Franklin gets the nod to start for Argos against visiting Riders
To the surprise of no one, the two-win Argos, who played in front of one of the worst crowds ever to watch a professional football game in Toronto last week, have turned to James Franklin as their starting quarterback.
Interest in the franchise has reached one of the lowest points ever, which is saying a lot for a club that’s been around longer than any other sports team in North America.
It’s so bad that some outlets are actually reporting as some news item how president Bill Manning recently asked Michael Clemons to spend time around the franchise.
There’s hardly any coverage of this team and when something, anything, remotely construed as noteworthy is said by someone associated with the club it somehow gathers some momentum.
Anyone who bothered to play any attention during Toronto’s visit to Ottawa would have spotted Clemons, a Grey Cup champion player and coach for the Argos, along the team’s sideline as the Argos won their first road game since the 2017 season finale.
The fact that Manning went public with this bit of information, an initiative he admits was his idea, reflects how much he’s out of the loop when it comes to all things CFL.
Until MLSE, the team’s owners, hires a full-time football official with some kind of CFL pedigree to oversee the Argos nothing will change.
They can change starting quarterbacks all they want, but deeper and more constructive moves must be made as the Argos try to bounce back from a wretched season that now has six games remaining.
Under MLSE’s ownership, Toronto’s combined record is a ghastly 6-24.
The CFL’s best player comes to town in Bo Levi Mitchell, whom the Argos chased in free agency, and no one cares as evidenced by the pitiful attendance last Friday night.
Saskatchewan travels well, but it’s hard to see any kind of buzz being created for this Saturday night’s visit.
Imagine what awaits from a crowd perspective as Toronto’s upcoming two home games will feature Ottawa, a team much more laughable than the Argos.
In the interim, Manning will use the well-healed apologists at TSN Radio, which, by the way, don’t even provide daily coverage of the Argos, to announce some other irrelevant piece of information ostensibly aimed at aiding the club.
The timing of Franklin’s return as starter does coincide with Saskatchewan’s visit.
It was back in Toronto’s second game of the season when Franklin hurt his hamstring, an injury that placed him on the six-game injured list.
A two-hour weather delay in Regina paled in comparison to Franklin’s injury and the loss of Declan Cross, who was also hurt in Toronto’s setback.
When Franklin did come back, he was used in short yardage, taking one snap in Moncton against Montreal and another in Hamilton on Labor Day.
He saw action in garbage time in Ottawa when the Argos blew out a terrible Redblacks team.
Against the Stamps, Franklin came off the bench in the third quarter, leading the offence on a field-goal drive and then connecting with former Eskimos teammate Derel Walker on a touchdown as the Argos trailed by seven points in the final few minutes.
Had the defence been able to get off the field and not allowed Calgary to complete two second-down conversions, one never knows what Franklin may have done in the final possession.
It was a pivotal loss for the Argos, whose only hope of making the playoffs is to run the table.
Even then, they’ll need help, likely from Edmonton, which seems destined to emerge as the cross-over team in what is shaping up as an Eskimos-Als East semifinal.
“He started for us,’’ head coach Corey Chamblin said of Franklin, who began the season as Toronto’s incumbent, albeit for two games until injury struck. “He gave us a spark in the second half (against Calgary). We want to see if that spark continues into points for us.” McLeod Bethel-Thompson has put up numbers, but so few wins.
A number of teams in the CFL will be looking for starting quarterbacks this off-season and that includes the Argos.
Even Saskatchewan will have to decide whether to invest in Cody Fajardo, a free agent in waiting.
There’s no better person than Fajardo, who got his break in the CFL by the Argos when Jim Barker served as GM and Scott Milanovich as head coach.
In the 2017 East final played at BMO, it was Fajardo, cast as the team’s short-yardage quarterback, who produced the winning touchdown, a sequence set up on an epic Ricky Ray throw to James Wilder Jr. on third down.
Fajardo has been able to flourish in Regina because the Riders have put the right pieces around him, running an offence that allows the ball to be released quickly from Fajardo’s hand.
When in doubt, he’s a capable runner who will initiate contact.
The true test for Fajardo will arrive in the playoffs.
For the Argos, they are still trying to figure out what they have at the position in the post-Ray era.
COLLAROS RETURNS TO PRACTICE FIELD
Zach was back, but Zach Collaros is far from being back and able to line up under centre.
Collaros, who was acquired from Saskatchewan in late July, has completed five weeks on the six-game injured list.
As a result, he can practise, but don’t expect him in uniform any time soon.
It was a welcome sight to see Collaros sporting his No. 1 Argos jersey Tuesday at practice.
Collaros remains very much in limbo, a casualty of a head shot he suffered in the season opener when the Riders played the host Ticats.
If Collaros is able to see any game action in the coming weeks, it’ll surprise many in football fully aware of his concussion history.
The Argos took a flyer when they sent a conditional pick to the Riders and nothing has really changed other than Collaros finally able to do some work in a practice setting.