With the 2009 season freshly in the books and the Christmas season upon us, I thought it was time for a wish list for our BC Lions.
2009 was a struggle for BC. There were the injuries to deal with and some real instability at the quarterback position. There was a high turnover of players and lost leadership as Wally Buono attempted to make the team younger and faster. In some areas that was successful, in others not so much. But for the second consecutive year the Lions had some of the same issues arising that hampered their game. Stalled offensive drives, troubles stopping the run and the inability to shut teams down late in games were familiar and frustrating problems. Three times this year the team as blown out at home to the point where fans were leaving on droves early in the third quarter.
So, here’s my wish list for the team and by no means do I expect all of this to happen. These are my personal wishes from a fans point of view after sitting in the stands game after game and watching this team for the last couple of seasons. See if you agree or disagree and feel free to add your own wishes by commenting!
A New Coaching Direction:
It’s pretty much understood that Wally Buono is going to coach the BC Lions as long as he wants to, at least according to owner David Braley. I think Wally is still a very capable coach, but in too many games this year the Lions seemed unable to make the right adjustments during a game to change the momentum. To me that falls on your assistant coaches. I’d like to see changes in the coaching staff, and here are my wishes.
Jacques Chapdelaine: His official title is receiver’s coach, but it’s no secret he plays a bigger role. The word is that he and “offensive coordinator” Dan Dorazio come up with the game plan for the week and Chapdelaine calls the plays during the game. The Lions offense has sputtered the last two seasons, and while instability at the QB position has definitely been factor, there have been too many stalled drives and questionable play calls. And don’t get us started on third and short. Some of the players love him and asked for his return, but it’s time for a new direction and someone with some fresh ideas. I respect Jacques Chapdelaine, and the man certainly knows way more about the game than I ever will, but it’s not working. That said, Buono seems very comfortable with him, and Chapdelaine escapes the axe year after year, leaving little chance he won’t be back next season.
Dave Dickenson: Perhaps a bit premature but I think it would be a pretty bold move and one that could pay off huge. Dickenson was a great QB who understands the CFL game and while he may not have the experience as a coach his knowledge of the game and his already clear desire to get into coaching make him an intriguing option. Dickenson was a running backs coach last season in Calgary and has had inout on their offense under coordinator George Cortez. Some will feel the offense he knows is that of the Hufnagel/Chapdelaine mold and bringing him in wouldn’t be much of a change but I think Dickenson has a lot to offer, and could add some excitement back to the Lions offense. It may be far fetched, and unfortunately I think Buono may be too loyal to Chapdelaine to make a move, but Dickenson will assume a coaching role as a coordinator or head coach one day, and whatever team gives him that shot will look like a genius. The Lions have already decided not to renew contract of quarterbacks coach Steff Kruck and apparently Dickenson has been offered that job by Wally. I would also allow Dan Dorazio to concentrate on the offensive line again, freeing him from any offensive game planning, but of course welcoming his input.
Mike Benevides: Since Dave Ritchie retired, the BC Lions defense has lost it’s bite. Benevides assumed the role two seasons ago and the results haven’t been stellar. The defensive line led the league in sacks, but the Lions had huge problems with the run, and couldn’t get stops late in games on too many occasions that cost them points. Getting embarrassed at home in three games was disheartening as well. Whether it be personnel or the scheme, the linebacker play last season was brutal at times and the scheme was the design of Benevides. Korey Banks added some nice options at the nickle position, but teams knew to beat the Lions, running the ball was a good start, and the Lions could do nothing to stop it on too many nights. When they did, it was the secondary’s turn to give up big yardage late in games to blow leads.
Rich Stubler: Formerly the Argonauts defensive coordinator and head coach, Rich Stubler is known for his aggressive in your face defenses and under his coaching the Argonauts defense was at the top of the league regularly. He could bring that aggressive style back to the Lions and is available after sitting out last season. Perhaps the Eskimos will beat the Lions to the punch, with the recent resignation of Jim Daley from their ranks. I think Benevides will survive because he was loyal to Buono last season, turning down the head coaching spot in Toronto to remain in BC, and Buono will probably give him another year hopefully at least with the understanding that some things have to change.
Some Shivers Gems
It would be nice to see scout Roy Shivers undercover some gems as he did for the Riders a few years back. Linebackers will be at the top of the wish list I would think and preferably some nasty ones. The Lions lost some leadership and some attitude when Otis Floyd left and would probably like to have the Jamal Johnson negotiation from last year as a do over. They need to get some of that attitude back in the middle. Some of it returned with the arrival of Jojuan Armour and Anton McKenzie was voted an all-star, but this position needs to be addressed.
More depth brought in to challenge the offensive line would be nice, preferably at guard and tackle positions and a new centre needs to start being groomed, with Angus Reid coming off a serious ankle injury and not getting any younger.
Emmanuel Arceneaux was a nice addition, but another sure handed speedy receiver would be nice. Or how about or a big and bulldozer type in the mold of an Andy Fantuz or former Lion Jason Clermont?
The Emergence Of Youth
The key to remaining a competitive team in the CFL is keeping your team well stocked with talented young players who eventually take over a key role on your football tream. Sean Whyte, Jamal Lee, James Yurichuk, Justin Sorensen and Andrew Harris are promising young prospects for the Lions, and it would be nice to see them emerge next season as prime time players. Yurichuk was great on special teams, Sorensen was forced into duty late in the season, and Jamal Lee will have a full training camp under his belt. Andrew Harris has been a territorial project for the Lions and has a ton of talent. Whyte had the job of kicker/punter in his graps before making way for Paul McCallum late in the year. The Lions need some if not all of these picks to rise to the top and help take this team to a higher level.
Stability At Quarterback
Casey Printers certainly gave fans of the Lions something to look forward to by his play to end the year. Now the key will be getting to the start of next season with a full camp under his belt, and then keeping him healthy. Going through five QB’s would be tough for any club and for once Santa, it would be nice to have the same QB start every game next year like Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Calgary. Please see what you can do about that.
Best Wishes for Buck Pierce
I really feel for Buck Pierce. I don’t know what the Lions have planned for him, but at his current salary and the almost certainty that Casey Printers is the starter going into camp, it’s hard to see Pierce returning next season. The Lions still have Jarious Jackson, Travis Lulay and Zac Champion under contract and it’s no secret they like what they see in Lulay. Whatever Buck’s fate may be, I wish him all the best. He’s always been great with the fans, and given it all on the field for the BC Lions.
Home Sweet Home
With the Lions moving to a temporary stadium next season, most likely at the old site of Empire stadium, lets hope the club can make Lions home games a tough environment for opponents once again. Three debacles at home last year and two before labor day hurt the Lions in the standings, and probably at the gate too.
Ok, I should stop before I get too greedy. Oh, okay one more thing…let’s get that Grey Cup!