As the Toronto Argonauts prepare for their East Division Semi-Final against the Hamilton Tiger Cats so much discussion centres around the lack of success the Double Blue have had at Tim Hortons Field. Frankly lack of success at the Ultimate Donut Shop is a huge understatement. Through five games the team is 0 and 5 and has been outscored 150 – 59. Ouch! Given the circus that has been the Toronto Argonauts 2015 schedule why can obstacles like home games in Fort McMurray and Ottawa be overcome and seen as symbols of the teams character yet none of that has carried over to Tim Hortons Field whether the Argos are playing Hamilton, Calgary or Montreal? Yes as crazy as it is to write that imagine having to go through that.
I’m sure if we study the statistics the usual discrepancies that contribute to any loss in professional football would apply. They probably lost the turnover battle, took some undisciplined penalties, and basically didn’t execute the game plan prepared by Head Coach Scott Milanovich. But I’ve decided to take a look at the Argonaut struggles at Tim Hortons Field from a personal perspective. As my biography on this site will tell you I spend much of my time caught up the in the crazy world of Stand Up Comedy. It’s something that I often love and at times hate. Sometimes even at the same time. Why? Because nobody knows why sometimes a joke can kill an audience one night and then bomb the next. Specifically this is what haunted me early in my career at a specific Comedy Club that for the purpose of future paying gigs shall remain nameless. If there was ever a crowd that made you feel like you were the road visitor this was it. Did they even like Comedy? Maybe they just don’t want to laugh? Maybe it was just me? Before each and every show I would treat my material like I was back in University studying for a final exam. I’d later curse myself because when I looked back I never actually did prepare that hard for any exam. I would rehearse over and over again. I dissected my material to the point where I didn’t end up liking much of anything I had written. Everything I tried to prepare for my shows worked just enough so I could get booked again but I never walked out victorious. No applause breaks. No real ovation. Just a polite, thank you for your time but bring on the next Comic. Than I had my Seinfeld moment, I realized that the only thing I can do, that I never did before, was the complete opposite of everything I tried to do before. I didn’t review my notes to the degree I had before. I decided to try some new material that wasn’t as workshopped as it perhaps it needed to be. And I openly engaged in discussion with the audience even thought I had no idea where that might take me. I didn’t over think it, in a way I kind of winged and it was definitely the best set I ever had period.
So how does this pertain to the good ship Argonaut? If the Double Blue plan on walking out of Tim Hortons Field with a victory on Sunday afternoon, they need to throw out whatever they did to prepare for those previous five games. Prior to their first game this season against Hamilton Coach Milanovich told reporters that, “at least from a travel perspective playing Hamilton is more convenient since some of the players live nearby and can sleep in their own beds and get to the game themselves.”
Bad idea. Do whatever needs to be done to recreate that Us vs Them feeling that comes from playing on the road. Put the players in a hotel and get them all on a bus headed to Steeltown. Let them enter the Hammer together. Road warriors they’ve been all season. Road warriors they need to be on Sunday.
Secondly, Toronto needs to walk in confident in knowing that they hold a potentially major advantage at a key position. Hall of Fame Quarterback Ricky Ray is back and is getting more comfortable every day executing an offense built around his skills and strengths. Can that be said about Hamilton? The TiCat offense has struggled since they loss MOP candidate Zach Collaros and have yet to name a starter for Sundays game.
Further to that this should be a game centered on Chad Owens. Yes the Argos like to spread the ball around and pass the ball through a series of looks and progressions. But how has that worked so far? Feed the Flyin Hawaiian the ball until they force you to do something else. The chemistry between Ray and Owens is as good as any Quarterback/Receiver combination in the league. Go to it until it’s gone. Like never before the Argos can’t afford a bad start. In Comedy you start off with your best joke. The Argos need to go with what has worked best in the past, and that’s Ricky Ray throwing the ball to Chad Owens. A first quarter lead will do wonders in not only building the teams’ confidence but also creating doubt in a Hamilton team that has lost their last 3 games. Owens also needs to play a role on special teams. His workload has changed frequently on punt returns throughout the season. That can’t happen Sunday. The more Owens touches the ball better.
With Hamiltons Quarterback play no better than suspect since Collaros tore his ACL the defensive scheme for the Argonauts should be all about forcing the play. Blitz, blitz and blitz again. Whether it is Harris or Masoli pressure these untested QB’s and get those sacks that the team has had difficulty doing all year. Also, show different looks. Yes Toronto likes to play man to man but change it up with some zone packages that take away the Quarterback’s number 1 and number 2 options.
Believe me I’m writing this knowing what I just suggested is so much easier to say than it is to execute. And of course there are many different ways to skin a cat. But hopefully the coaching staff and players remember that every game at Tim Hortons Field have all been eerily similar to each other. Change it up. Wing it. Roll the dice. What do you go to lose? Like the Jerry once said to George, if everything you’ve done is wrong, the opposite would have to be right.
written by Anthony Ciardulli
follow me on twitter @comicanthony