Ed Willes' musings: Day of reckoning has arrived for the B.C. Lions

OPINION: It’s hard enough watching the Lions’ on-field performance. It’s even harder trying to see a way out for them.

B.C. Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks on the sidelines as his team fell to 1-9 on the season with a loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at B.C. Place on Saturday. Photo: Gerry Kahrmann/Postmedia Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

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In honour of the B.C. Lions, here’s something else that starts off in a promising fashion before it invariably disappoints, the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.

Following his team’s latest loss, head coach DeVone Claybrooks promised the Lions would undergo a full examination during the upcoming bye week and every coaching and playing position would be reviewed.

That’s great. But in watching the Lions over the last two months, it’s clear something is broken and the existing blueprint has to be shredded. Changing the starting right guard or the field corner isn’t going to change the Lions. The 1-9 record is the product of mistakes and miscalculations by general manager Ed Hervey and Claybrooks and in their business, there are consequences to being 1-9.

The problem, of course, is the Lions essentially have a lame-duck owner in David Braley, which makes that level of change awkward.

B.C. Lions quarterback Mike Reilly is helped up by teammate Joel Figueroa after yet another sack in the second half on Saturday night. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

In the meantime, the Lions’ issues are obvious to anyone who’s watched football for more than five minutes. Saturday night, they allowed seven sacks to a Tiger-Cats team which was missing two starters on its front four. They’ve now allowed 43 on the season, which extrapolates to, wait for it, 77 on the year. They also took 13 penalties for 127 yards, including eight on special teams that accounted for 97 yards. Mike Reilly, the quarterback who was supposed to change this franchise, threw two end-zone interceptions. He now has 11 on the year and his efficiency rating is below Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Hervey, as it happens, made Reilly the league’s highest-paid player this off-season. He made Sukh Chungh the highest-paid offensive lineman. He signed Duron Carter to a big free-agent deal. He re-signed rush end Odell Willis.

Let’s be diplomatic and say those moves haven’t worked out. Chungh is a good Vancouver kid but he’s making more than Winnipeg’s Willie Jefferson, another free agent this off-season who might be the league’s best defensive player. The offensive and defensive lines were targeted by Hervey in the off-season. They’ve been dreadful. Carter’s been a bust.

Look around the rest of the league, meanwhile, and there are a number of former Lions excelling on different teams. Not all of them were Hervey’s calls, but when he arrived in Vancouver two years ago, he made wholesale changes his first year and again this off-season.

That’s fine if it works. This isn’t working.

The other part of this story concerns the failing consumer confidence in this franchise. A crowd, if that’s the right word, of 16,751 took in Saturday night’s game, and it’s hard to see that improving over the Lions’ final five home dates.

That leaves the final two months as a test case for the Hervey-Claybrooks administration. If the Lions go, say, 4-4 over their final eight games and send the message there’s hope, they might be able to bring one or both back. That will be a lot harder with a 2-16 team. If there are any immediate changes they will probably come to the coaching staff, most of whom were hand-selected by Claybrooks this off-season.

But, whatever happens, watching that team in front of that crowd left you with a sick feeling on Saturday night. It’s hard enough watching the Lions’ on-field performance. It’s even harder trying to see a way out for them.

In the interests of full disclosure, the fake punt that led to Hamilton’s key third-quarter touchdown on Saturday night was supposed to be a real punt by Ryan Lankford. The Lions had a trick play drawn up in which Lankford was to kick the ball if the run was shut down but he didn’t.

That’s doesn’t explain about 38 other plays from that game, but at least there’s an explanation on that one.

Canadian Brooke Henderson and her sister and caddie Brittany walk up the 18th fairway during the final round of the CP Women’s Open at Magna Golf Club on Sunday in Aurora, Ont. Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images

Brooke Henderson couldn’t quite finish the miracle comeback at the CP Women’s Open, but who cares. Her performance on Saturday, in which she played the final 10 holes in 9-under, was the story of the tournament for Canadians.

Henderson has won twice this year, she’s currently the eighth-ranked player in the world and, normally, would be a shoo-in for the Canadian woman athlete of the year, an award she’s won three of the last four years. But normally, a Canadian tennis player doesn’t win the Canadian Open, which sets up an interesting race between Henderson and Bianca Andreescu.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announces his retirement in a press conference after the game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports

And finally, you simply had to watch Andrew Luck’s raw, emotional retirement press conference to understand the toll this decision has taken on the young man. Luck was about to enter the fourth year of deal worth US$122 million. The Indianapolis Colts had a realistic title shot. But in six NFL seasons, the 29-year-old had suffered torn rib cartilage, a partly torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney, at least one concussion, a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and a nagging ankle injury which wasn’t getting better.

Luck had already been named the comeback player of the year for 2018 but he’s had enough, and no right-thinking person could blame him. Unfortunately, that didn’t apply to some who saw the money, saw the fame, saw that he was ruining the Colts’ championship aspirations or their fantasy team and were critical of Luck.

It’s sad. Somewhere along the line we stopped seeing the star athlete as a person and started seeing him or her as the vehicle for our hopes and frustrations. The money and notoriety changes a lot of things for those athletes. But it doesn’t protect them from the crushing physical demands of their chosen field.

During the presser, Luck said: “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live,” as he choked back tears, and that’s all you needed to know about that moment. He has a right to live that life without pain and without judgment.


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