November 20, 2019

Ferguson: Calculated risks carrying Bombers, Ticats to success

Johany Jutras/

Fortune favours the bold, but there is nothing lucky about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers making it to the Grey Cup in 2019.

The old Latin proverb has been rallied around, celebrated and reworded in a million different ways with the true meaning boiling down to “those who are willing to risk have the greatest chance to succeed”.

With that in mind, think about all the risks taken by these two teams who will look to end historic championship droughts Sunday in Calgary.

The Bombers trusted Matt Nichols when few believed. Even after his injury they handed the controls to a completely different style of offence with Chris Streveler under centre. An experiment which might not have produced many wins, but essentially sealed their biggest win to that moment when Streveler’s ground attack finished off the Stampeders on the Western Semi-Final’s frozen McMahon Stadium turf.

Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea went after Adam Bighill and not only decided to spend the money to entice him to wear blue and gold, but were able to re-sign him this past off-season to pair alongside Willie Jefferson.

The two of them are capable of ruining an offensive game plan almost single-handedly. The risk there is not in the talent acquired, but how it would affect being able to structure the roster elsewhere.

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Finally, there is that little matter of trading for a quarterback who had all of three snaps in 2019 and had already been traded once.

Making the move for Zach Collaros was arguably the boldest – and perhaps most required – move of the entire CFL calendar year. We all knew O’Shea wasn’t telling the truth when he suggested Collaros was brought in for “a veteran presence.”

That’s okay, O’Shea was protecting his and his team’s interests which he is right to do, but in hindsight it becomes glaringly obvious that Collaros was acquired with a purpose: To return the Bombers passing attack to a place of above average efficiency and – when paired with Streveler’s unique skill set – win the Grey Cup.

Essentially a window dressed, two quarterback strategy? A bold and daring strategy not truly employed in some time and a decision which has paid off in spades over the last two Sundays.

As for Hamilton, there was no shortage of risk leading to reward in 2019.

June Jones gone, Tommy Condell in as offensive coordinator.

A first year head coach in Orlondo Steinauer.

A second year quarterback entrusted to learn on the job and figure it out quick because the roster around him was more than capable of reaching this Sunday’s holy grail.

A return man, turned receiver, turned deserving Most Outstanding Player winner in Brandon Banks.


A trio of Argos castoffs who the Ticats front office felt could land along the Lake Ontario shores of Hamilton and contribute in defensive tackle Dylan Wynn, middle linebacker Justin Tuggle and offensive tackle Chris Van Zeyl.

A group of young Canadian running backs entrusted to carry the load on a Grey Cup caliber team, only to have injuries alter that plan and see – at minimum – five backs handed starting responsibilities.

The list goes on and on between these rosters of decisions made that carried more than their fair share of risk, but what about on field?

We all know that Canadian Football requires a different approach in strategy and skill set at the quarterback position than our neighbours to the South, but that still can’t explain why these two offences have approached game day differently than any other team

In Paul LaPolice and Tommy Condell the Grey Cup is spoiled to have two of the most creative thinkers in any facet of the game today. The Ticats (13) and Bombers (9) led the CFL in snaps taken by non-quarterbacks this season.

Both Grey Cup combatants also led the CFL in average depth of pass target amongst playoff qualifying teams in 2019. A sure display of their aggressive approach to playoff pressure. These two teams don’t just wake up and press snooze, they hop out of bed and attack the day.

Fortune favours the bold doesn’t do the Bombers and Ticats justice, it’s much more than that. However, there is no denying that our game rewards those who are willing to stick their neck out for a chance to make championship memories.

Risk takers. Play makers. Grey Cup winners? Only one can earn the crown on Sunday.