10 final thoughts on the 2017 CFL season

Another season of CFL football has come to an end, and CBC Sports contributor Malcolm Kelly, who saw all but two games this year, has plenty of thoughts on this past year and what to expect in 2018.

Will Argos fans finally pack the stands? Is Johnny Manziel worth the fuss?

The 2017 CFL season was a memorable one. Only 202 days until the 2018 campaign begins. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Another season of CFL football has come to an end, and a mind that saw all but two games this year is filled with thoughts:

1. Ricky Ray is Aaron Rodgers, Bo Levi Mitchell is Brett Favre

Anyone from the dairy state of Wisconsin who wandered into TD Place Stadium on Sunday night would have quickly recognized the contrasting QB styles from Green Bay Packers history.

Toronto's Ray is Rodgers, the NFL's version of the guy other teams want with the ball in a tie game and two minutes on the clock. Ray moves consistently, carefully, with little emotion and no panic. He produced a pair of game-winning drives over two weeks, and left with a record fourth ring as a starter.

The CFL has its own versions of Aaron Rodgers, left, and Brett Favre. (Morry Gash, File/Associated Press)

Calgary's Mitchell is Favre, a ferocious competitor who will go down the way a gunslinger should, firing away for the victory and to hell with the consequences. Mitchell doesn't have the unusual history of Favre in throwing key picks in big games, but his interception on Sunday on the last throw was the cost of having his type of leader at the controls.

Both Ray and Mitchell will be in the Hall of Fame. They will have arrived in different ways.

2. No more excuses for Argos fans

They wanted to get out of Rogers Centre into the more football friendly BMO Field. Done.

They worried about parking and access. The Exhibition grounds are filled with parking and connected to city rapid transit and the regional Go Trains. Two-minute walk from the stadium.

They wanted a competitive team, rather than the 5-13 train wreck of a year ago. Double Blue are Grey Cup champs.

Let's see if the couch potatoes will rise close enough to the surface for the marketing department to get a hook in and reel 'em in to the stadium next year. Those nine 2017 home games plus the East final produced an average of just over 15,000. The number needed next year to show real improvement is 18,000 average, and at least one regular-season game over 20.

3. Joe Btfsplk lives in Calgary, not Winnipeg

With respect to Bombers fans, who haven't seen a Grey Cup in 28 years (the record is 31, set by Argos from 1952-1983), it's the Stampeders who most resemble old Joe, a famous character from the L'il Abner cartoon strip who walked around all day with a dark cloud over his head.

Rob Vanstone of Postmedia published a nice rundown this past weekend showing how from 1993-1997 — and then six (now seven) times in the 21st century — the Stamps have spit the bit in a playoff or Grey Cup game despite coming in favoured.

4. Wally Buono needs help

Coach Wally is the CFL's most important icon, having been in the loop for almost 50 years, winning seven Grey Cup rings as a player, coach and executive with four teams and most recently, keeping the B.C. Lions relevant on the Left Coast since 2003.

Can someone give Wally Buono a hand in B.C.? (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

After a poor season, there is word Wally might come back again in 2018, but he has to have help if it's to mean anything. Either he coaches and they hire a GM, or vice-versa. Get him a team president to look after business things. And some serious marketing money is also required, with staff to back it up.

Average attendance dropped below 20,000 this year.

Give Wally some help and it says here there is one more piece of magic in old Brillo yet. Never count him out.

5. Home field means something

The team that hosted the East or West final has gone 8-0 over the past four seasons, so it would behoove the Edmonton Eskimos to win their division next season.

There was an anomaly in there for 2012 and 2013, when no home club won the East or West championship, but going back to the start of the century it's been 23-13 for those with a familiar dressing room.

Giving your all to earn first place is worth it.

6. Who is this Johnny Manziel, and what does he do?

Inevitable, really, but one of the questions at the media day for new CFL boss Randy Ambrosie was on whether the league would permit Manziel to sign for next year.

Oooh, aaah, Johnny Manziel. He of the limited arm strength, confusion in the pocket and bucket full of off-field problems.

It's like a shiny penny everyone wants — but we don't have pennies up here anymore, folks.

So far, the 'Johnny Manziel to the CFL' talk has failed to materialize. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Hamilton has his rights, but it already owns a future franchise QB in Jeremiah Masoli, he of the strong 6-4 record down the stretch after taking over.

Why would you bring a distraction like Manziel in to suck all the life out of everything else? Only the media really wants him, and that's just so we can have a good story every time the Cats come to town.

Manziel is not Doug Flutie. He won't put fans in the seats, won't make the Cats better, and isn't worth the effort.

7. Winnipeg wasn't disappointing

Checking some of the sites, there seems to be this idea the Blue Bombers failed to improve this season. Pardon me?

Big Blue went 12-6 in 2017, a game better than the 11-7 in 2016, for a total of 23-13. They had been awful for too many years, but coach Mike O'Shea and GM Kyle Waters are doing just fine.

They might well have beaten Edmonton in the semifinal if QB Matt Nichols hadn't been injured and played below his normal standard.

8. Bad timing department

New Commissioner Randy Ambrosie suggested last week the league could drop back three or four weeks in June and punt November away.

It's too cold, he said. People don't want football in the cold. Then the Grey Cup turned into a winter wonderland.

The 105th Grey Cup may have been the most Canadian one yet. (Canadian Press/ Getty Images)

Snow, cold, Shania Twain arriving for her halftime show on a dogsled, people loving it on TV so much six million were watching by game's end. Wonderful Canadiana.

Try another idea, sir.

9. Two ideas to fix officiating

A. Both the NFL and CFL have seven-man officiating crews, but Canada's field is much longer and wider. Put an eighth man out there to split the deep coverage areas with the back judge. More eyes on pass interference and illegal contact.

B. Don't allow the command centre in Toronto to look at reviews in slow motion. The point of review is to overturn egregious errors, not use 1/1000th frame per second breakdowns to check if that knee is 0.97346 milimetres off the ground when the ball came out. If you can't tell at full speed, you can't overturn it.

You're welcome.

10. Oh, what the heck ...

Just for fun, here's the 2018 Grey Cup for you: Eskimos (at home) over Tiger-Cats.


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