Tiger-Cats may follow Rosenbach out of town


September 25, 1994|By KEN MURRAY

Quarterback Timm Rosenbach joined the long line out of Hamilton, Ontario, last week.

It is a procession that started in August when the Tiger-Cats dumped coach John Gregory, and continued two weeks ago when they forced out team president John Michaluk.

Last week it was Rosenbach's turn to take the blame, and there is plenty of blame to go around in the depressed steel town by Lake Ontario.

By the time the finger-pointing is done, the Tiger-Cats figure to be headed out of town en masse, taking with them 125 years of tradition.

Welcome to the Week 12 saga of how the Canadian Football League is disintegrating, one franchise at a time.

The move to release Rosenbach, 27, a former NFL quarterback with the Phoenix Cardinals, was not based as much on passing inefficiency as it was on bottom-line economics. By cutting him now, the Tiger-Cats save approximately $110,000 of his $300,000 salary for 1994, and all of the $1 million he was due to make in 1995.

"All I was told was our playoff chances looked dim, the money wasn't there and it was a struggle to make payroll," Rosenbach said. "When you make cutbacks, this is where you go."

Rosenbach was less than a success story in the CFL. He threw for 2,046 yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Signed last April to generate wins and excitement, he delivered little of either. The Tiger-Cats were 3-8 when he was cut, leaving quarterback duties to two marginal players, newly acquired Reggie Slack and perennial backup Todd Dillon.

More than anything, Rosenbach's release underlined the near-terminal state of the franchise. After a crowd of 11,248 turned out to see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium, team chairman Roger Yachetti echoed the voice of doom.

"The truth of the matter is, with a crowd like this, I'm not sure there will be football in Hamilton much longer," he said. "It's extremely critical."

The Tiger-Cats were rebuffed when they asked the league for help recently. They lost $2.5 million last year and are projected for another $2 million loss this season. It's unlikely the 1996 Grey Cup game, which they were awarded last month, will see Hamilton.

"Frankly, unless we find the key to unlock the problem in Hamilton, we're going to have a tough time keeping the franchise in Hamilton past this year," said CFL commissioner Larry Smith. "I'm not happy with the situation at all."

In a telling postscript, Rosenbach rejected inquiries from the quarterback-desperate Blue Bombers. Saying he wants no more the CFL, he'll try the NFL next season.

Coming through

Three weeks ago, Baltimore's Mike Pringle rushed for 232 yards against the Shreveport Pirates. Last week, Winnipeg's Blaise Bryant rumbled for 249 yards against Hamilton.

"It was like driving on a clean road behind the snowplow," Bryant said of his romp through the Tiger-Cats.

A year ago, the running lanes were snowbound in the CFL. Nobody had a 200-yard rushing game. Nobody gained 1,000 yards. This year already, Pringle and Cory Philpot of the British Columbia Lions have surpassed 1,000 yards. What gives?

Steve Buratto, Baltimore's offensive coordinator, says teams are running the ball more because they're running better. Offensive lines have improved, he said, and defenses have gone more toward linebacker-type defenders to help in pass coverage. Hence, there are fewer pure run-stoppers.

"The more you run, the better you get at running," Buratto said. "Rarely do you have a game where you throw fewer passes than running plays."

But it happened last week when Baltimore ran 35 times and passed 25 in a 35-18 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Pringle had 30 carries himself -- exactly half his season's total for the 1993 Sacramento Gold Miners.

Bombs away

Last week, for the second straight game, Toronto Argonauts punter Wayne Lammle botched a snap and cost his team a touchdown. This time, his fumble turned a 21-11 deficit against Ottawa into a 28-11 hole when Jessie Small took it 13 yards for a touchdown.

"He's paid to punt the ball, but the No. 1 thing is to make sure he catches the ball before he punts it," said Toronto coach Bob O'Billovich.

D8 "Wayne Lammle's not stupid. He's got to smarten up."

Western domination

Coming into Week 12, the West held a 22-6 lead in interdivisional games with the East. And three of those losses were inflicted on the expansion Las Vegas Posse.

There is a big difference between the two divisions, according to Philpot, whose Lions have been accused of fattening up on Eastern teams this season.

"The teams in the West, they're a level up on the East," Philpot said. "The Grey Cups's going to come down to us and Calgary and Edmonton. Whoever wins the West will win it all. The talent level, the intensity level, it's all turned up a notch or two in this division."

Collision course

The Edmonton Eskimos are bullish on opposing coaches. In Week 11, Edmonton defensive halfback Glenn Rogers Jr. ran into B.C. coach Dave Ritchie on the sideline after a pass sailed out of bounds.

Ritchie was reaching up to retrieve the ball when Rogers, unable to stop his momentum, ran into him. Ritchie suffered a cracked rib and a sprained ankle.

Earlier this season, Edmonton fullback Michael Soles was clipped and knocked into Saskatchewan coach Ray Jauch along the sideline. Jauch suffered torn knee ligaments.


After a 56-3 loss to Sacramento last week, Shreveport coach (( Forrest Gregg was moved to say, "This was embarrassing even for us." . . . Calgary owner Larry Ryckman has promised to back off San Antonio as a prospective home for his Stampeders after a complaint from Texas businessman Tom Herring, who is trying to put a CFL expansion team in the Alamodome. Herring thought Ryckman was compromising his position as chairman of the expansion committee. "Herring or any other group gets first shot as an expansion team," Ryckman said. "I get second shot."

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