Even if you had the slightest glimmer of hope that the Lions offence would be able to come together for the playoffs, there certainly can’t be anyone that is surprised at what unfolded in Montreal. In reality it was a snapshot of the Lions season, one that was filled with frustration and inconsistencies.
We could talk about the game, but you’ve probably already had enough about that. So let’s look at what the Lions have facing them over the next six and a half months, because there are plenty of areas on this football team that need to be addressed. Here are a few of my thoughts for the final time this season, From the Couch.
13-5, 11-7, 9-9…see a trend here? The BC Lions have gotten progressively worse in the three years that Mike Benevides has been at the helm. They have yet to win a playoff game over that span, and had a losing record at home this season. This team seems to have a problem being ready to play games and whether or not that is game planning or execution of the players, it’s the coaches’ job to ensure that it happens.
Assuming David Braley doesn’t hold Wally Buono responsible, and I don’t think he will, the general manager has a tough decision to make that will be made tougher by the fact he just signed his coach to a two year extension this season. But can this team sell another year under Benevides to their fans? Will the injuries the team endured give him a pass?
There could be some quality candidates out there as well. How long does Marc Trestman have in the NFL with the Bears floundering? Would Dave Dickenson leave Calgary for a head coaching gig if John Hufnagel coaches another year?
Regardless, Buono first has to make the call to part ways with his protégé, even if doing so would be an admission that an extension for his head coach this year may not have been the best idea.
Khari Jones had some nice games as OC but he wasn’t able to get any sort of consistent production from his players. The offence faced many challenges this season, especially with injuries. The Lions no doubt spent the off-season under the assumption that they would have Travis Lulay, and likely designed an offence with that in mind. Kevin Glenn, while experienced, isn’t the same type of QB and the Lions were unable to find ways for him to succeed. But the challenges aside, Jones’ offence simply hasn’t been good enough and a change should be considered.
Mark Washington had the Lions among the league’s best defensively but in the final three games this year that fell apart as well. That said, for his first year as a coordinator he did enough to come back in the same role.
Change is Needed
The biggest question surrounding the team besides coaching will be what to do with Travis Lulay. Clearly the Lions need a plan B and in my opinion there is no way Kevin Glenn can be part of that plan. John Beck doesn’t have a big enough body of work in the CFL and isn’t getting any younger, and we don’t know what the future holds for Travis Partridge.
Putting all their eggs in Lulay’s basket once again would be a mistake with the nature of his shoulder. But from all accounts it appears that Lulay wants to keep playing, so the question is what role would he do so under, and can the Lions find someone for that Plan B.
The Canadian receivers on this team have to be seriously looked at, as none of them had great years and that was a big part of an underachieving offence. Shawn Gore was looked on to step up this season, as were Marco Iannuzzi and SJ Haidara. The Kito Poblah experiment was a bust.
The offensive line was an issue for the Lions all season. They did play better once they could settle on a group, and they do have some promising pieces in the fold with Kirby Fabian and Hunter Steward. But the Lions must draft better in this area and do whatever they can to upgrade this group. And if that means getting rid of Dan Dorazio, perhaps it’s time for that as well. Dorazio is a coaching genius but even Angus Reid has suggested that sometimes his teachings may be too complex for young lineman. The Lions also have a built in replacement with Kelly Bates.
Defensively the Lions have decisions to make as well. They have found some nice talent in the secondary and the annual review of older players like Dante Marsh and Ryan Phillips will once again take place. Matt McGarva will be looked on to get healthy and challenge for the safety spot of JR LaRose. The defensive line, whose best player was 35 year of Khreem Smith, needs to be more aggressive and effective at pressuring the quarterback. Can you see Khalif Mitchell coming back?
Is it just me or have things really started going downhill since Geroy Simon left the organization? The core of this team’s success over the past 5-7 years is dwindling and getting older. Do the right thing and find a spot for Simon in the organization and bring him home where he belongs. The whole thing left a sour taste in the mouth of the fan base and it still does every time I see Simon in Rider colours. He has a lot to offer as a mentor, as an alumni and as a football man.
Benevides is labelled as a player’s coach, but it seemed like he lost his team on too many occasions. The team is going to need to get younger and some of that transition is already taking place. Perhaps this group needs more of a disciplinarian as a coach, but at the same time someone that can convince this team to buy in, and to play with discipline and focus.
“It’s all about winning.”
The bottom line is football is about winning, and the Lions aren’t doing enough of it. You hear the coaches say all the time “Your job is to win, and if you can’t we’ll find someone that will”. That applies to them too and the Lions will have a tough time convincing their fans that the status quo will turn it around. Tough choices face this organization and whatever they decide those choices must get this team back to being a contender.
Thanks to Lowell Ullrich and you the reader. It’s been a pleasure writing these pieces for TheProvince.com again this year, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them. As always, I welcome your comments whether you agree with my views or not. We’ll be continuing our Lions coverage on BCLionsDen.ca and our Pawdcasts, as well as our social media channels.
Until then, we have some Grey Cup partying to do in a couple weeks, even if the team we love isn’t in the game. Roar you Lions Roar.