Ticats players wanted Austin gone – but they all came back

Shortly after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats season ended last November, a group of anonymous players expressed their concerns with vice-president of football operations and former head coach Kent Austin. Chief among them was that the team’s pending free agents – including the starting quarterback and star receiver – would elect to go elsewhere if Austin remained in place.

Clearly, that didn’t happen. But the players got their wish.

Every single one of the Ticats’ key pieces – including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, receiver Brandon Banks, linebacker Larry Dean and defensive tackle Ted Laurent – signed new deals to remain with the club. Austin remained in place during that process but the team announced on Thursday that he was stepping back from his role as the primary decision-maker to become a consultant.

One player quoted in the November piece – again, speaking on the condition of anonymity – said he thinks there’s one major reason why so many of the team’s potential free agents decided to return.

“June Jones. It’s that simple,” the player said. “When June left, he told us that he had some things to figure out but that if he came back, he wanted everybody back because he felt such a close connection with our group.”

Jones took over as the team’s head coach in August after Austin led them to an 0-8 start, going 6-4 in the team’s final ten games as the Ticats made a late, if ultimately futile, playoff push. While there were questions about whether Jones would return, he ultimately re-signed with the club on Dec. 4. Masoli and Banks signed a day apart in early January while a number of others inked deals just before the opening of free agency.

“You saw a lot of guys wait to see what was going to happen,” the player said.

Other players who were quoted in the original piece said that a frustrating year – one that began with Grey Cup aspirations – combined with the team’s inability to win some key games down the stretch also contributed to their state of mind.

“I think at the end of the season everybody was so upset. It was just that kind of year and emotions were running high,” another player said. “But then everybody takes a step back and look at things a little differently.”

There are, however, still plenty of questions. With Austin’s role significantly diminished, team CEO Scott Mitchell said the Ticats are going with a “collaborative effort” in the front office with general manager Eric Tillman, assistant general managers Shawn Burke and Drew Allemang as well as Jones and assistant head coach Orlondo Steinauer.

In pro football, where order and routine are often paramount, the unconventional management structure is sure to raise eyebrows.

“What’s Orlondo’s role, what does that look like, what does that mean?” one player said. “There’s still a lot of things up in the air and there will be until training camp.”

With mini-camp scheduled for the end of April and training camp set for mid-May, players say they are optimistic heading into the 2018 season with Jones at the helm, Steinauer back in the fold and all of the team’s key contributors returning.

Even those critical of Austin last November acknowledge he deserves at least some credit for how things have turned out.

“The bottom line is that Kent did a good job bringing in players,” one player said. “And the issue wasn’t with Kent the GM.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1355 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

57 Comments on Ticats players wanted Austin gone – but they all came back

  1. Interesting. When Contract is up will be gone.I doubt he will have any say in what’s going on.

    • thewickedtuna // April 13, 2018 at 7:16 pm //

      Austin doesn’t deserve this backlash from players, may surprise many but June Jones has made decisions to play some- sit others who were starting. Those who ended up not on the field are not as positive about him.

      This is the nature of the game, as a icon of the CFL once said to me- the business of football is ugly.

      • blackgold58 // April 13, 2018 at 7:20 pm //

        The business of football IS ugly….

        Austin should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s a brilliant football mind who has had a great CFL career. We have been fortunate to have him. Best to you Coach

      • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // April 14, 2018 at 1:14 am //

        He deserved it. He lost the room when he wouldn’t put Masoli in. It was the reason why Jones did that first thing, why the team played better, and why the players re-signed. The worst thing is hubris, and I wonder if that’s what Austin had last summer.

        • BlackGold58 // April 14, 2018 at 10:47 am //

          Nobody deserves this garbage-especially Austin.

          To be slandered by Drew Edwards quoting anonymous sources, isn’t journalism it is character assassination. This is damaging to his reputation. I would argue that Coach Austin’s system is very complicated and Coach Jones’ system is almost overly simplified. This makes it easy for Jones to switch up the QB.

          By the way, Austin was nothing but accepting, gracious and part of the decision to bring in Coach Jones. Doesn’t sound like someone with excessive pride to me. Kent Austin is a confident man, rightly so, he has had one hell of a football career.

          This article, instead of being classy and wishing Austin best of luck is a cheap shot from the peanut gallery. I am sure Bob Young has a very different opinion than those shared in this article.

          • Sea of Dead // April 14, 2018 at 3:20 pm //

            Nonsense. Austin dug his own grave ‘running’ the same playbook year after year which strikingly featured no run game at all, incompetent personnel decisions, and putrid salary administration skills. And he relished putting Drew down constantly for some reason, just because he could with no repercussion. Austin deserves all the criticism he’s getting now and should just be happy that he’s being sent off with an outrageously generous retirement package from the Caretaker despite his numerous missteps the last few seasons.

          • Your opinion, not shared by MANY who played for him. As a player coached by Austin you don’t have any idea what you are talking about. He isn’t a warm and fuzzy guy but he is a damn good coach. At least I now understand why Drew is attempting to mark his reputation. Seriously, over how the man looked at Drew…come on, take the high road.

  2. staystrong // April 13, 2018 at 3:40 pm //

    Still a bit of football news so I could skip past the Johnny and Big Brother stories.

  3. exactly what I’ve said all along, never did much care for austin. he may be a good judge of talent but theres plenty of those guys around the league. his caustic and unpredictable behavior on the sidelines along with his scowling like a child rubbed people the wrong way and it obviously did the players too. thanks for helping the cats out kent..but..goodbye!

    • Esks suck // April 13, 2018 at 7:03 pm //

      Are you speaking of Austin or that hotgead Maas?

      • greenenvy? // April 13, 2018 at 7:11 pm //

        No rebellion in Edmonton. Players like Maas. Check it out – a dozen ex-RedBlacks on Esk roster, most came prior to Sunderland & only 1 by trade. What does that tell you? Sunderland signed almost everyone he wanted & had the most free agents to sign. After season ended he said he wouldn’t have any problem getting players back for one reason – Jason Maas. You may also notice only 2 coaches have left in 2 years, both for better opportunities. So give credit where it’s due. I may or may not like Maas but the most wins including playoffs the last 2 years outside of Calgary. Great offensive mind. It is what it is. They look like a very good club this year.

  4. Paul Smith // April 13, 2018 at 4:14 pm //

    Hey Drew, I guess you won’t be subject to Kent’s glare for this dispatch although it really is old news and not surprising.

    • blackgold58 // April 13, 2018 at 7:25 pm //

      Drew has aggressively reported about many executives, owners and head coaches. The negative always gets more readers than the positive. Going after Caretaker Bob crossed a line though, just saying, I think with the senior exec loyal to Cats ownership Drew would be personna non-grata.

    • Puck Hog // April 13, 2018 at 8:18 pm //

      Haha, Paul, those glares from Austin at the pressers were priceless!

  5. Ticats Tom // April 13, 2018 at 4:39 pm //

    The only issue I have with this article is this line. “The bottom line is that Kent did a good job bringing in players,” one player said. “And the issue wasn’t with Kent the GM.” That player is wrong if he believes that Austin brought in the players. Tillman, Burke, and Allemang have been the guys doing that. Kent the GM didn’t find players and bring in the talent. This organization’s problem was always Austin and now him being demoted to consultant has corrected that. He’s probably looking to catch the first bus out of town to go coach at another place, most likely in the US.

    • Austin had final decision on player personnel. He led a great team of men. These men will work together, now that Austin is in a different role, with one goal in mind-a Grey Cup Championship in 2018.

      Tillman manages the neglist and has great US football connections and 3 or 4 cup wins-with outstanding personnel, Allemang focuses on Canadians-doing a great job and recognized as one of the best Directors of Canadian Scouting in the CFL and Burke-a future GM- handles administration and contracts.

      • Hold up there fella! Tillman was with three winning teams. I don’t remember 94 but in 97 and 07 he made basically no positive contribution to those wins. In 97 he was hired by the Argos who had won the cup the year before. They repeated as champions with largely the same team, including Doug Flutie, and at the end of that year Tillman was fired. In 07 he took over a team built by Roy Shivers. That was the year the cap kicked in with teeth, and other teams had been spending a lot more than the Riders, so the other teams had to make deeper cuts, and the Riders were left with the stronger team and won the cup. In a rare moment of honesty Tillman even admitted that that was Roy’s team. Our talent level dropped off sharply after that, because Tillman was utterly inept as a personnel man. Very few of Tillman’s draft picks or recruits lasted very long in the league. And this was not new for him, because the same thing happened in Ottawa.

  6. I was embarrassed by Kent Austin and his behaviours the last few years. He became a powder keg. Sometimes it was humiliating. I’m glad he’s gone. He’ll be gone as a consultant soon enough too. It was Ticats excuse to move him down the ladder.

  7. Hmm…management by committee. Who’s the tie-breaker in the decision process? Sounds like another frustrating season on the horizon. If they add Johnny Football to the mix, I anticipate a total clusterf***k. In the good ‘old days everyone knew that Sazio was the boss. My oh my!

    • Dundas dude // April 14, 2018 at 5:47 am //

      Yes, Ayn Rand used to say the collective the intelligence of a committee is equal to that of its lowest member divided by the number in the committee. Also, I agree, “the buck needs to stop” with one individual, not this committee junk.

    • I agree Eagle_1. That’s my concern as well but we’ll have to assume that the management team has worked out the chain of command. Let’s hope they have!

    • Tie-breaker will be Mitchell I would think. Ralph Sazio was a great man. You were lucky to work with him, I would think these men will say the same of Mitchell.

  8. El Segungo // April 13, 2018 at 5:39 pm //

    Ownership and their misguided hiring of Scott Mitchell from the get go created this organization mess, not Mr. Kent Austin. The new proposed team structure sure to cause further implosion in the near future. Too bad, Mr. Young when he entered into the league had so much promise, now his team going to wayside all the Alouettes or worse.

  9. When Austin re-signed Fantuz , it was game over for Hamilton

    Eh Garney!

    • You seem to have a deep fascination with Fantuz.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      • Fantuz will get injured early and hang around the bench , laughing at the other players for the rest of the season. then make some half hearted come back at playoffs. GO RIDERS GO……CANADA’S TEAM…

        • Laughing at others? What a cheap and lame comment.

          Fantuz — while injury plagued at times in what’s still been a great career (he’s been one of the best possession receivers in the game) — is nothing but classy and supportive of his teammates.

  10. Sept 19 2015: the Cats were not only the leagues best team they were destroying the Eskies that day ( the eventual GC champs). Zach blows out his knee. That was the end of the Austin era. Never were they the same team after that

    • Dundas dude // April 14, 2018 at 5:34 am //

      A day that will live in infamy. It really has been a steady march to oblivion since then. I was already starting to chill the celebratory libations, when “thud”, an innocent looking hit on Zach. In 2013/14 I would have predicted a Cup or two by now, but in 2018, with a few more grey hairs, the silver chalice seems even more distant. Let this be our year when the vaunted Cat defense shuts the door and Jeremiah leads our men to the promised land!

  11. The answer is simple; Jones. Austin wasn’t a warm and fuzzy guy, and had a hard one to prove that his game plan would work, regardless of the talent available

  12. So Drew, much like you had a good heart-to-heart sit-down with the notoriously stoic Coach Cortez when he left the Cats, resulting in a nice story about the man and how he opened up a bit, can we expect you to try the same with KA? Or does that need to wait until he’s officially out?

  13. The CFL Plug // April 13, 2018 at 9:48 pm //

    This is a big time unless we get a name to “the player”. This could a star player or the last guy on the PR.

  14. How many players didn’t like Don Mathews as a head coach but he was pretty good too wasn’t he ?

  15. When the PLAYERS run the show per say vs the head coach and his staff then all hell will cut loose. The best head coaches run a fine line -I run the show and the players are simply the parts of the show that allows it to operate. The best HCs treat the players with courtesy and respect know when to pat a guy on the back for a job well done and know when to kick butt when the job they do is NOT WELL DONE. Austin lost this approach as HC in 2017 and June Jones showed him how it is done. Simple as that.

  16. With KA position change , unless one player comes forward and confirms the stories that players wanted Kent gone. I still call BS on Drews story, was made up just to get readers

  17. Steve Oli*** // April 13, 2018 at 11:37 pm //

    Austin was a bum, that’s all there is to say.

  18. Steve Oli // April 13, 2018 at 11:39 pm //

    Austin was a bum, that’s all there is to say.

  19. This BS story comes to this. As many as five players out of 50 complained about Austin. Big nothing burger. BS story then and now.

  20. Austin la vista, baby 🙂

  21. Dundas dude // April 14, 2018 at 5:15 am //

    I’m not sure about the wisdom of largely keeping the same team in ‘18 that went 6 and 10 last year. The players may have their wish with Austin (may have, because I’m skeptical of all this “anonymous sources” stuff), but no excuses this year. Toronto looks stacked, and notwithstanding a tough opening schedule for the Cats, we can’t stand pat with a bad June/July. No undue pressure boys, but this team is on an even shorter leash than usual. Go Cats.

  22. The Iceman // April 14, 2018 at 10:15 am //

    “Ticat players wanted Austin gone” is a misleading article title.
    “A few” or “Some” or maybe even “Most” is more accurate. You can’t paint all players with the same brush by saying “Players wanted Austin gone” as that implies all players wanted him gone and there is no way that is the case. Austin signed, traded or helped in drafting most of these guys and I am sure there are players who had his back.

  23. team needs more consultants if they expect to win ball games

  24. Gee Drew, you h=finally had the stones to name your “anonymous players” about 5 months after your character assassination of Kent Austin. Oh well, at least we know who the malcontents on the team are…

  25. Phil Miller // April 14, 2018 at 4:46 pm //

    Austin isn’t a players coach. This is often a huge advantage for results in a short term. Coaches in any team sports league that does not have the automatic turnover of a college program are always going to have shelf lives, where their message and tactics that make them so successful will eventually loose their audience (the locker room).

  26. Paul Smith // April 15, 2018 at 8:16 am //

    Austin deserves better. He took this team through Guelph, then Mac that resulted in back to back GC appearances.

    Lost his starting QB (who I believe is the malcontent and the source of this article) for extended periods of time.

    The franchise is in a much better position now than it was when he joined.

    2018 will be a good year.

    • Sea of Dead // April 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm //

      I really enjoyed Guelph and the strong start at the Donut. Too bad the whole thing blew up after Collaros went down and Austin didn’t have anyone else prepared for that eventuality …. He continued to insert Collaros in blowout games to get him that precious MOP award. It all went downhill from there due to tunnel vision and poor planning on Austin’s part.

      No, he doesn’t deserve better. The Caretaker has compensated him far to generously already and now realizes that re-upping KA for big bucks after a putrid 2016 season was a horrendous mistake as demonstrated by the 0-8 run in 2017.

  27. It went downhill for Kent (and the team) when he lost Condell as the OC. There was some sort of philosophical difference I guess. Everything was getting better and better until that point. Collaros wasn’t the problem…

  28. Wayne Amen Amen you are spot on that was the start of the end losing Condell then Steinauer are the End!

  29. Kent Austin’s coaching record with Hamilton was 36-44. That is simply not good enough.

  30. Bob McKnight // April 16, 2018 at 2:22 pm //

    Lets not forget that Kent Austin brought within 1 bad call of a championship. That’s his legacy with out Ticats and I salute him for that. On the other side arrogance took him.down. While the fans screamed for a running game he kept his 80/20 pass/run ratio and we watched teams go after our QBs like lions on a wildebeast hunt. By the time Zach Collaros returned he was shellshocked by relentless blitz schemes. There was no wonder we went 0-8.

    • MJ Bandit // April 17, 2018 at 10:11 pm //

      Bad call my @$$; Reed clearly clips a guy who “might” have made the tackle on the play or at least altered the play – dumb penalty and he fessed-up to it. Ticat blow-hards can continue to live in denial and believe they wuz robbed.

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