Argos, Ticats headed in opposite directions
After defeating their rival Tiger-Cats twice in a week, the Argos showed that they can be a true Grey Cup contender. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/Toronto Sun)
In the aftermath of Saturday’s win over the woefully inept and dysfunctional Ticats, a team whose owner/self-anointed caretaker must simply overhaul every football-related area, Argos head coach Scott Milanovich was asked about his team’s 4-1 record against the East.
“It’s where we are at end,” Milanovich said. “This was a big game. We talked about momentum before, how really good teams get on a roll and a run in the second half of the season.
“This isn’t even a run.”
For those who haven’t noticed, the Argos have embraced Milanovich’s personality — a rookie head coach who is confident but oozes no traces of arrogance.
The guy is emerging as someone who is destined for greener pastures, if he is so inclined, once his run in Double Blue ends.
In Hamilton, rookie head coach George Cortez inspires little of anything, unless one wants to point to terse post-game comments that serve absolutely no purpose.
Leadership is one area that clearly separates the Argos from the Ticats, one of many as these two franchises head in opposite directions.
Given the financial commitment the Ticats have invested in Cortez, only a complete mutiny by the players would even force a coaching change.
There are many in football who questioned Cortez’s hiring, believing he was in over his head, that he was best served as a co-ordinator in the mould of a Rich Stubler.
The more you watch the Ticats play with so little urgency, there’s a lot of credibility to the theory.
If Bob Young knew anything about football, which clearly he does not and admits as much, major changes would immediately be put into effect.
Sadly, he’s the first to acknowledge his lack of pigskin savvy and his team is now a train wreck.
Even sadder is the way he announced on Labour Day a coming concert at Ivor Wynne Stadium featuring the Tragically Hip, referring to the Ticats as hip and the Argos as tragic.
Truth be told, it’s Young’s Ticats who have become a tragedy, while the Argos are evolving into a Grey Cup contender if continued growth takes place.
At the core of the Argos’ ascension is Milanovich, by far the mid-season favourite to cop coach of the year honours.
But that’s of little concern to Milanovich, who has also taken a big-picture approach, even when wins are produced, even in times of duress by staying committed.
Being 4-1 in the East and 6-4 overall, while nice, is not what Milanovich or the Argos had in mind when they began to reshape their club in the off-season, knowing full well the historic 100th Grey Cup would be played in Toronto.
For those keeping score, the six wins match last year’s total for the season.
At 6-4, the Argos are tied with Montreal for first, but technically are in first based on the tiebreaker.
With Montreal losing to B.C. hours following Toronto’s 45-31 win over Hamilton, a score that flattered the visitors, the Argos find themselves in that enviable position where the margin for error isn’t as pronounced.
Naturally, they want to escape Vancouver this Saturday with a win, but a loss suddenly isn’t as devastating.
In Hamilton, there is no margin for error, but when you watch the Ticats play, especially on Saturday, there’s no reason for optimism.
“It’s another step for us,” said Milanovich, when asked about the importance of the B.C. game. “Certainly you want to beat one of the best. And we didn’t play well against them at home. It’ll be a good test and we’ll see if we can keep rolling.”
RAMBO HAS MOXY
There’s an intangible Ken-Yon Rambo brings to the field, a presence no coach can teach.
“He’s a gamer,” Argos rookie head coach Scott Milanovich said of the veteran Rambo, who was basically discarded by Calgary when an Achilles injury sidelined the receiver. “He has that little bit of moxy to him. He just brings something to our offence.”
If he continues to adopt to his new surroundings and, for obvious reasons, remains healthy, Rambo looms as key piece in the passing puzzle Milanovich is hoping to create.
Rambo showed rust, which is predictably given his lengthy absence, on Labour Day, but he looked in sync in the return game against Hamilton on Saturday, hauling in three passes for 66 yards, including a 49-yard reception he nearly turned into a touchdown.
Another veteran who is showing signs of progress is Maurice Mann, who also had three receptions on Saturday.
More importantly, he delivered a key block on Chad Kackert’s third touchdown run.
With Rambo and Mann stepping up, the Argos will be forced to decide on where Jason Barnes suddenly fits, a free-agent acquisition who did not dress in the home-and-home set against Hamilton.