Sober Second Thoughts: Lions QB not an issue, for now

Boy, now we know why it’s called Sober Second Thoughts, because another home stinker by the Lions in losing 25-14 to the Toronto Argonauts Thursday actually might send a person in search of a drink

First things first: A look at the statistics, assuming you could find any along press row afterwards, would suggest the Lions might be wondering whether to change quarterbacks for their next game.

Travis Lulay had better numbers than Jon Jennings, just like Anthony Allen finished with superior rushing totals than Brandon Whitaker (above) of the Argos. Big deal. Whitaker and his team made plays when it mattered down the stretch. B.C. coughed up another fuzzball at home.

“We played well enough to show hope, but bad enough to lose,” Wally Buono said, summing things perfectly.

Lest anyone think there’s a quarterback controversy with the Lions however, think again. Jennings should start. Lulay should come out of the bullpen. That’s the way this team was set up.

Another start or two in which Jennings doesn’t move the offence and Buono may be compelled to think differently, but not now. Jennings was beaten by unfortunate throws which landed in the arms of Toronto’s Keon Raymond, who has now picked him off four times of his 12 career interceptions, and Argos defensive genius Rich Stubler. Jennings isn’t alone there.

Roster roulette: The pre-game conversation centered around which of the three new Lions starters, each of whom had CFL experience, would be watched more closely than any other. Kirby Fabien was at the top of the list. Anthony Allen might have been second. That changed quickly once Allen got the ball. It changed even more down the stretch.

It wasn’t that Bryant Turner may have worn down in his first game on the defensive line subbing for Mich’ael Brooks for the Lions but the fact there wasn’t sufficient resistance from one of the deepest position groups on Thursday’s roster.

For the first time in years, the Lions dressed seven defensive linemen but used rookies Darius Allen and Kache Palacio mostly on special teams. Using that logic, Allen (139 yards from scrimmage, 1 fumble) made a case to remain in the lineup when Jeremiah Johnson is healthy.

Dressing four import d-linemen wasn’t nearly as productive, and couldn’t make up for four turnovers, eight penalties, two lost challenges, two blown interceptions resulting in a nine-point swing, and no answer for Whitaker.

If Buono didn’t want to tinker early because of two wins, he has his chance now.

Box office blues: The Lions don’t play another game until they are handing out medals in Rio de Janiero but it remains to be seen whether that even becomes an issue with the dwindling football populace in the Lower Mainland.

It needs to be noted that despite the buzz associated with a 2-0 start, the Lions went in reverse at the box office, and not by a little, which clearly should raise big red flags at the Hamilton headquarters of recovering owner David Braley.

It’s fair to think that the numbers will pick up during five openings after Labour Day but it’s also too easy to dismiss the downturn Thursday as simply a weeknight opening against a traditionally unglamorous non-divisional opponent either.

The crowd of 18,921 fans Thursday was the lowest of the Wally Buono era and worst regular season draw since Aug. 21, 2002, when Adam Rita was in charge, and read deep into this recent bit of reporting it’s also now safe to even question that figure. That’s nearly 3,000 fewer than the Calgary regular season opener, when the paying customer had a right to be skeptical about the Buono effect.

Perhaps the only good bit of news is that commissioner Jeffrey Orridge made his second visit to Vancouver in his current job to see the slippage firsthand and will recognize that like the Toronto Argonauts under Braley, another team needs help too. It’s amazing to see how far expectations have dropped about a team which was averaging in the order of 28,000 fans a game just two years ago.

For all the gains made by the Lions gaining a football foothold on social media, the marketing side of the operation is obviously losing ground. Bob Ackles, who sadly passed away eight years ago today, thought he had turned this franchise when TV blackouts remained the norm. Sad to think how much more must be done once again.

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
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Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (129 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

14 Comments on Sober Second Thoughts: Lions QB not an issue, for now

  1. Regarding the attendance, yes everything you say is true, however a caveat should be added that the weather and this bike lane filled city created a traffic nightmare in Vancouver last night. I left work in Burnaby at 4:45 and didn’t get downtown until 6:15. For someone who has to get off work, go pick up the wife and/or kids to battle getting downtown, it’s easier just to watch on TV. But dealing with some of these people first hand, your are 100% correct in saying the marketing department on this club is lacking, in a big way. It’s time to clean house and bring in people with a vision, just as they have done in Toronto.

  2. Coach Doug // July 8, 2016 at 5:57 pm //

    To the CFL Collect Brain Trust,

    Having a CFL game on a week night is bad enough but having it on a Community Football practice night is just plain stupid!!! Do you think maybe Community Football players might be football fans? I hope this financial lesson does not go unheeded however given the collective intelligence of the scheduling committee I’m not holding my breath!!!

  3. I’m not from Vancouver and have no idea what traffic is like on a Thursday nor how it may or may not affect attendance. What I can say though, is that I live walking distance to Tim Hortons Field and Thursday night games are a press for time. Not only can it be a challenge to get home and make your way over to the stadium, but it also can make for a long night. People with early morning job starts or kids may not want to be out until 11 p.m.. I understand TSN wanting to build Thursday Night Football, but I think maybe they’ve gone a little too far in this year. One game Thursday night (kick off 7:30 or 8), a game or two Friday night and the remainder Saturday or Sunday. Seemed good to me…?

  4. I was there and disappointed in the attendance as well… With all due respect I think that traffic / bike lanes / Thursday / rain etc. are all just excuses. People still come out to Canucks in the rain with the traffic and bike lanes for weekday games all season long, Whitecaops have the same issues. I don’t have any easy answers however on field product and off field promotions have got to improve. Where we were at in 2011 / 2012 to now is actually pretty shocking.

  5. Another thought, you could really notice the price point changes in the seating… For example section 244 was packed on one side of the aisle (Red seating) and completely vacant on the other (Coaches Sideline). Maybe people aren’t prepared to pay $90 to sit on the 20 yard line? I’m not and I am a fan. For a casual that must seem ridiculous. I think that there must be a correlation between increasing prices and reduced attendance. How about $20 in the endzone, $40 in the red, create a new zone for $60 around the 20 yard line, and $80 for centre field primo seats? Kid section somewhere $15.

  6. Oh I forgot about the yellow “touchdown corner” section… Those seats are really just endzone anyway.

  7. Eric Kore // July 8, 2016 at 10:10 pm //

    Is it marketing or is the demographic changed and most people will watch at home until you blackout the product.

  8. The Lions draw just as many or more fans than the Canucks do, it’s just a bigger stadium. And perhaps you haven’t seen a Whitecaps crowd on a weeknight, it’s often the same thing, unless a top rival is in town.

  9. Chris Ross // July 10, 2016 at 1:52 am //

    I still think the biggest issue for attendance remains the prices. There are other minor issues like paid street parking until 10pm (rather than 8pm), traffic, Whitecaps (a not so minor issue I guess) and other things. However, the biggest thing I notice is that it’s no longer very affordable to go to a game, especially considering the clientele for a Lions game is more blue collar. Furthermore, the prices inside the stadium for food are outlandish and it looks like they are making the food more upscale.

    The worst seats in the house are $35 and if you don’t want to sit in the corner you have to pay at least $72. Those are lower-end Canucks prices and I don’t think people want to pay that for the CFL. We have been season ticket holders for 10+ years and we sit in the $72 section. Back when we got the season tickets, the price per game was less than $20. You could get 7-Eleven tickets 2 for $20. Ever since BC Place re-opened it hasn’t been the same. On top of not winning, I believe the management group forgot who the Lions are and have alienated a lot of the fan base by pricing them out.

    If I want to sit in a half-decent end zone seat it’s almost $90 for two people. Add in food, beer, parking and the traffic, and you’re looking at a $150 night easily. It frustrates me because I think this is they’re big issue. The market is telling them they don’t want to pay this much yet they haven’t done anything about it. It will take more than winning to bring the fans back when there are other affordable options out there and when people can simply watch games on TV.

  10. Al Paciejewski // July 10, 2016 at 9:35 pm //

    The Lions don’t do much in the way of game night promotions. How about a free hat or a mini-football or 2 for 1 tickets? In addition, closing the upper deck was a bad move. Now, I’m stuck in an end zone corner and I have to pay a ridiculous amount for a ticket. Finally, only lift the local blackout if ticket sales are at 25,000 two days before the game. I know several people who didn’t renew because they can watch the game in the comfort of their own home. Finally, get rid of those tarps hanging down from the upper deck.

  11. I have never gone to a game in Vancouver as I live in Calgary, but have noticed a jump in costs for tickets over the past 15 years for Stamps games. At least in Vancouver you are able to watch games in a first class facility, but McMahon Stadium is a dump. After a number of seasons in the early 2000’s where home crowds rarely went below 30,000 for Stamps games, they are lucky now to draw in the low 20,000 and much less when the weather is cold. Higher ticket prices make it much less attract able for a family to attend a game, along with a substandard stadium and lousy in game fan experience. Watching the game on tv, at least in Calgary is a much better option outside of a few choice games each season.

  12. milhouse // July 12, 2016 at 5:25 pm //

    As a former season ticket holder years ago who attended the first two home games this season, I’m not finding the overall game experience very entertaining which compounds the issue if the team is not entertaining.
    The vibe around Terry Fox Plaza was so-so for the opener and weak for the Argo game. The halftime show obstacle course was a bit of a curiosity. Have to give Crazy P props for his energy level though.
    I don’t have any suggestions though. Just not feeling entertained.

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