The 13th Man
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are not winners.
Over the last decade, the Tabbies posted a heavily unflattering record of 61-118-1-3 and posted seasons of one, three (twice), four, and five wins. They made the playoffs four times, but only won one game. Bad management decisions, poor coaching, and inadequate players doomed Hamilton for much of this period.
Even now, when the Tiger-Cats have taken strides towards improvement after missing the playoffs from 2005-2008, things haven’t got that much better. The Black and Gold recorded a 9-9 record and secured a home playoff game in ’09. Things looked good for them, that was until Casey Printers and the British Columbia Lions show came into town as the crossover team, outgunning the Tabbies 34-27 in the East semifinal.
Last season, Hamilton looked poised to advance to the East final as they played host to the inconsistent Toronto Argonauts in the East semifinal. Hamilton proceeded to turn the ball over five times and forgot to bring their running game, dropping an aggravating 16-13 decision.
Need I cite more examples?
Yes, it has been a time of futility for the Tiger-Cats organization, which has not won the Grey Cup since 1999. Only the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1990) have been lonely longer. Heading into this off-season, one had to wonder what the Tabbies could do to change the image of their organization.
Well, they may have just solved that problem.
When the CFL free agency period kicked off last month, Hamilton didn’t waste much time in snagging up a major free agent. The team signed former Montreal Alouettes running back Avon Cobourne.
It is clear this move changes Hamilton’s entire outlook. Their team has, well, smelled recently. Cobourne reeks … of success. Seriously, if Cobourne released a cologne, it would be called “SUCCESS”. The West Virginia product won the Grey Cup in ’09 and ’10 with Montreal, and in ’09 was named a league all-star and the Grey Cup’s most outstanding player. Most of the players on Hamilton’s roster can only dream of that kind of success.
You know the Tabbies are hoping Cobourne’s aroma will rub off on his new teammates. Without even looking at the impact he will serve on the field, the Cobourne signing is so important for the mood of Hamilton’s players. They will realize that they have a player in Cobourne who has performed amazingly on the big stage. Thus, they should have confidence in big games this upcoming season. With Cobourne added to the roster, Hamilton added a bit of a winning atmosphere.
Will Cobourne fix Kevin Glenn’s problems on the big stage, the oft-shaky wide receiving core of Hamilton or the inconsistent defence?
No, but having a playmaker of his quality on the team gives the Tiger-Cats a player they can go to in the crunch if others are struggling.
Cobourne will help Hamilton in both the running and passing game. In five CFL seasons, the five-foot-eight, 200-lb running back has attempted 593 rushes for 3,301 yards and 27 touchdowns, while maintaining a 5.6-yard average, and has caught 194 passes for 1,714 yards, five touchdowns, with a 8.8-yard average.
Keep in mind, this was while playing for Montreal. Over the years, the Alouettes have had such a potent passing attack led by Anthony Calvillo that they have not had to rely on Cobourne. If Hamilton requires it, Cobourne can take on a heavier workload and carry the offence a bit on his shoulders. He is 31 years old, but there should definitely be a couple of good years left for the new Tabbies running back.
Hamilton has had trouble finding successful, but more importantly stable, running backs over the last while. DeAndra’ Cobb had rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons for the team, but was inconsistent and often disappeared in big games. Cobourne provides a better option for the Tiger-Cats.
The Tabbies have added more than just Cobourne so far in what has been a busy free agency period for them. The team has signed former Saskatchewan Roughriders middle linebacker Renauld Williams, offensive lineman Wayne Smith, and defensive back Daniel Francis. Daryl Stephenson, a running back who last played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was also signed.
These others moves aren’t as significant, and the Tiger-Cats have lost a couple of solid players themselves. But the fact that the Tabbies have been aggressive during free agency and picked up one of the prized possessions on the block is a positive sign for an organization sick of losing.