CALGARY — During this wretched 0-4 start to the season, trying to find signs of encouargement with the Argonauts — who have held a lead only once in 16 quarters of football — could be akin to grasping at straws.
But head coach Corey Chamblin has no choice but to look for silver linings.
“We stayed the course,’’ Chamblin began, when reminded of Lucky Whitehead’s opening kickoff return for a touchdown Friday night as the host Blue Bombers went on to beat the Argos 48-21. “We knew there was a lot of game left. We didn’t panic.
“I thought it took us a while, but I thought all three areas (offence, defence and special teams) began to shore up a little bit.
“And then we started to do some things defensively, started to get some stops.
“There were a couple of things offensively where we started to move the ball, started to do some things in coverage (on special teams).
“We just have to start the game that way. Whether it be jitters, whatever it may be, we have to learn how to play this game and play it efficiently.”
And there’s the rub.
After sitting out Week 1 with a bye, the Boatmen were fundamentally poor in their season opener, resulting in one of the worst performances in the history of Argonauts football, a 50-point embarrassment at the hands of the Ticats.
There have been flashes where signs of growth were seen, only to be followed by breakdowns and inefficiencies that led to big plays produced by Toronto’s opponents.
Clearly, something needs to be done to correct this current state of football affairs. Easier said than done, but it will help if the Argos can somehow find a way to start fast and function in all three phases with efficiency without getting in their way.
The amount of return yards in the first quarter alone against the Bombers was laughable, the Winnipeg offence running just one play and yet the home side was leading 14-0. It was 21-0 after the opening 12 minutes.
Keep in mind that the Argos have not won a game since last Oct. 20 when Montreal came to Toronto with Johnny Manziel as its starting quarterback.
Overall, the Argos lost nine of their final 10 games to close out the 2018 season. Including this year’s 0-4 start to the new season, the Argos have gone 1-13 in their past 14 games.
Theories abound as to whether GM Jim Popp has acquired players who are over-rated or have simply not meshed as a unit. Or is it the coaching? Not to beat a dead horse, but this Argos team lacks inspiration and there’s a clear lack of trust, focus, attention to detail.
Perhaps the extra time the players will spend with each other during their extended stay in Calgary before their Thursday date with the Stampeders will bring this team together.
Perhaps the Argos, as a whole, will be able to hit that reset button and begin to show signs of life and growth.
In the CFL, it’s not how a team starts a season, but how it finishes. Look no further than Toronto’s previous two Grey Cup championships — in 2012 and ’17 — both 9-9 squads that found their rhythm late in the season. But those two teams had Ricky Ray as well as a strong leadership corps in the locker room.
By far, however, the biggest source of encouragement is the overall state of the league and the presence of so many bad teams, especially out West.
The defending Grey Cup-champion Stampeders have lost a lot of big-time talent and played sloppy football in the Hammer on Saturday.
The Roughriders aren’t that good, despite their lopsided win over Toronto.
The B.C. Lions aren’t that good, despite their narrow victory over the Argos.
Ottawa has regressed, while the Alouettes have surged under quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., in winning two straight, despite a coaching change to begin the season and Sunday’s announcement that GM Kavis Reed had been dismissed.
Winnipeg, Hamilton and Edmonton remain at the top with the Blue Bombers firmly established as the CFL’s elite team.
So a win here on Thursday over the Stamps and the Argos are suddenly back in the running, as strange as that sounds given the litany of issues plaguing the team.
Somehow, some way, the Argos must find a way to return home from Alberta with at least one win, a basic necessity Chamblin has alluded to.
And as of today, the most beatable Alberta-based team is Calgary, which yielded two special teams majors to the host Tabbies and are forced to go with Nick Arbuckle at quarterback over the injured Bo Levi Mitchell.
FINDING THE RIGHT BALANCE
McLeod Bethel-Thompson isn’t delusional, but there are many fans of the Argos who question the QB’s assertion when he describes the team’s offence as dynamic.
In fairness to Bethel-Thompson, he must keep the faith and project a positive spin, even in times of such despair.
Against B.C., he had an efficiency rating of 100.9, throwing for 303 yards by completing 76% of his passes. But that resulted in just one offensive TD in the game’s final minute.
In Winnipeg last Thursday, the offence racked up 445 yards, albeit most of those coming with the game no longer in doubt. Derel Walker caught nine passes in that game for 188 yards, including two TDs.
“I felt we weren’t as communicative as we might have been and that’s on me,’’ said Bethel-Thompson.
The word ‘dynamic’ gets tossed around by Bethel-Thompson when everyone is on the same page.
At the same time, when the offence isn’t in sync, the word ‘ugly’ is used by Bethel-Thompson.
In Winnipeg, the run game had to be abandoned given the score.
Eventually, some semblance of balance must be achieved because no offence can allow an opposing defence to pin its ears back and pressure the backfield.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019