CFL Pass

BC Lions sleep through free agency; 2015 is all on Tedford, Lulay

CFLpass realizes that we’re still four months out from the regular season, but it’s not too early to express some real concern for the BC Lions’ hopes in 2015 – and quite possibly the end of the team’s 18-year playoff run. With the free agency season grinding to a close, Lions management has spent much of ’15 in a slumber worthy of the team mascot.

The BC Lions entered the free agency period with the fewest question marks regarding signings: general manager Wally Buono apparently had his roster for the upcoming season set in early January, with only a handful of player contracts going unextended. Of the newly freed, WR Ernest Jackson was snapped up by the Ottawa Redblacks on the first day of free agency, while 11-year veteran CB Dante Marsh still awaits a contract elsewhere – but he won’t be playing in Vancouver next year.

Also gone is QB Kevin Glenn, subsequently signed by the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, with whom he’ll reportedly serve the same role as in 2015, i.e. veteran presence/insurance policy. Back in BC, the message is that Travis Lulay is once again the no. 1 guy despite an injury-riddled career.

Of course, the Lions (or any other CFL team) can do much about addressing quarterback concerns with the paucity of ready QBs looking to enter the league for ’15, but can management really be holding pat with a 9-9 team that squeaked into the playoffs?

The equation that Buono et al are presumably operating under is one which figures that the installation of Jeff Tedford minus some old blood, all to the power of prayer that Lulay makes it a season equals enough improvement to 9-9 team to make a serious threat at a Grey Cup victory – all this while Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg have aggressively improved?

If Marsh, the longtime Lion, was right when he charged that last year’s BC simply had “no identity,” then perhaps Tedford alone is the key to improving the team — if he can get them to play at a good tempo…

Beyond the intangibles, the statistics tell a pretty standard tale of .500 teams: The Lions in ‘15 simply couldn’t finish drives. Glenn posted the second-most passing yards in the CFL last season, yet tossed just 17 TDs against 17 interceptions.

Moreover, 30 turnovers and 151 punts against just 33 TDs and 38 field goals equates out to just around 1.5 points scored per drive – the low-watt offense which on average marginally outperformed the competition in yardage and scoring was consistently beaten by unfortunate turnovers.

(For comparison’s sake, the league champion Calgary Stampeders were good for scores on 85 of 238 drives last season, a success rate of 35.7% for 2.07 points per drive.)

On the face of it, we can hold the departed Glenn primarily responsible; after all, his picks accounted for over half the TOs. Surely Lulay can better this mark, if injuries don’t … ah, you know the rest.

As the lede read, we’re still some way from opening day 2015, but CFLpass has got to wonder about the Lions’ willingness to stick with what didn’t work extraordinarily well in ’14. Hopes for the Lions’ success are now intractably chained to Tedford and Lulay; is that enough?

(Seriously, they couldn’t have picked up Dominique Davis?)