Milanovich’s Seat Getting Hotter
Scott Milanovich suddenly finds himself on the coaching hot seat, an offensive mind who has been too defensive, at times predictable and out of nowhere too indecisive.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around in Argoland, beginning with how players were either scouted and brought to town or players acquired in free agency, how a Rich Stubler defence has gone soft, prone to give up the big play, susceptible when defending the run game.
It came to a head in the Hammer on Labour Day, the biggest stage the CFL has to offer outside of a playoff game, the Argos taking advantage of an error-prone Ticats team and then returning the favour as the game would end with the Argos committing three turnovers in a 49-36 loss, Toronto’s fourth in a row with no end in sight.
Milanovich has dealt with a lot during his run in Toronto, which began in 2012 when an indifferent owner and no permanent practice site galvanized the team en route to winning a Grey Cup.
Distractions would continue and so would the winning, but this task is much greater, the issues deeper and the answers few and far between.
There won’t be in any change on and off the field, unless this new ownership/management group panics, but the cries for a new voice and new direction are beginning to surface.
Milanovich and GM Jim Barker are 10 games into the first year of a three-year deal and, while both are very savvy football people, engaging and accessible, it’s time both began to rethink how this team was put together and how this unit approaches each game from a philosophical angle.
It’s not in Barker’s nature to go out and look for free agents and yet he signed many veterans, in all likelihood because Milanovich and Stubler wanted these alleged assets.
There are eight games to be played and there’s always the chance that many of these free agents will make an impact, but time is running out and each time the Argos are getting blown out or are unable to take over a game in a clutch moment players are getting exposed.
Arm chair quarterbacks are up and arms in the wake of Monday’s debacle, Milanovich not throwing challenging flags on two plays that looked like the Argos would have been rewarded from video review.
Ricky Ray was hit hard in the end zone when Adrian Tracy followed through on a tackle, but the referee was five yards from Ray, looking directly at the besieged veteran and no flag was thrown.
There’s no point in beating the proverbial dead horse because officiating in the CFL is not good, it hasn’t been good for decades and shows no signs of improvement in the decades to follow.
Video review is bad for the game, too many plays that have no bearing on the actual game being reviewed as coaches take advantage of a system that is broken and needs to ironed out before the game gets worse.
Even in live action, Milanovich should have thrown a challenge flag when A.J. Jefferson and Andy Fantuz tripped over each other, a terrible pass interference call that went to Hamilton.
Milanovich should have challenged an incompletion when Diontae Spencer clearly secured the catch in the fourth quarter.
On the next play, Emmanuel Davis blew it open on a pick six.
Hamilton feasts on second and long and a challenge flag that would have been overturned would have at least provided the Argos with a manageable second down.
As it was, they were forced to throw and when pressure got to Ray, it was game over.
Still, the Argos were leading 36-31, driving and the ball inside Hamilton’s five-yard line.
When no one bothered to block Tracy, Ray rushed a throw he should not have attempted, overthrowing Andre Durie and landing in the lap of Courtney Stevens.
It could have been a two-score game in Toronto’s favour, but it would represent a sign of what would follow.
And then came a penalty following a 52-yard punt return from Spencer, the second time in as many games that Spencer would setup the Argos with great field position only to have it negated.
The Argos are officially in trouble and they simply don’t match up well against Hamilton.
The return game is Sunday at BMO, where the Argos are 1-5 this season.
If Hamilton doesn’t beat itself like it did in the opening half on Monday, the Ticats win and the Argos will see their record drop to 4-7 and losers of five in a row with road games in Winnipeg and Ottawa.
Things are looking bleak for the Argos and don’t be surprised, barring some major roster moves, if the team fails to qualify for the post-season, which will make it two non-playoff seasons in three years.
There’s a lot on Milanovich’s plate and he’s a tough football man who pays no attention to the outside noise, the kind of coach who seldom, if ever, second-guesses his decisions in game.
The non-challenge flags, while the focus among most fans, didn’t cost the Argos a game Monday night.
The team simply isn’t good.
And now it’s Milanovich’s job to keep this group together.
A team’s psyche gets challenged when a good week of preparation goes unrewarded.
One can’t question the Argos’ work ethic, but one can question their talent and how a player such as Ray can sustain more beatings.
All of a sudden, coaching is officially under the microscope as Milanovich faces a crisis of confidence.