Now that the sting of another Grey Cup loss has lessened a bit, it’s time for some sober reflection on what the next move should be for the Calgary Stampeders.
Sure, there are areas of the team that is getting older, and some turnover at certain positions will be unavoidable.
One this is blatantly obvious though. There should be no rebuild motion taking place. At least not yet.
With quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell admitting he has tears in both his shoulder and elbow and will need extensive rehab to be ready for training camp, the Stamps are going into another off-season of physical and emotional repair.
What would have happened if Mitchell’s throwing arm was completely 100% and he didn’t miss on the final pass that sealed the Toronto Argonauts 27-24 victory last month?
What would have happened if Kamar Jorden didn’t drop the ball with about five minutes left, allowing the Argos to return it all way the down the field to tie the game?
We will never know, but you two mistakes changed that game. Should that mean you give up on what this team has built and start over? No way.
No team has won more regular-season games over the past six seasons than the Stampeders.
No team has lost more Grey Cups either — with a 1-3 record over that span.
What this team needs is one more shot.
The reason why: Mitchell is due to become a free agent after next season. He will try to take his shot at the NFL, and no one should blame him for that.
The Stamps should be putting the focus on 2018 as a last chance with this core group of players. A healthy Mitchell will be a good start, seeing as how he was fighting through the injury for the majority of 2017 and it obviously affected the offence. Mitchell lost heat and accuracy on his throws, but the team still managed to lock down first place with three weeks left in the season. In the end, the injury probably bit the Stamps in the butt, but they did get within a minute of a championship.
It was in Week 5 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders that the injury took place, and Mitchell wasn’t right the rest of the year. There were several weeks when Mitchell wouldn’t throw a pass with the offence and then go out on game-day and try to perform.
In this ‘off year,’ Mitchell was still third in passing yardage, although his game clearly suffered as he dropped to sixth among starters in terms of quarterback efficiency. Once he goes through rehab, it’s quite likely he will return to the form that earned him the 2016 most outstanding player award.
So it’s time to reload and try to finish off another season in a positive manner.
Then, if this group is unsuccessful again, will be the time to make major changes, and it might be time to start the Andrew Buckley era.
The core group of players, especially the veteran defence that did basically nothing wrong in the loss to the Argos — except one deep ball Tommie Campbell probably would like back — should be able to get one more shot together.
The Stamps have a ton of free agents right now, but that doesn’t seem to be unusual for this league. If John Hufnagel so desires, it’s likely he will be able to put the pieces back together for this defence.
For every ‘old player’ the Stamps have in a key position, they have another ‘young one’ in another.
Sure the secondary has Brandon Smith (33), Josh Bell (32) and Joe Burnett (31), but Tommie Campbell (30) and Jamar Wall (29) certainly have some strong years left and Ciante Evans and Shaquille Richardson are just heading into their primes at 25 and the sky is the limit for Canadian Tunde Adeleke (22).
It appears that Deron Mayo (29) will be have a real hard time returning fully from the knee injury that kept him out most of the last calendar year. But Jameer Thurman (22) has a bright future after stepping up this season and Alex Singleton (24) was just voted the league’s best defender.
Who’s going to count out Charleston Hughes, who still is a sack leader at age 33, while Micah Johnson has seemingly been around forever and is just 29.
It just seems like the Stamps are getting old, because on offence that is the case a little bit.
No one would be surprised to see offensive lineman Dan Federkeil (34) and Marquay McDaniel (33) move on, and there’s a decent chance the Stamps turn over the running back position instead of going with Jerome Messam (32) again.
As big a gaffe as Jorden had during the loss to the Argos, he still caught an amazing pass that set up the final would-be touchdown drive. DaVaris Daniels is a free agent but is unquestionably a talent at receiver too.
The biggest free agent the Stamps could go after though is Eric Rogers, who has sat out two injury plagued seasons after leaving the team to sign in the NFL.
The Stamps never have too much trouble finding the next receiver, as Marken Michel stepped in and was West Division top rookie this year.
And there is no way the Stamps will be two straight years where the offence struggles like this. Dave Dickenson is too good of a coach to let that happen.
The team thought it might lose defensive co-ordinator DeVone Claybrooks to the Montreal Alouettes as their head coach, but he’s pulled himself out of the running for that job, so once again the Stamps have continuity with their staff.
Unless they lose a great deal of players to free agency … this team will be my favourite to be in the Grey Cup again.
And maybe this time they would win it.
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