Published on September 14, 2008 12:51 AM by dbo.
The Butterfly effect, a phrase that encapsulates a notion of chaos theory which states that small variations in the initial conditions can dramatically affect the result in dynamic systems, is being observed in the CFL this season. One off-season move has set in motion a number of events in the past few weeks and the whole look of the CFL season this year.
Following the 2007 season, the Toronto Argonauts promoted coach Michael “Pinball” Clemons to CEO and defensive coordinator Rich Stubler to head coach. When 2007 Most Outstanding Player QB Kerry Joseph became available due to a contract dispute, Argo owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski decided they should acquire him and Clemons and GM Adam Rita made a deal with Saskatchewan. Toronto announced the acquisition of Joseph and the contract extension of QB Michael Bishop at a press conference, where the two starters were told they would be both given the chance for the starting job.
Little else happened until training camp and the start of the season. New coach Rich Stubler tried to appease both QB‘s, even though they both couldn’t start, and the acquisition of Joseph at the direction of the owners meant he had the starting job, no matter how well Bishop performed. Stubler first tried a platooning system where both players would take snaps in games. Neither player got into a groove. It appeared players on the Toronto offence favoured the incumbent Bishop over Jospeh and the team was split. The Argo offence increased their scoring over last year but their defence started to appear very ordinary and the team got off to a 3-5 start.
Toronto eliminated their QB controversy prior to Labour Day when they traded Michael Bishop to Saskatchewan for a draft pick, completing their QB swap started in the off-season. Toronto won their next game but fell badly against Montreal the next week, causing coach Stubler to lose his job and Don Matthews to return for his third turn as Argo head coach. Toronto looked even in more disarray under coach Matthews, losing Friday night against Winnipeg 39-9.
Meanwhile, Michael Bishop won his first two starts for Saskatchewan, moving them to 8-2. The ‘Riders acquired Bishop after injuries in their receiving core meant they wanted a more mobile QB to be an offensive threat, which led to the release of Saskatchewan’s starting QB, Marcus Crandell.
In the East Division, Hamilton and Winnipeg were also affected, with both teams’ poor starts not eliminating them from playoff contention due to Toronto’s sputtering start. Winnipeg, after a Grey Cup appearance in 2007, started slow. Coach Doug Berry has survived his 3-8 start, but star RB Charles Roberts did not, being traded to B.C. for RB Joe Smith. Winnipeg tried to shake up their defence with a trade of DE Tom Canada to Hamilton for LB Zeke Moreno after they had linebacker injuries. After Canada was diagnosed with an enlarged spleen, he was placed on the nine-game injury list and Hamilton received a draft pick instead.
Hamilton, not able to get over the hump and beat anyone but the Argos, eventually fired head coach Charlie Taaffe. Coach Taaffe had a 5-23 record in his one and a half years in Hamilton. Offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille has taken over the Tiger-Cat coaching duties on an interim basis. In a weak but tight East Division, Hamilton still has a chance to catch the second place Argos for a playoff position. Still a very young team who have been close and competitive in seven of their losses, Hamilton doesn’t need to blow things up again to turn things around, but needs a positive attitude and some confidence that will come from a few wins.
One of the most eventful years in the CFL for trades, controversies and coaching changes, much of this can be traced back to the large but innocuous off-season trade. Unfortunately, and perhaps unexpectedly it didn’t work out for Toronto the way they hoped. While the QB position is important for any CFL team wanting to be champions, this year may prove that a QB needs to be surrounded by good players and a system that suits their abilities. Or else chaos ensues.