August 13, 2014

Campbell: REDBLACKS coach not questioning effort

Adam Gagnon

The upstart Ottawa REDBLACKS are coming up on a dubious anniversary of sorts.

By the time the REDBLACKS run through their inflatable tunnel and onto the field at TD Place Friday night to face the Edmonton Eskimos, the CFL’s loveable expansion cousins will be just three days short of the one month anniversary of their first win.

Not that anyone around the REDBLACKS is losing patience; no-one should be anyway, the improbable win over the Toronto Argonauts back on July 18 seems like so long ago.

It might seem even longer given that the REDBLACKS have not taken the lead for more than 2 1/2 full games.

It’s a tough enough road for a first-year club without always having to play catch-up.

“I really don’t think it’s a question of want with our guys,” REDBLACKS head coach Rick Campbell told media in beginning preparations for the third of four in a row against the very tough West. “Our guys want to win for the fans, for our owners, for everybody.

“We feel like we owe it to the city and the whole Region.

“Sometimes we’re just trying too hard. We need to make sure we try smarter, not just try harder.

“If we clean up some stuff, it will give us a chance to win some games.”

Just the same, a stretch of games against Saskatchewan, Calgary, now Edmonton, then Calgary again, is not kind on any team, especially an expansion team.

The West isn’t just killing the REDBLACKS, the division is running rough-shod over all four teams in the East.

“The West has been the best for as long as I’ve been in the league and you’re starting to see it again,” REDBLACKS quarterback Henry Burris told reporters this week and Burris knows a lot of CFL history at age 39. “Towards the middle of the season you’re going to see the teams in the East make their moves and then start to get it together.”

With all due to respect to Burris and his wisdom, any moves a team, or teams, in the East might make would have to be dramatic.

The Toronto Argonauts’ win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to begin Week 8 only improved the won-loss mark by East versus West to 16-3 and you can’t help but think the rest of the week will not be kind to the East.

And with every team in the West putting up winning records , it likely means the eventual fourth-place team in the West will make the playoffs as a crossover entry, meaning it would play the 2nd-place team in the East.

The crossover possibility was first instituted in 1997 to prevent just what is happening this season. The disparity between East and West has never been more apparent.

The B.C. Lions crossed-over in ’97 with an 8-10 mark. And of the seven teams in total to do it in 17 seasons since, the worst mark to earn the berth was the 2012 Edmonton Eskimos at 7-11.

On three occasions, it’s been 8-10 teams, and once each for teams who went 9-9, 10-8 and 11-7.

For the one-win likes of Ottawa, Hamilton and Montreal to even get to sevens wins, they would have to play 6-6 the rest of the way, highly unlikely given their respective performances during the first third of the schedule.

“We need to focus better,” said REDBLACKS offensive catalyst Chevon Walker, just one game into a new contract extension. “Just do your assignment and don’t try to do too much.

“I think we’ll be fine. We need to be confident, go out there and play ball.

“Like Coach said, it’s not an effort thing, it’s just playing smarter.”

And the REDBLACKS must get smarter in a hurry.