The 2022 Hamilton Tiger-Cats came into the season with high expectations. Previously, the Tiger-Cats had shown the ability to compete at the highest level in the CFL. So when the Tiger-Cats had started the season 0-4 many questions began to be asked about why this version of the Tiger-Cats struggled so much. Eventually, the Tiger-Cats were able to make adjustments and pull themselves together enough to overcome a 2-7 start and finish the season winning 6 out of 9 games.
These Tiger-Cats did persevere through some tough times to qualify for the playoffs, but the issues that had troubled Hamilton early in the season were still present. This came to light when the Tiger-Cats faced the Montreal Alouettes in the East division semi-final. That game closely resembled the Tiger-Cats entire 2022 season and resulted in a season-ending loss.
So the question is who was responsible for the Tiger-Cats slow start and eventual loss in the post-season? Throughout the season there was plenty of blame to go around among the coaching staff and the Tiger-Cats players. For the Tiger-Cats to make the needed improvements this off-season to avoid another frustrating season in 2023 it is important to analyze and evaluate the Tiger-Cats performance to identify where things can be improved. Our analysis will begin with the coaching staff of the Tiger-Cats, specifically the head football coach Orlondo Steinauer and his coordinators.
Head Coach Orlondo Steinauer
The role of a head coach in the world of professional football very rarely involves the day-to-day grind of coaching a specific part of the team. The head coach’s primary responsibility is to manage the players and his assistant coaches and to provide a healthy work environment that will allow the team to be successful. Coach Steinauer was successful at producing that healthy work environment, and even when things were not going well for the team, he kept the team unified and working towards the ultimate goal which is to improve each week and have a chance to make the playoffs.
After a 0-4 start that included two blown half-time leads at Tim Hortons Field, it would have been easy for Coach Steinauer to lose focus and eventually lose the support of his players. But each week he communicated the message that the only way to find success is to keep working on the process, and eventually bad breaks would become wins. The strong finish for the Tiger-Cats is a direct reflection of their head coach’s ability to keep the team focused and working towards common goals.
Head Coach Orlondo Steinauer’s Grade: B
Offensive Coordinator Tommy Condell
Coach Condell is a veteran CFL coach and has prior experience with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Multiple times in his career, Coach Condell had previously led the Tiger-Cats offence to the brink of a Grey Cup championship, but each time has come up short. He is well known as being an innovative offensive coach that can build successful offensive plays, and his offence did produce some successful outcomes for the Tiger-Cats. But the offence many times lacked any true game plan, and the Tiger-Cats were consistently not successful in key situations.
The Tiger-Cats offence struggled all season to score in the red zone, and the offence was not successful at protecting the ball. Hamilton finished the 2022 season with 34 turnovers in the form of interceptions and fumbles lost. The Tiger-Cats jumped out to many first-half leads, but due to a lack of effective adjustments and turnovers, Hamilton lost 5 of those games. Hamilton did attempt to improve their offensive game plan by hiring Khari Jones as a consultant after he had been fired by the Montreal Alouettes to start the season. These offensive failures were a huge reason why the Tiger-Cats failed to accomplish their goals in 2022
Offensive Coordinator Tommy Condell’s Grade: D-
Defensive Coordinator Mark Washington
Hamilton’s defence was the strongest unit for the Tiger-Cats for the entirety of the 2022 season. Their biggest weakness was that they tended to run out of gas and give up significantly more points in the 4th quarter of games than in any other quarter. This was a contributing factor to the Tiger-Cats poor start to the season, and the numerous halftime leads that were squandered. Hamilton’s defence was composed of veteran players, many of which had significant playing time with one another. The Tiger-Cats defensive secondary is commonly touted as one of the best units in the CFL.
The linebacking core also had a wealth of talent, but for several weeks of the season linebacker Simoni Lawrence was injured and unable to play. Jovan Santos-Knox did a great job of stepping up in the absence of Lawrence and effectively leading the defence. The weak point in the defence for Hamilton was their defensive line which struggled to stop the run and pressure opposing quarterbacks. While it would easy to criticize the Tiger-Cats defence it is important to understand that the defence kept the Tiger-Cats competitive in most games while the offence was struggling to produce points for Hamilton.
Defensive Coordinator Mark Washington’s Grade: C
Special Teams Coordinator Craig Butler
At the start of the 2022 season, the Tiger-Cats struggled to find dependable specialists to lead their special teams’ units. Hamilton obtained and released numerous punters and kickers looking for specialists that could give the team an edge in special teams situations. The Tiger-Cats did eventually settle on Kicker Seth Small and converted Michael Domagala into their full-time punter.
Lawrence Woods III did have some explosive kick and punt returns but also had his share of missed opportunities. The kick and punt coverage teams struggled to contain opposing kick and punt returners, and many times the special teams would put the offence or defence into difficult situations. From the start of the season until the end the special teams did get better, but the Tiger-Cats were still prone to missed assignments and opportunities.
Special Teams Coordinator Craig Butler’s Grade: C
Next: Part 3 Assessing the Position Groups on Offence
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