TORONTO – Well, that was A Labour Day Classic to forget for Argo fans. Disappointing, actually. The Argonauts were 6-3 and tied for first place with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Division. They had a full week of preparation and practice. The stage isn’t any larger than the Labour Day Classic in Hamilton. Monday’s game marked the first time since 1989 that the Argos and Tabbies had played the Labour Day Classic with first place hanging in the balance. The Argos should have been pumped and ready to compete. The score at halftime was 27-1 in favour of Hamilton. The only positive for Toronto is that their road trip from hell is finally over. Their record after 10 games is now 6-4, respectable considering that they have only played two games at home so far. No other professional sports team has had to endure such a long and winding road to begin a season.
The final, 42-12, in favour of the Tiger-Cats. There really is not a lot from an Argo perspective worth discussing other than a few nice catches made and the return of Chad Owens from injury.
There is no question that Hamilton is the best team in the East. Toronto has now lost two games to Hamilton this year. They play again this Friday night in Toronto for the last time in the regular season.
For the second consecutive week, the Argonauts have been beaten in all three phases of the game: offence, defence and special teams. Offensively, the Argonauts cannot seem to get off to a strong start. Even in the games they have won they have had to come from behind to do so. Defensively, it appears that the secondary is blowing coverage allowing for opposing receivers to catch passes for big plays and touchdowns. Special teams cannot seem to produce returns to give the offence a shorter field.
The Argonauts were dominated today. Plain and simple. I am not prepared to slam this team and demand wholesale changes at this time. There are issues that need to be address but their record of 6-4, having played only two home games, still needs to be recognized as an accomplishment and at the start of the season I was hoping that if they could be 5-5 at this point they would be in great shape. They have exceeded my expectations. That said, six of their last eight games are now at home. It is time for the Argo strategy to change from one of a road mentality to one of a home mentality. What that means is the offence comes out with the intention of dominating teams from the outset. It is about a dominating pass rush mentality and attack style defense. And it is about game breaking returns on special teams.
The Argos have the players to do this and they have the head coach to game plan it as well. If they hope to finish first they must beat Hamilton on Friday night.
Quarterback Ricky Ray dressed as the third-string quarterback on Monday. It was great to see him in uniform again and see that his recovery is to the point that he can practice and play again. When he is ready to command the offence again I believe he should start. This is by no means disrespecting what Trevor Harris has accomplished with a horrendous schedule. But Ricky Ray will be in the hall of fame, and there are more things Trevor can learn to become a better quarterback by watching Ricky Ray play. In 2012 Ricky Ray was injured and saw the offence from a different perspective being on the sideline. He came back from injury and led the Argos to the 100th Grey Cup championship. Ricky Ray was a 10-year veteran and there was more to learn. I think a move to the sideline now and watching the veteran play will complete his developmental process and make him better.
The good news is the Argos get to play the Tiger-Cats in four more days. It is important to see how they respond and what the makeup of this team is. The outcome of this game will determine if they are true contenders for first place. Today is over. Forget about it. Move on. Friday is key.
Written By: Scott Ford