Week 14 Recap – Losing the Lead

Here’s something I never thought I’d say:

Dear CFL: PLEASE HIRE BACK TOM HIGGINS!

You may recall that Tom Higgins was the Alouettes’ Head Coach up until Popp Top decided to fire him and take the reins of the struggling team.

Prior to his return to coaching (Higgins somehow also managed to be a Head Coach in Edmonton and Calgary – and yes, the Calgary connection is particularly puzzling), Higgins was the CFL’s Director of Officiating.  And I will go on record as stating that the league’s officiating improved during his tenure.  Further, Higgins was open and upfront about the need to better train CFL referees and improve the quality of officiating in general.  He was also approachable and willing to interact with fans, as each week he would answer a question or two that that came about due to calls made during the previous week`s games.  He willingly answered questions, confirmed interpretations and worked to create more consistency in how certain calls are made.

For example:

The Montreal Alouettes yesterday filed an official protest with the CFL over a disallowed touchdown in their 19-12 loss to the B.C. Lions last Friday in Vancouver. Montreal tailback Avon Cobourne appeared to score on an eight-yard run with less than one minute remaining in the game before Murray Clarke’s officiating crew huddled and ordered the down replayed. The officials said they had been buzzed by the in-stadium supervisor to stop the play in order to check the game clock, and that a whistle was blown during the play. The Alouettes dispute that any whistle was blown until after Cobourne had crossed the goal line. When the 3-and-1 play was rerun, the Als were stopped, the Lions took over the ball and ran out the clock for the victory.

Here is some of what Higgins said after the game when the CFL admitted that an error had been made:

“We take responsibility,” Higgins said during a phone interview Saturday. “It was an unfortunate end to the game, and the officials became involved.”

There was too much confusion, and we’ve got to take responsibility.

“It wasn’t the officials’ responsibility. It goes to us — the supervisor and the command centre. And I take responsibility.”

“We got it wrong,” Higgins said. “They (the officials) were paged for no reason. They shouldn’t have been paged. There was thought to be an error on the field. But it was correct.”

Notice all of the quotes taking responsibility?

Sadly, all of Higgins’ work and goodwill seems to have been undone by his successor, Glen Johnson.

Johnson was a generally solid referee in the CFL, but he’s clearly not much of a manager.  Or a communicator.  Under his watch, an iron curtain has been brought down around anything to do with CFL officiating, and the officiating has regressed to the point that coaches, players and fans are frustrated on a weekly basis.  Many are referring to the CFL as the Canadian Flag Football League these days (like me).

Everyone knew this season was going to be a bit of a challenge given the new illegal contact rules and some other changes, such as down field blocking on punt returns.  Hundreds of flags were thrown during the first few weeks, and I mightily decried the flag parade.  But the new rules actually aren’t the problem.  The problem is that the quality of the officiating has regressed to the point that it’s literally causing teams to lose.  

Case in point: Friday’s night’s game between Calgary and Winnipeg

Let’s set the scene:

With the score sitting at 25-22 for Calgary late in the fourth quarter, there was one minute and 10 seconds left on the clock and the Blue Bombers were marching down the field.  They were stopped short of a first down near midfield with just inches left to get the down.  MATTY ICE successfully got the first down to keep the drive alive, but a late flag for illegal procedure (no end) was called on the Bombers.  This forced third down, and the Bombers tried to kick a 49 yard field goal to tie the game.  The field goal was wide, Calgary conceded the single and ran down the rest of the clock.  Game over.

Apparently that illegal procedure penalty was bunk:

Near the conclusion of last night’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs. Calgary Stampeders game in Winnipeg, an illegal procedure call had a significant impact on the game. Our review of the call has concluded it was an incorrect call. The official who made it is being disciplined in accordance with the gravity of the situation.

Obviously the Bombers were more than a little upset, as the game had important playoff implications:

We’re deeply disappointed in what happened last night regarding the officiating error, as acknowledged by the league,” said Wade Miller, President and CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. “While we understand that mistakes happen, it is extremely frustrating for our organization, and our fans, that it occurred at such a crucial point in the game, and our season.

Yes, things happen.  Yes, referees are human.  Yes, mistakes will be made.  But mistakes are being made on a weekly basis, and with the advent of video replay and the Command Centre, mistakes should be few and far between.

A lot of the problem is that officials are calling absolutely everything they can.  It’s almost like they’re being told to identify every possible infraction on every play.  The worst part, though, is that there’s so much inconsistency from week to week.  What is pass interference?  I haven’t a clue any more.  And as I said earlier this year, Command Centre seems to be making up new rule interpretations each week, and it’s amazing how many times inconclusive evidence is found to be very conclusive evidence.

What’s interesting, though, is that the players are getting more vocal about the officiating.  Last week, no less than three CFL players were fined “for making public comments about officiating on Twitter over the weekend.”  Roughriders’ RB Jerome Messam was fined for this seemingly innocuous comment:

You know what, though?  I was watching that game and I remember that play.  And when the offensive pass interference call was made, I actually yelled, “That’s the weakest OPI call I’ve ever seen!” (Yes, I yell things at the TV even when I’m alone and watching football.)  So Jerome, I stand with you.  That OPI call was complete and utter crap.

So I say we should demand that the CFL bring back Tom Higgins.

BRING BACK FLANDERS!!!!

This week I went 2/4 with my picks, which isn’t too shabby.  Let’s look at the weekend’s games.

Calgary at Winnipeg

Good lord.  TSN was ready to crown MATTY ICE as the Prince of Portage and Main after the first half of Friday night’s game.  But in the second half, MATTY ICE showed us who he really is: a streaky QB who can’t win the big game.  While Tom Vallesi and his inept crew took away the Bumblers’ chance to possibly win or at least tie the game, MATTY ICE’s performance in the second half was less than mediocre.

As for the Stumps, well, they continue to win despite boneheaded plays like this:

fleano

But Bovine Mitchell remains healthy, and this year, that could mean everything.

Final: Calgary 25, Winnipeg 23

BC at Edmonton

This was another weird game where the new, underdog QB controlled the first half of the game and gave it all away in the second half.  At one point, it was 23-7 for BC.

(BTW, Jonathon Jennings, BC’s third string QB and current starter, was cut by the Roughriders last year in favour of keeping Tino Sunseri on the roster.

You’re not really surprised now, are you?)

Anyway, Jennings looked pretty good in his first CFL start.  In the second half, George Cortez got in a rut with the play calling (like he did with the Riders last year) and the predictability of the BC offence – along with an injury to Leos’ RB Andrew Harris – created a lot of two and outs that let the Schmoes back into the game.

Mike Reilly does not look like himself.  He was pretty terrible until the 4th quarter, when the Leos let the Schmoes’ offence get on to the field enough times for Reilly to finally put a few drives together.

The law of averages dictated the Schmoes would figure it out sooner or later, and the Leos went down, down, down.

Final: BC 23, Edmonton 29

Toronto at Ottawa

That bye week definitely benefited the Arblows.  They shot out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back.

Or maybe they just listened to their Head Coach, Scott Milanovich, who said this before the game:

“This game is the defining point in our season for us.”

They definitely played like it.

Also: the Argos’ Twitter feed is THE BEST.

NOWHenry Boo-ris definitely showed his age tonight, and the RODBLACKS couldn’t run the ball at all.

The Arblows, on the other hand, had their passing game running on all cylinders.  It also helped that Chad ‘Overrated’ Owens finally showed up and ran a punt back for a TD.

It was clearly the Arblows’ time to shine,

Final: Toronto 35, Ottawa 26

gainer

Montreal at Saskatchewan

This game started off with a BOOM when Kevin Glenn connected with Rob Bagg for a 38 yard TD.

And then it just kind of withered away.

Except for Macho Harris’ three (3) interceptions.  An interception hat trick.  I’m gonna bet that hasn’t happened since James Johnson (remember him?) had three (3) interceptions in the 2007 Grey Cup game.

Anyway, I was going to make some joke about Macho growing his hair out and how it’s maybe giving him Samson-like strength and agility, so I Google-d dear Macho and well, the pictures I found, well, let’s let them speak for themselves:

machoman    machoman2

You weren’t expecting THAT now, were you??

Anyway, the Riders *actually* won, likely because I picked them to win.  We’re 2-11, baby!  Maybe we could be like the Blue Jays and get hats that say “TWO WINS”.

That would be AWESOME.

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