With the loss to the Edmonton Eskimos pushing the Toronto Argonauts record to 0-6, Jim Popp is going to have to take charge and fix some of the team’s biggest issues.
Toronto Argonauts fans finally got their wish when Dakota Prukop came in for McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the third quarter but it yielded the same result as the offence continued to struggle.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize what the Argos biggest issues are but the real question now is what general manager Jim Popp is planning to do with limited options available to him. After a disappointing season in 2018, Bill Manning made it clear he wants the Argos to be a playoff team.
Back in October pf 2018, the Argos president made an appearance on TSN 1050 to discuss the team’s new direction after firing Marc Trestman and his expectations for Popp.
"“I sat with Jim yesterday for a couple of hours and we talked about the football team. My thing is at the end of the day, I’m not involved in terms of the player personnel and the X’s and O’s of the football team, but we have to win,” explained Manning. “We are going to talk further and my challenge to Jim is I said ‘look we need to be a team that can be a playoff team…that’s really at the minimum.’”"
Manning also said he wants Toronto to build a program like they have out in Calgary which is no easy task considering they have been the best team year-in and year-out and should have more Grey Cups to show for it. They also have one of the top QBs in the league in Bo Levi Mitchell, something Popp recognized going into free agency last year.
It is no secret the Argos wanted to sign Mitchell and even made an offer that was better than Calgary but ultimately lost out because the CFL MVP wanted to stay in a familiar situation. The Argos GM also hinted that the team was in a tough position to land the QB from the start.
"“It’s interesting, the agent that represents these quarterbacks – and there’s one guy that represents almost all of them – had a hand in shuffling them wherever they went and it was kind of predetermined,” Popp said on First UP on TSN 1050. “Bo Levi Mitchell was the guy that we felt could move the needle in Toronto, the guy that we were going to go after hard. And we had to wait yesterday for a long period of time to even get an answer as to whether he was coming.”"
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Not being able to sign Mitchell put the Argos back at square one with James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the depth chart and they had to find other ways to improve the roster after missing out on some free agents. Popp ultimately decided that a new coach, offensive system and giving Franklin the assurance that he was the No.1 QB would make things different.
While it’s not fair to judge Franklin after only two games, the body of work hasn’t looked promising and considering the same problems exist with Bethel-Thompson, it’s up to Popp to decide how he is going to fix it.
He brought in Jacques Chapdelaine as the offensive coordinator which seemed like a good start considering the Chapdelaine has a lot of experience and was a part of three-Grey Cup-winning teams including most recently in 2011. At the same time, his last stint in Montreal didn’t end well as he was fired following a 3-8 record in 2017.
Some are putting a lot of the blame for the offensive struggles on Chapdelaine and while the coach should shoulder some of it, the other part also comes down to the players being able to execute the plays.
Looking at the loss in Edmonton, the team struggled to move the ball past midfield and while the defence kept the score close, they were starting to get tired and picked apart with the Eskimos almost doubling the time of possession.
Bethel-Thompson has played in 15 games in the Double Blue between 2018 and 2019 completing 64.5 per cent of his passes for 3442 yards, 16 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. When you look at what the big issue has been with MBT, it’s the touchdown to interception ratio.
With the CFL imposing a cap on what teams can spend on coaching, the Argos have their hands tied when it comes to changes they can make with the staff. At the same time, MLSE won’t tolerate the team getting embarrassed on a weekly basis but they also need to show they’re invested in improving the team both on and off the field.
More recently, Manning spoke with Scott Fitzgerald of the Athletic (subscription required) and he said his patience was long and he will judge any moves by how the team is performing. If the Argos don’t find a way to put together a string of wins, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manning consider making major changes.
From now until the end of the season, Popp can’t just lay back and hope the Argos can pull out of their miserable start. He might not be able to change anything to put them in a better position to win in Week 7 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but he should be looking at how the team can be in a better winning position after the BYE and next season.
What do you think the Argos need to do to get back on track? Who should be responsible for making the necessary changes? Let us know in the comments below.