitchell would find Jerome Messam for his second TD of the game – a short pass that he caught at the 3 and ran in for the score. With the snow having lessened somewhat from the first half, Calgary elected to kick for one, and Rene Paredes made no mistake. 24-16, Stamps, and the stage was set for a wild fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter

After two stalled drives by Toronto, time was slipping away. Calgary was driving once again, and marched down to within the red zone. With just over five minutes to go, Kamar Jorden caught a pass from Mitchell at the 9-yard line.. but after getting tackled by DB Jermaine Gabriel, he fumbled, and the ball was recovered at the 1 by DB Cassius Vaughn… who ran it back 109 yards for a touchdown! After a successful 2-point convert from Ricky Ray to FB Declan Cross, the game was tied at 24 apiece. Another another stalled drive, the Argos then got the ball back, and drove from their 31 to the Calgary 25, which was enough to get Lirim Hajrullahu a 32-yard field goal. With 53 seconds left on the clock, Calgary was down to their final chance to respond, but with twenty seconds left, Argos DB Matt Black picked off Bo Levi Mitchell in the end zone, sealing the victory for the Argos.

Aftermath

The Argos’ win was their seventeenth Grey Cup victory, further increasing their total as the CFL’s all-time leader in championships, and it marks a remarkable turnaround from just ten months previous, where the organization fired their GM and saw their head coach quit. This also marks QB Ricky Ray’s fourth championship, and he becomes the first CFL quarterback to win four Grey Cups, and with two different teams (2003 and 2005 with the Edmonton Eskimos, 2012 and 2017 with the Argonauts). While he didn’t win the MVP of the game, he still had an excellent game under centre, going 19-32 for 297 yards and a TD; rookie receiver DeVier Posey would take home those honours, racking up 7 catches for 175 yards, including the record-breaking 100-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. The Stampeders’ Jerome Messam won the Most Outstanding Canadian award of the game, racking up 13 carries for 62 yards and a rush TD, plus a 6-yard receiving TD as well.

It’s another extremely bitter result for the Stampeders, who once again went into the game as the favourite; in successive year, the team has blown the game in spectacular fashion. All the same, oddsmakers still have them as the favourites to win the 2018 Grey Cup; I think if they want to take the next step, something’s going to need to change. What that is, I can’t say – I think personnel-wise, the team is incredibly deep and balanced, and the coaching staff has done very well – but if there’s a way that somehow can feel more pressure to perform in close games from an earlier point in the year, that could be the catalyst that will be able to propel them to victory in the end. Without understanding the ability to perform under pressure, it’s difficult for any team, no matter how good, to be able to close a game out.

All the same, I’m already looking forward to the 2018 season! We have the potential to see some big turnover in a number of areas, so I’ll be intrigued to see how this offseason shapes before this column returns at the beginning of June. Hope you enjoyed the last six months of following along with me!

SEASON RECAP & STATS

All stats indicated in italics denote the season leader in that category.

BC Lions

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 11-7

Season Record: 7-11 (7th of 9, 5th in West; missed playoffs)

Home Record: 3-6 (T-7th)

Away Record: 4-5 (T-6th)

Divisional Record: 3-7 (8th)

Total Points For: 469 (7th)

Total Points Against: 501 (7th)

Total Passing Yards: 5425 (3rd)

Total Passing TDs: 26 (6th)

Total Rushing Yards: 1666 (5th)

Total Rushing TDs: 19 (2nd)

Total Turnovers: 42 (9th)

Leading Passer: J. Jennings (15 GP, 3639 yards, 306-466 pass attempts, 65.7% completion rate, 16 TD, 19 INT, 58.9 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: J. Johnson (17 GP, 913 yards, 158 carries, 5.8 yards per carry, 9 TD)

Leading Receiver: B. Burnham (16 GP, 1202 yards, 81 catches, 7 TD)

Leading Kick returner: C. Rainey (18 GP, 1671 yards, 72 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: C. Rainey (18 GP, 690 yards, 80 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Tackler: S. Elimimian (18 GP, 144)

Leading Pass interceptor: T. Lee (15 GP, 4)

Leading Sacker: C. Roh (16 GP, 7)

Leading Field goal kicker: T. Long (18 GP, 39/44, 88.6%, longest 50 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • With Wally Buono’s contract set to expire at the end of this season, it’s likely he’ll retire. Who’s going to take over the reins from him, both at GM and at head coach? His veteran presence is a big loss to the team, regardless of their record this year.
  • With Jonathon Jennings stinking it up this year and with Travis Lulay on the mend from a torn ACL, what’s the likelihood that BC will make a splash and sign or trade for a QB during the offseason – and if so, who do they target? Zach Collaros from Hamilton? Darian Durant from Montreal? Kevin Glenn from Saskatchewan? The possibilities are out there.
  • Beyond just merely trading for a quarterback – if you’re going to make a trade, what’s the basis for it – do your trade for someone on an expiring contract as a stopgap basis if you feel that Jennings can get himself back on track to be a true #1 starter, or do you feel that Jennings’ time is done, and do you trade for someone who’s going to be your guy for the long-term? I have no idea how the new front office/coaching staff will evaluate the QB situation, and BC appears to be in quite a quandary if they don’t make a decision early on.

Calgary Stampeders

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 13-5

Season Record: 13-4-1 (1st of 9, 1st in West; lost in Grey Cup to TOR)

Home Record: 7-2 (1st)

Away Record: 6-2-1 (1st)

Divisional Record: 7-3 (1st)

Total Points For: 523 (2nd)

Total Points Against: 349 (1st)

Total Passing Yards: 5066 (6th)

Total Passing TDs: 24 (7th)

Total Rushing Yards: 1663 (6th)

Total Rushing TDs: 18 (3rd)

Total Turnovers: 24 (1st)

Leading Passer: B. Mitchell (17 GP, 4700 yards, 349-546 pass attempts, 63.9% completion rate, 323 TD, 11 INT, 78.0 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: J. Messam (17 GP, 1016 yards, 215 carries, 4.7 yards per carry, 9 TD)

Leading Receiver: M. McDaniel (14 GP, 860 yards, 65 catches, 4 TD)

Leading Kick returner: R. Finch (13 GP, 696 yards, 26 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: R. Finch (13 GP, 1200 yards, 73 returns, 3 TD)

Leading Tackler: A. Singleton (18 GP, 123)

Leading Pass Interceptor: J. Wall (18 GP, 4)

Leading Sacker: C. Hughes (14 GP, 11)

Leading Field goal kicker: R. Paredes (18 GP, 53/58, 91.4%, longest 48 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • With the league’s best record in back to back seasons, and with nothing but two crushing Grey Cup losses to show for it, what changes need to be made in order to finally close out tight games?
  • With injuries, particularly to the offence, being a notable problem this year, who can Calgary find during the off-season to help further bolster their depth, particularly at wide receiver?

Edmonton Eskimos

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 10-8

Season Record: 12-6 (T-2nd of 9; 3rd in West; lost in West Final to CGY)

Home Record: 6-3 (T-2nd)

Away Record: 6-3 (T-2nd)

Divisional Record: 6-4 (3rd)

Total Points For: 510 (T-4th)

Total Points Against: 495 (6th)

Total Passing Yards: 5972 (1st)

Total Passing TDs: 32 (3rd)

Total Rushing Yards: 1734 (2nd)

Total Rushing TDs: 20 (1st)

Total Turnovers: 29 (T-4th)

Leading Passer: M. Reilly (18 GP, 5830 yards, 447-654 pass attempts, 68.3% completion rate, 30 TD, 13 INT, 87.1 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: M. Reilly (17 GP, 390 yards, 97 carries, 4.0 yards per carry, 12 TD)

Leading Receiver: B. Zylstra (16 GP, 1687 yards, 100 catches, 5 TD)

Leading Kick returner: C. Edwards (17 GP, 926 yards, 38 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: J. Smith (5 GP, 220 yards, 24 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Tackler: K. Ladler (17 GP, 86)

Leading Pass Interceptor: D. Lacey (18 GP, 3)

Leading Sacker: A. Sewell (15 GP, 11)

Leading Field goal kicker: S. Whyte (6 GP, 15/16, 93.8%, longest 55 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • There’s no doubt that Mike Reilly proved once again this year that he’s the best quarterback in the CFL; with the offence running really well thanks to a deep receiver corps and some savvy trading for rushing depth, can they carry their momentum forward into 2018?
  • Will CJ Gable end up re-signing with the Eskimos this off-season? Or will Edmonton want to stick with John White as their starting RB, who despite having had two major injuries in three seasons, is still four years younger than Gable?
  • Will the defence be able to stay healthier this coming year? If so, will that be the key to this team finally getting over the hurdle that has been the Calgary Stampeders the past two seasons?

Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 7-11

Season Record: 10-8 (4th of 9, 4th in West, crossed over to East playoffs; lost in East final to TOR)

Home Record: 5-4 (5th)

Away Record: 5-4 (T-4th)

Divisional Record: 4-6 (7th)

Total Points For: 510 (T-4th)

Total Points Against: 430 (2nd)

Total Passing Yards: 5282 (5th)

Total Passing TDs: 35 (1st)

Total Rushing Yards: 1478 (9th)

Total Rushing TDs: 13 (T-6th)

Total Turnovers: 26 (2nd)

Leading Passer: K. Glenn (17 GP, 4038 yards, 318-468 pass attempts, 67.9% completion rate, 25 TD, 14 INT, 74.3 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: C. Marshall (10 GP, 543 yards, 101 carries, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 TD)

Leading Receiver: D. Carter (18 GP, 1043 yards, 73 catches, 8 TD)

Leading Kick returner: G. Morris (18 GP, 732 yards, 32 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: C. Jones (10 GP, 645 yards, 45 returns, 2 TD)

Leading Tackler: H. Muamba (17 GP, 82)

Leading Pass Interceptor: E. Gainey (18 GP, 10)

Leading Sacker: W. Jefferson (18 GP, 8)

Leading Field goal kicker: T. Crapigna (16 GP, 36/42, 85.7%, longest 50 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • What is to be made of the QB carousel for the coming year? With Brandon Bridge getting increased playing time towards the end of the season, it appears as though he has the inside track to winning the starter’s job for 2018, but considering the high price the team paid to acquire Vernon Adams, Jr. from Montreal (DB Tevaughn Campbell and two 3rd-round picks in 2018 and 2019), will he have a chance to take it in training camp? That’s also not even beginning to answer the question on what will happen with Kevin Glenn. I’d personally bank on him leaving town and headed to a team more in need of a QB (such as BC or, God forbid, Montreal), but if for some reason Saskatchewan does choose to re-sign him, how does the depth chart shape up?
  • With HC Chris Jones also holding defensive play-calling duties, how can he do more to maximize his personnel? While the D was massively improved from the start of the season to the end, they still ended up choking away a late lead to Toronto, which ultimately cost them a berth in the Grey Cup.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 10-8

Season Record: 12-6 (2nd in West; lost in West Semifinal to EDM)

Home Record: 6-3 (T-2nd)

Away Record: 6-3 (T-2nd)

Divisional Record: 6-4 (3rd)

Total Points For: 554 (1st)

Total Points Against: 492 (5th)

Total Passing Yards: 4895 (8th)

Total Passing TDs: 28 (5th)

Total Rushing Yards: 1824 (1st)

Total Rushing TDs: 15 (5th)

Total Turnovers: 26 (3rd)

Leading Passer: M. Nichols (17 GP, 4472 yards, 441-579 pass attempts, 76.1% completion rate, 28 TD, 8 INT, 85.7 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: A. Harris (18 GP, 1035 yards, 189 carries, 5.5 yards per carry, 6 TD)

Leading Receiver: D. Adams (15 GP, 1120 yards, 76 catches, 7 TD)

Leading Kick returner: R. Lankford (15 GP, 1223 yards, 50 returns, 1 TD)

Leading Punt returner: K. Fogg (15 GP, 775 yards, 67 returns, 1 TD)

Leading Tackler: T. Loffler (17 GP, 75)

Leading Pass Interceptor: M. Leggett (17 GP, 7)

Leading Sacker: J. Jeffcoat (16 GP, 7)

Leading Field goal kicker: J. Medlock (18 GP, 56/70, 80%, longest 57 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • Matt Nichols is signed through 2019, and with such a strong 2017 season, there seems to be a lot of positivity surrounding the Bombers – for the first time in a long time. How can the team ensure they retain their surrounding talent to benefit their star QB? Andrew Harris has one year left on his deal, and thanks to him not only leading the league in rushing yards, but adding over 850 receiving yards on top of his 1035 rush yards makes him the league’s most valuable weapon for a QB to have.
  • Winnipeg’s D continues to give up a ton of yards and points – they’ve been lucky to have an offence that’s so high-powered to help bail them out consistently. What needs to change in order to make them more dangerous? They were lucky to capitalize a ton on turnovers this year, but this is something that’s very difficult to repeat from year to year.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 10-8

Season Record: 6-12 (8th of 9, 3rd in East; missed playoffs)

Home Record: 2-7 (T-8th)

Away Record: 4-5 (T-6th)

Divisional Record: 4-4 (6th)

Total Points For: 443 (8th)

Total Points Against: 545 (8th)

Total Passing Yards: 4969 (7th)

Total Passing TDs: 23 (8th)

Total Rushing Yards: 1608 (8th)

Total Rushing TDs: 17 (T-4th)

Total Turnovers: 29 (4th)

Leading Passer: J. Masoli (12 GP, 3177 yards, 249-391 pass attempts, 63.7% completion rate, 15 TD, 5 INT, 74.2 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: C.J. Gable (9 GP, 466 yards, 74 carries, 6.3 yards per carry, 5 TD)

Leading Receiver: J. Saunders (16 GP, 1170 yards, 76 catches, 4 TD)

Leading Kick returner: B. Banks (18 GP, 624 yards, 34 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: B. Banks (18 GP, 385 yards, 38 returns, 1 TD)

Leading Tackler: L. Dean (18 GP, 96)

Leading Pass Interceptor: R. Leonard (18 GP, 7)

Leading Sacker: A. Tracy (16 GP, 9)

Leading Field goal kicker: S. Castillo (14 GP, 29/34, 85.3%, longest 57 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • Jeremiah Masoli appears to have permanently won the starting QB job away from Zach Collaros, so with the CFL’s most expensive contract sitting on the bench, it seems likely that the Ti-Cats will trade or release him – but what, if anything, can they get for him? While his performance was undoubtedly suffering last year playing behind a very sub-par offensive line, his mobility in the pocket just hasn’t been the same since coming back from a torn ACL that happened halfway through the 2015 season.
  • The Ti-Cats went 7-3 in the latter half of the season since June Jones took over as head coach from Kent Austin, who remains with the team in the role of VP of football ops. Can the changes they made, which included switching from Collaros to Masoli at QB and using speedy WR Brandon Banks more on offence rather than his usual focus on the return game, continue to help them out in 2018?
  • Can the team do anything about an extremely porous secondary, which was bleeding yards and points in the team’s 0-8 start this season?

Toronto Argonauts

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 4-14

Season Record: 9-9 (5th of 9, 1st in East; won Grey Cup)

Home Record: 6-3 (T-2nd)

Away Record: 3-6 (8th)

Divisional Record: 6-2 (2nd)

Total Points For: 482 (6th)

Total Points Against: 456 (4th)

Total Passing Yards: 5777 (2nd)

Total Passing TDs: 30 (4th)

Total Rushing Yards: 1624 (7th)

Total Rushing TDs: 10 (9th)

Total Turnovers: 29 (T-4th)

Leading Passer: R. Ray (17 GP, 5546 yards, 447-668 pass attempts, 66.9% completion rate, 28 TD, 11 INT, 80.5 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: J. Wilder, Jr. (17 GP, 872 yards, 122 carries, 7.1 yards per carry, 5 TD)

Leading Receiver: S.J. Green (18 GP, 1462 yards, 104 catches, 10 TD)

Leading Kick returner: M. Jackson (16 GP, 1133 yards, 52 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: M. Jackson (16 GP, 824 yards, 70 returns, 2 TD)

Leading Tackler: B. Woods (17 GP, 90)

Leading Pass Interceptor: C. Vaughn (16 GP, 5)

Leading Sacker: V. Butler (12 GP, 10)

Leading Field goal kicker: L. Hajrullahu (18 GP, 47/58, 81%, longest 50 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • Pretty well nobody was picking the Argos to win the Grey Cup this year, but thanks to the leadership of Jim Popp and Marc Trestman, not to mention career years from wily veterans Ricky Ray and SJ Green, they ended up taking home the top prize. Will their victory help to rejuvenate interest in the CFL in Toronto? The league’s largest market has also seen the smallest crowds in the league, even after their move from the cavernous Rogers Centre to the cozier BMO Field in 2016. A healthy Toronto attendance would do a lot to enhance the league’s status, and hopefully a winning team can be the catalyst behind it.
  • Ricky Ray is now the CFL’s all-time winningest quarterback; at 38, he’s won four championships – two each with Edmonton and Toronto. His contract is also up – will he return for another shot at winning, or will he choose to retire on top, as one of the best quarterbacks the league’s ever seen? If he chooses to retire, what will Toronto’s plan be moving forward at the QB position?

Ottawa REDBLACKS

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 11-7

Season Record: 8-9-1 (6th of 9, 2nd in East; lost in East Semifinal to SSK)

Home Record: 3-5-1 (6th)

Away Record: 5-4 (T-5th)

Divisional Record: 5-3 (4th)

Total Points For: 495 (5th)

Total Points Against: 452 (3rd)

Total Passing Yards: 5416 (4th)

Total Passing TDs: 34 (2nd)

Total Rushing Yards: 1703 (4th)

Total Rushing TDs: 13 (T-6th)

Total Turnovers: 34 (7th)

Leading Passer: T. Harris (15 GP, 4679 yards, 398-572 pass attempts, 69.6% completion rate, 30 TD, 11 INT, 81.4 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: W. Powell (12 GP, 1026 yards, 173 carries, 5.9 yards per carry, 5 TD)

Leading Receiver: G. Ellingson (18 GP, 1459 yards, 96 catches, 12 TD) 

Leading Kick returner: D. Spencer (18 GP, 607 yards, 25 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: D. Spencer (18 GP, 929 yards, 70 returns, 1 TD)

Leading Tackler: T. Reed (18 GP, 94)

Leading Pass Interceptor: A. Pruneau (18 GP, 4)

Leading Sacker: A. Ellis (16 GP, 6)

Leading Field goal kicker: B. Maher (18 GP, 41/50, 81%, longest 53 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • After two underwhelming regular seasons, changes are being made to the coaching staff – head coach Rick Campbell is believed to be taking on the defensive playcalling responsibilities, while former DC Mark Nelson is shifting to become the DL/LB coach. Many of the offensive coaches are leaving as well, including OL coach Bryan Chiu and receivers coach Travis Moore. Also unclear is what’s happening with OC Jaime Elizondo – he’s believed to be a target by the Montreal Alouettes’ front office for their vacant head coach job. If Elizondo leaves, that will leave the REDBLACKS with their fourth OC in five seasons for 2018 – how can a team hope to stay consistent with that much turnover in the coaching role?
  • Both Trevor Harris and the REDBLACKS are interested in having the QB return for the 2018 season, but he’ll need a new contract, and it’s likely he’ll probably want more than the estimated $400-450,000 he’s already commanding on his current deal. Will Ottawa want to stomach a rich deal like that for a QB who was mostly extremely good this year, but also threw a few backbreaking interceptions at key points as well?
  • With 13 of the REDBLACKS’ 18 games being settled by 7 points or less this past season, how can Ottawa turn things around to learn how to close out tight games?

Montreal Alouettes

The Maestro’s Pre-Season Prediction: 9-9

Season Record: 3-15 (9th of 9, 4th in East; missed playoffs)

Home Record: 3-6 (T-7th)

Away Record: 0-9 (9th)

Divisional Record: 1-7 (9th)

Total Points For: 314 (9th)

Total Points Against: 580 (9th)

Total Passing Yards: 4179 (9th)

Total Passing TDs: 17 (9th)

Total Rushing Yards: 1718 (3rd)

Total Rushing TDs: 11 (8th)

Total Turnovers: 41 (8th)

Leading Passer: D. Durant (15 GP, 3233 yards, 274-417 pass attempts, 65.7% completion rate, 15 TD, 16 INT, 60.2 QUAR rating)

Leading Rusher: T. Sutton (14 GP, 843 yards, 152 carries, 5.5 yards per carry, 5 TD)

Leading Receiver: B.J. Cunningham (18 GP, 1128 yards, 69 catches, 4 TD)

Leading Kick returner: S. Logan (18 GP, 1651 yards, 76 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Punt returner: S. Logan (18 GP, 572 yards, 55 returns, 0 TD)

Leading Tackler: K. Hebert (18 GP, 110)

Leading Pass Interceptor: D. Unamba (14 GP, 3)

Leading Sacker: J. Bowman (18 GP, 9)

Leading Field goal kicker: B. Bede (16 GP, 29/35, 82.9%, longest 53 yards)

Major questions for next season:

  • After the gongshow that was 2017, what’s the plan moving forward? GM Kavis Reed once again needs to go out and find a head coach for the second time in two seasons, plus a new starting quarterback to boot – Darian Durant was a tremendous bust this year in Montreal. The passing game was pathetic, last in the league by a wide margin – and in such a pass-heavy league, the Alouettes won’t have a hope to stay in the thick of things without someone capable under centre.
  • There have been a series of other baffling moves made by Reed – releasing top LB Bear Woods, who led Toronto in tackles this year, trading receiver SJ Green for pretty much a ham sandwich (who had a career with the Argos), and letting promising QB Vernon Adams go to Saskatchewan, who already appeared to be pretty set at that position. Now, Montreal has next to nothing. Who’s going to make Reed answer for his inane personnel decisions?
  • If not Darian Durant at QB, who do you target? Edmonton backup James Franklin, who has a lot of potential but not a lot of experience? Zach Collaros, who may not be himself after coming back from ACL surgery last year? Kevin Glenn, who would probably rather set himself on fire than ever play in Montreal again? There’s no clear-cut options out there right now – it’s going to be curious to see what their game plan is moving forward.
Roughriders fans always travel in style. So do [DFO]ers, from what I hear.

Thanks for reading the CFL Beat for the 2017 season! I look forward to returning in June of 2018 with all of the important football news we have to offer north of the 49th parallel. In the meantime, enjoy your December, and keep your eyes peeled for my new off-season series beginning in January! Cheers. 

The Maestro
The Maestro
The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn't in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
https://www.doorfliesopen.com/index.php/author/the-maestro/

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Brick Meathook
Member
Brick Meathook

Very nice! I liked this a lot!

I turned on the CFL game right at the start of halftime, so I missed the heavier snowfall (I LOVE snow games – on TV) but got to see Shania Twain and the dogsled and her two big tits!

FUN FACT: I have a valid Canadian passport, so I can flee across the border any time I need to. They can’t turn me away!

Wakezilla
Member

RE: BC Lions. . . Ed Hervey is the GM and Buono is going to coach another year. Manny Arceneaux all but said he was gone from the Lions, meaning Chris Williams will likely stay, which sucks because he lost about 10 steps. (I’d wager Manny goes to Calgary).

Jennings wasn’t as bad as you lead on. He was battling injuries all year and had a turnstile offensive line. Hervey can win a lot of fan support by spending some cash on the o-line. No more discount bin o-linemen who couldn’t block an ant. Hervey has to invest in that line or else they’re going to ruin another franchise quarterback. In terms of Qbs, I’d imagine they’d keep the three they currently have. Even if they wanted to add a QB, I’m not sure any QB would come because of the ownership situation.

As for the defense, the d-line was as bad as the O-line. They need to get rid of all of them because they were like a grade 8 dance inside a mormon school: No penetration.

Congrats on having your Grey Cup cherry popped! They’re a lot of fun. I’ve been to three and look forward to the next one.

It was fun reading these.

Final thought: For the growth of the game, every team needs to pinch in 50K-100K and go to 2K sports and have them make a CFL videogame. Bonus points would be to get TSN, Canadian Tire, Purolator and Timmy Hos to pinch some money in to make it more possible. Either way, if they want to make the league seem more attractive to youth, they need to have the CFL present in the home, after the kid goes to a game.

Don T
Member

Hey, I dig the Canadian stuff. A lot. America is a kickass continent.

Beerguyrob
Member

All we need now is for the league to figure out where to house the Atlantic Schooners and it’ll be ten teams of fun!

Oh, and great jorb all year!

Wakezilla
Member

It’s going to be amusing to see how the CFL handles their import rule going forward with more teams. There were so many injuries to Canadian players, I was told I was on speed dial to start for the Rough Riders this year.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly
Member

Layer 1: Boxer shorts…

“You know, sometimes I feel like my work around here goes unappreciated.”

– ballsofsteelandfury

laserguru
Member

I actually watched a fair amount of the game including half time and was highly entertained. I especially like the penalty for “questionable conduct” rather than “unsportsmanlike conduct”.

Great job on the CFL beat this year.

BrettFavresColonoscopy
Member

Wearing a hockey sweater to a football game is definitely too Canadian for me

ballsofsteelandfury
Member

1- Awesome job! Thanks to you and the CFL Beat I was actually disappointed in the Liouns this season and shocked that the Argos were able to come back and win
2- Are you ready to put the Stamps into Buffalo Bill territory?
3- No mention of your Canadian flag jock strap?
4- WTF was up with that anthem?
5- The Grey Cup was a magical snow game that I wish everyone had seen. Better than 95% of NFL games played this season.