The top six playoff spots in the CFL were secure heading this weekend's games, but the Calgary Stampeders and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats both made aggressive moves with their rosters.
On the surface, these moves represented a deliberate shakeup as the teams prepare for a playoff run this year, but I believe they actually had more to do with the Toronto Argonauts setting up some aggressive deals to solidify their team for a competitive push in 2012, when they host the Grey Cup.
Before I explain, remember that sports is not about being competitive, it's about winning championships. Those that have the heart of a champion are willing to make the necessary bold moves in order to capture the opportunity.
The replacement of Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris with backup Drew Tate this week was a huge move. You can not make this kind of decision without fully appreciating the psychological impact that it will have on the team for this year and the distracting rumours that it creates moving forward. End of the road?
Coming into the 2011 season, few would have predicted that Burris's performance would be questioned at the end of the year. However, after going 2-5 over the past seven weeks and throwing 11 interceptions, a message needed to be sent that expectations were not being met.
When questioned about the move, head coach John Hufnagel responded by saying, "Burris needs to regroup, rest physically, emotionally... we need him to catch his breath, and seeing the game from a different perspective will help."
When Burris was questioned about the move, his response was, "This organization is trying to find ways to spark this team... I know when I get back on the field I'll be ready."
On the surface, this move looks like a simple shakeup designed to get the struggling Stamps mentally "right" prior to the playoffs ,where they have consistently fallen short. But I'm of the opinion that there is much more at play here.
Earlier in the year, the decision was made to sit running back Joffrey Reynolds and hand the ball over to Jon Cornish. Although Reynolds is still in the Stampeders' mix, we all now know that the future of the Stampeders rushing attack is in the hands of Cornish.
At 36 years old, Burris is at the tail end of his career. At 27 years old, Drew Tate is a promising young star in the CFL.
Against the Roughriders this week, Tate looked composed and confident
on the field in his first CFL start. Tate went through his reads quickly and completed 72 pre cent of his passes. Even though his receivers struggled to catch the football, he had a very solid outing and came away with a victory. Although he threw two interceptions, he definitely did not look like a rookie on the field.
Like the introduction of Cornish earlier in the season as the featured back, I believe that Stampeders fans have just been introduced to their future starting quarterback.
I would not be surprised to see Tate get the start again this week. It will be very interesting to watch how the team responds to Burris getting the clipboard again. Burris Toronto-bound?
There is always some truth to rumours that circulate. Burris has been rumoured to be in trade discussions involving the Toronto Argonauts. Burris has familiarity with Toronto head coach Jim Barker, and although Barker has stayed consistent with his positive comments about Steve Jyles as his quarterback of the future, it would be a good move by the Argos to solidify their quarterback position with the acquisition of Burris as they head into a year when they host the Grey Cup.
With an early departure from the playoff run, Toronto has already started making moves to solidify its team for next year. It is critical for owner David Braley to field a competitive team next year if he wants to cash in on the opportunity he has in hosting the 100th Grey Cup.
Last week the Argos pulled the trigger on an aggressive trade that brought receiver Maurice Mann from Hamilton in exchange for promising defensive back Dee Webb in order to equip their receiving corp with another quality receiver that is great with the football in his hands.
I also believe that you will soon see Tiger-Cats tackle Jason Jimenez wearing double blue. Jiminez was a "healthy scratch" this week against the Lions
, and Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille suggested this week that the move was done to send a message to Jimenez that his play and discipline in knowing the play count needed to improve. You don't take arguably your best offensive lineman off the active roster unless there is more going on. The last thing that you want to do is jeopardize the effectiveness of your rushing attack or the health of your quarterback.
I anticipate that this move was an indication that you will see Jimenez once again paired up with Argo tackle Rob Murphy next year in Toronto. The addition of Jiminez would go a long way to strengthening the Argos' offensive line and their offensive success.
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