Will changes make ’Cats purr?
Is the season really lost? Are Tuesday’s moves just shuffling deck chairs?
“Football is a results-based business,” Jeff Reinebold, the now-departed former defensive coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, would often say.
And while it may have been standings and the stat sheet that led to his demise — giving up 39 points a game, an 0-6 record — what happens next will be crucial.
Should new assistant head coach June Jones get the offence going and new defensive co-ordinator Phillip Lolley stem the opposition touchdown parade — while powering the Ticats to some, you know, actual wins — then their hiring will be seen as a stroke of genius.
Especially if this winless club somehow manages to make the playoffs.
If not, the Ticats just shuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic and none of it matters, anyway: the season is already lost.
Kent Austin, vice-president of football operations and head coach, made Reinebold’s demotion official on Tuesday, announcing the promotion of Lolley from linebackers’ coach.
Reinebold has been offered another position within the organization — though it’s unclear what, exactly, that might be — and is taking some time to think things over.
“Obviously, we want to get better defensively. I have a great deal of respect for Jeff, I have a very strong personal relationship with him. I think he’s an outstanding coach. But we needed to get better and make some changes,” Austin said.
“It wasn’t easy. Jeff’s a very close friend and colleague.
“He knows I love him and I hope this didn’t affect our personal relationship. I want Jeff here and he’s been told that. He’s certainly welcome back with open arms.”
One of the criticisms levelled at Reinebold, albeit quietly, was that his preferred defensive system was overly complex for the experience level of the current crew of Ticats.
That’s unlikely to be an issue with Lolley, a football-lifer from Alabama who sees oversimplification as an art form.
“I’m a very fundamental guy ... be aggressive, get lined up, run to the football, hit, tackle. You can draw up all the plays in the world but if you don’t execute them, what good are they?” Lolley asked.
“It’s better to run one or two things right than 10 or 12 things wrong. That’s my philosophy.”
Meanwhile, over to offence, things were getting more complicated. The addition of Jones means the Ticats now have Austin, the mastermind of the current offensive system, offensive co-ordinator Stefan Ptaszek (who has called plays at times this season) and Jones, who’s run-and-shoot concepts are being expanded.
“It is part of every offence now. I think this is going to end up being a positive situation for everybody. (Kent) asked me to look at what they’re doing and then sit down and see what we can do without making it brand-new stuff,” Jones said.
“I would anticipate that Kent will continue to call the plays but I’ll certainly have input with him on that.”
Jones was certainly behaving like an offensive co-ordinator for much of Tuesday’s practice, the first as the Ticats prepare for Saturday’s home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Jones, 64 — whose contract runs through next season — says he likes what he sees in quarterback Zach Collaros, who is now trying to learn the run-and-shoot system for the first time.
And Collaros said: “He’s a very confident guy, it’s his system and he can teach it like the back of his hand. There are a lot of things that guys have seen but maybe haven’t done for a long time.
“I think for the receivers being on the field as long as we were, just walking through, it was like a training camp day.”
One thing that Collaros said might help in his transition? Jeff Reinebold. “I think he could play a role and be very valuable. There’s just something about Reinebold. Guys want to play for him, guys want to be around him,” Collaros said.
He added: “I sent him a text last night. I hope he stays around, I love Jeff Reinebold.” NOTES: The Ticats made a series of roster moves on Monday. They confirmed the signing of former Eskimos offensive lineman Tony Washington, while also adding defensive back Cariel Brooks, defensive end Mike McAdoo and wide receiver Gerell Robinson. … The team also released defensive back Ethan Davis, offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon, receiver Kevin Elliott and quarterback Logan Kilgore. On the injury front, defensive back Emanuel Davis is practising with the first team and could potentially make his return this week.
Phillip Lolley is a football lifer. His watchwords: “It’s better to run one or two things right than 10 or 12 things wrong.”