Saturday, August 16, 2008

SPORTS: Time to Panic

It's a script the Toronto Argo have made reruns of for the last few years. Stumbling out of the gate, the Argos turn it on after Labour Day and end up with a decent chance at going all the way to the Grey Cup. It was hard to panic when the eternal optimist, Pinball Clemons, was out there telling everybody everything was not only fine, but watch us win five of the next seven and challenge for first place!

And, you know, he pulled it off. More than a few times. No need for a re-write.

But times are a changing. Rich Stubler is now starring as Pinball. And this edition of the Toronto Argos don't have something Clemons' teams had--a shutdown defence run by Stubler.

Nothing is functioning at acceptable levels for these Toronto Argos. The defence has been bad in total, horrid against the run. The top-ranked pass defence is one of those mirages, created whole cloth out of the absence of the need for the other teams to pass. It's been a poor-tackling, collective failure. And at the same time, it's operating better than the offence.

League MVP Kerry Joseph has played, by my count, five good quarters this year. TOTAL! Four came in one game. I've been stumping for Mike Bishop to get his chance again. And Stubler heard my rumblings from all the way out here in the suburbs. Bishop played the second half of a game Toronto trailed 11-7 at the half. And his teammates showed an immediate desire to return to Joseph by dropping just about any pass that was near them. Bishop responded by throwing a pass to a Montreal player or two and just plain over-throwing everything and everybody the rest of the time. In essence, he was as bad as Joseph, with more receiver drops than I thought possible.

Injuries, that Toronto Blue Jay excuse on a repeating loop, will be blamed for a failed corps of receivers forced to resort to using fourth quarterback Reggie McNeal as a pass catcher. Problem is, he's been as good, if not better, than the rest of the receivers he's played with the last two weeks. If NOBODY is going to catch the ball, then let Bishop start. At least he'll throw to Arland Bruce III. Joseph won't. Or maybe switch McNeal and either of the two others. How in the world can he be any worse?

And do something about special teams' penalties. The Argos were penalized three times for ZERO yards in the first half last night. The Als declined each time, because their gain was better than the penalty!

Stubler isn't exactly a motivational speaker in public. He inspired a defence that dominated until this year. That largely returning defence either got old real quick (probably true) or wants him to take over again (who knows) or both. But the only way we'll find out if Stubler CAN do something with his defensive soldiers is to give him a chance and get back Clemons for a third stint on the sidelines.

Otherwise, there isn't much hope for a post-Labour Day revival along the lines of the Argo Bounce. Not this year.

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