With the 2021 CFL season now behind us, it’s a good time to look back on everything that’s happened since the beginning of August. For Hamilton, it was a year of adjustment. The team looked great at times, but also had their struggles. Consistency was hard to find, as injuries battered the roster left and right. However, the team continued to push, and ultimately made it to the Grey Cup for a second year in a row.
The 108th Grey Cup was a game to remember, but unfortunately, it didn’t go in the Tiger-Cats’ direction. They fell to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in overtime, the same team they lost to in 2019. It was a heartbreaking moment for the fans, especially since the Tiger-Cats were playing at home in Tim Hortons Field. After the game was over, several players and coaches alike gave credit to their supporters for continuous love and loyalty.
Jumping back to the regular season, the main headline was the quarterback situation. Hamilton started three different signal-callers in 2021, although they weren’t the only CFL team with that dilemma. Another story that fluctuated throughout the year was that of Brandon Banks, who (to great surprise) failed to produce at the high level everyone was used to. In Banks’ defense, he dealt with injuries from start to finish. When he did play, he showed flashes of greatness from years past, restoring memories that go back almost a decade. The numbers and stats really started to go up towards the playoffs, when Banks appeared to be more healthy.
A theme that played a big role for Hamilton was revenge. The Tiger-Cats faced their biggest rival, the Toronto Argonauts, twice during the regular season. Toronto got the win both times, with one close game and one blowout. However, in the Eastern Final, Hamilton decided they had enough, beating the Argonauts by 8 when it mattered most. It certainly wasn’t easy, as they were down 12-0 at halftime. Fortunately, Dane Evans had one of his best career outings, completing all 16 of his passes and accounting for 3 total touchdowns. Hamilton went on a 17-7 run to close out the game, letting all Canadian football fans know that they weren’t joking around.
While the team always put up a good fight, there were several individuals that stood out with their contributions. The team’s MVP was (with no doubt) linebacker Simoni Lawrence, who recorded 73 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 2 defensive touchdowns. Six defensive players in total were named to the All-Star team, showing how strong of a unit they were in 2021. The offense varied depending on who was under center, but wideout Tim White always stepped up when Banks couldn’t play. Sure, he had the controversial kickoff kneel in the Grey Cup, but that shouldn’t overshadow his general progress and development.
Heading into 2022, there are a lot of questions surrounding the Tiger-Cats franchise, with the most obvious being the quarterback situation. Both Evans and Masoli are entering free agency, and only one is expected to be brought back. There’s also the possibility of the team signing someone new at the position, which could shake things up even more. However, with that news yet to come, the recent announcement regarding head coach Orlondo Steinauer should provide fans with more stability and security. Steinauer’s name had been attached to an opening at the University of Washington, specifically the defensive coordinator job. While many thought Steinauer was ready to leave, these rumors were silenced when the Tiger-Cats upgraded his role to president of football operations. He will still be the head coach, but have a bigger say in roster decisions and other management moving forward. This change was liked by most, as Steinauer is very familiar with the organization. While some fans can be nervous, there should also be a feeling of excitement, and it’s clear that the team is still ready to compete aggressively. Hopefully, Hamilton can bring home a championship trophy in 2022.
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