Just because the schedule was a little more compact doesn’t mean there was any shortage of storylines this past weekend. Week 6 of the Canadian Football League season gave us a pair of games with plenty to sink our teeth into, not to mention a rather massive coaching story.
Mix in a few marquee matchups on tap in Week 7, and things are humming even with half the games.
Cutting your losses
It was pretty clear something was awry in Montreal in the first five weeks of the season. It’s been a constant point of discussion on this weekly submission, and it’s been a hot topic among the readers here at CFL.ca.
|Related: Week 6 Action|
Hamilton at Edmonton
BC vs. Winnipeg
So, Alouettes General Manager Jim Popp did something about it, and he wasted very little time in doing so.
I’m going to heap some praise on Popp in a paragraph or two, so let’s get the critical stuff out of the way first. The longtime Als GM made the wrong hire when he brought in Dan Hawkins in February to replace Marc Trestman.
Popp said as much last week when he addressed the media following his decision to fire Hawkins just five games into his tenure. Popp said he knew there were issues as early as mini-camp, but he let the thing play out, but eventually had to make a tough decision.
It was clear that Hawkins had big shoes to fill. Trestman was a proven CFL winner, with three Grey Cup appearances and a pair of rings to show in his relatively brief tenure in this league. Popp tried to capture lightning in a bottle again, hiring a coach (and staff) with no CFL experience.
It was tough to be critical of the move at the time; despite knowing no pro experience was on Hawkins’s resume. What Popp touches typically turns to gold, as has played out in his 18 seasons with Montreal. We can be critical now. It was the wrong hire and needed to be addressed.
As we move to the praise portion of this section, there was something that stuck out more than anything else with Popp’s decision. We’ve all been guilty in the past of sticking by something that we decided on just to prove everyone wrong, or to prove ourselves right.
We’ve all got egos, and we all like our ego affirmed every once in a while. This extends to football, and could have gotten in the way in Montreal. In this case, however, it didn’t.
Popp let his head run the football team, not his ego, and it allowed him to make this decision. Hawkins was his hire, over plenty of other qualified candidates, and you couldn’t have faulted him too much if he stuck with his decision with a “you just wait and see” attitude.
He didn’t, though, and he’s now back on the sidelines for the next little while. Will this move pave the way for a scorching conclusion to the season in Montreal? No one can say at this point. I think it’s fair to say, though, they didn’t wait too long to make an important call.
The lesser of two evils
It was really an interesting battle on Friday night when the Tiger-Cats held on for a 30-29 victory over the Eskimos.
There was really one question that needed answering heading into game one of Week 6. Would Edmonton’s offence be able to move the ball against Hamilton’s defense? The answer, in fact, was yes. It turned out, however, the question was answered positively just a little too late.
Ramping things up to the proper gear late is fine early in the regular season, and it’ll keep you in the hunt for a division title. But the Lions found out the hard way how a few bad quarters early can burn you in a playoff game in last year’s West Division Final.
Get that bad habit under wraps right now, and there’s a much lesser chance of that script repeating itself in a few months.
The Bombers made the right call in giving the starting reins to the aforementioned Goltz. I’m fully in favour of the decision not so much because of Goltz, but more because it was time to divest from Buck Pierce.
This column and many others believed it was time to move away from Pierce late last season, but the Bombers wanted to give it one more go. Making the move now isn’t too late, and it’s important when looking at the bigger picture.
Going week-to-week not knowing who your starting quarterback is going to be would have to be frustrating for Head Coach Tim Burke. But it’s more of a detriment to the rest of the Winnipeg attack. Continuity is so important in this game, and adjusting your game to fit the tendencies of a different pivot every week just isn’t ideal.
Pierce is a darn talented quarterback, but sometimes you have to play the safer hand.
Finally, I can tell you that things are buzzing in Western Canada thanks to Friday’s showdown at McMahon Stadium. The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be making their first trip to Calgary to take on their archrival Calgary Stampeders. It’s one of the greatest rivalries in the league right now, and it comes with both teams playing some red-hot ball.
It seems every team these two clash, it produces fireworks and crazy dramatic finishes, so I’d suggest Friday’s affair would be considered must see TV.
Pat Steinberg is the co-host of the drive home program on Sportsnet Radio FAN 960 in Calgary. He also reports on the CFL and the Stampeders and hosts pre and post-game programs for the team. He looks forward to traveling to the Grey Cup every year. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.