Thursday, April 10, 2008

CFL News - The Price of Mediocrity

Slowly but surely the financial statements from teams across the CFL are starting to emerge. First, we found out that Edmonton managed to stay under the cap. Then, we found out that the Riders were slightly over the cap. Now it's the Montreal Alouettes turn, but don't expect words like "under" or "slightly" in their news release. Reports indicate that the Alouettes are at least $100,000 over the salary cap. If this turns out to be true the Alouettes would face a hefty fine of and would forfeit the first of their two first round draft picks.

Montreal fans may have been willing to forgive such massive over-spending, if Jim Popp and his crew had something to show for it. You know like a championship, a home playoff game or a winning record. Instead, the Als appear to have managed to invest big money in a team with a losing record and no post-season success. For the investors among you, this is akin to paying a 200% premium for shares in a company that makes VCRs.

And the Alouettes don't appear to be in a hurry to change their spending habits. Other than Dario Romero, they really haven't gotten rid of any big contracts. Toss in the fact that they gave Chip Cox a raise, brought in Reggie Hunt and are prepared to offer $100K+ to Corey Holmes. They seem to be spending like there's no tomorrow. Of course for Jim Popp that just may be the case. If nothing else, the Als financial situation might explain the hiring of Marc Trestman. Maybe they simply couldn't afford a reputable coach.

I seem to remember not too long ago when there were accusations that the Riders "bought" the Grey Cup. If that's the case I'd say we got a steal of a deal. A cup for $54,000 when 3rd place in the East cost over $200,000 and draft pick... I'd say chalk up another shrewd business move to Eric Tillman.

We'll have to wait until the Als release their official financial statements to see if the reports are true.

Here's what's happening elsewhere in the league...

In: Gary Etcheverry (hired as defensive assistant)
So who here remembers the year 2000? It was the beginning of a new era for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. A new GM, a new head coach, and a young gap-toothed gunslinger of a quarterback guiding a talented offense that put up a healthy 26.7 points per game. Ain't nobody goes one on one with the homey!

But all of that offense could not overcome being paired with a defense that gave up 32.4 points per game. And who was the mastermind behind this defense? Why none other than Gary Etcheverry, a defensive revolutionary that served as the stop-gap between two well respected coordinators, Greg Marshall and Richie Hall.

The Riders took a trip down memory lane this week by adding Etcheverry to the defensive coaching staff - but fortunately for Rider fans, he will not be calling the plays. If you're anything like me, you still have the occasional nightmare of the Etch-a-sketch defense, as it was less-than-lovingly known by many. This (allegedly) defensive scheme relied on putting heavy pressure on the opposing quarterback, often blitzing as many as 9 players. With experienced players, this might not be a bad idea. But when many of your defensive starters, including the entire defensive backfield, are rookies, to say that this strategy leaves the team a little vulnerable is the equivalent of saying that Bill Gates is doing okay financially. Plus, you have to consider the circumstances - sending 9 sounds impressive when you're dealing with the likes of John Chick, Kitwana Jones, Maurice Lloyd, Scott Gordon and 5 of their buddies, but when you consider that the 2000 defense included such notables as Trevis Smith, Colin Scrivener and Marcus McDavid, the reality of the situation at the time was a little less intimidating. In fact, I'm pretty sure there were times when the quarterback had time to make a 4th or 5th read before dumping off to his fullback, who got tired of waiting to pick up the blitz and instead decided to just leak out into the flats.

But all of that aside, welcome back to Saskatchewan Gary... and here's to you never having to call the defense.

In: Jamie Stoddard (re-signed)
I decided not to waste much time writing about a guy who amassed a mere 110 yards receiving last season. 110 yards receiving is a good game, but when spread out over a season, it's not that impressive. To his credit though, his total yardage is roughly double that of Montreal's notable receiver Anwar Stewart.

In: Aaron Hunt (contract extended)
Hunt is one of 7 BC players to be named Outstanding Rookie in the past 10 years, which speaks volumes about BC’s scouting and player development. With this signing BC has secured a key piece of the best defensive front in the CFL. They have also renewed debate as to their financial situation. While most teams are cutting high priced veterans to stay under the cap, BC is merrily signing all-stars at virtually every position. It reminds me of when Homer Simpson got his jaw wired shut and actually gained weight.

In: Keith Stokes (free agent)
This move makes me confident that Edmonton will continue to dwell in the West Division cellar this season. Not because Stokes is a bad player... no I'm confident because Edmonton has decided to invest in a returner/receiver rather than in their sorry excuse for an O-line or their non existent run game. Don't get me wrong, gaining good field position on special teams is important but if you get good field position and then lose yards on a combination of QB sacks and runs for negative yards that good field position doesn't do you much good.

In: Randy Chevrier (re-signed)
Hold the press! Calgary actually made a transaction involving a defensive player... Oh wait... No need to hold the press, it's just Randy Chevrier. Sorry, but I just don't consider re-signing a guy who has 6 sacks over a 5 year career "bolstering your defense". The good news for us is that Calgary does.

Out: Pascal Cheron and Roger Dunbrack (released)
Did you know that prior to their football careers Cheron and Dunbrack were accomplished professional wrestlers who competed as the feared tag team "The Masked Assailants"? No?... Well that's most likely because it's not true at all. I made it up in an attempt to mask the fact that there's really nothing interesting to say about these 2. I had you going though...

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