Cory Boyd, the leading rusher in the CFL was released on Sunday, which surprised many, enraged some, and even had at least one analyst wondering aloud if there is something else behind this move. If you just examine the numbers this looks like a crazy decision, but numbers can be deceiving.
After six games Cory Boyd leads the CFL in rushing by seven yards over Kory Sheets of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was on pace to rush for 1,341 yards on the season which would have been better than last year and just shy of his personal best in the CFL, which was 2010, his first year in Canada, when he rushed for 1,359 yards. In both 2010 and 2011 he ended up finishing second in the league in rushing behind Fred Reid and Brandon Whitaker. That kind of production over the last two years combined with the fact that he was leading the league this year, is obviously why most football fans across the country were scratching their heads when they heard the news.
Moments after the Argos made the official announcement, Gareth Wheeler of TSN Radio1050 in Toronto had head coach Scott Milanovich on to explain why, with numbers like Boyd has produced this year, and over the last two years, this decision was made, and two of the head coaches answers were very interesting.
When asked, how this move makes the team better? Milanovich said: "That remains to be seen, numbers are one thing, and what Chad (Kackert) will do with this opportunity nobody knows at this point, but there are other things that go into playing tailback, other than just how many yards you're carrying it for."
Three questions later, when Wheeler asked what so many football fans were thinking, which was: "I'm just trying to understand what would have gone behind this kind of decision, six games into the year, to cut a guy that is leading in the CFL in that position?"
Milanovich's response again was revealing: "Yeah, I can say the same things over and over again, there's more things that go into playing tailback than just how many yards you're carrying it for."
He went on to say, "Like I told Cory today, regardless of how it looks on the outside, the reason we didn't play well offensively last week (a loss to BC) wasn't just on Cory, there's a lot of things that need to be fixed and we felt like tailback was one of those things."
There has already been all kinds of theories as to other possible reasons behind this move that have been put out there by everyone from fans on twitter, to almost everyone covering football in the media. Some have suggested, Boyd was a problem in the room, that he was different in front of the media than he was in real life. TSN analyst Milt Stegall tweeted, "Cory Boyd was not let go for reasons pertaining to football. There is something else to this story."
And fan reaction has ranged from anger, directed towards the team, to confusion as to how the leading rusher could get cut. However, maybe there is no conspiracy behind this move. Maybe to understand why this move was made, we just have to listen to Scott Milanovich's answers. Twice in the interview with TSN 1050 he said that there is more to the tailback position than the yards he is rushing for, and that the coaching staff felt that the team could improve in that position by making this move. Milanovich will not publicly divulge exactly what it was that Cory Boyd wasn't doing well, and you would have to watch him on every play on film to even make a fair personal opinion, but maybe football fans really don't have to inquire any deeper than to listen to the head coach's explanation.
A defensive back could be leading the league in interceptions and not playing well, and a quarterback could be leading the league in yards passing, but if he is turning the ball over four times a game he isn't playing well either. In fact, there have been plenty of years where QB's have passed for over 4,000 yards and not made the playoffs. Numbers are useful in a lot of ways -- especially in football -- but they don't always tell the whole story. When listening to the Milanovich's explanation, and taking into consideration all that is required from the tailback position, it sounds like Boyd wasn't playing well enough, and maybe it is as simple as that.
That doesn't mean that Boyd is done or that he can't help another team in the league in a big way, in fact just hours after he was released the Eskimos announced that they have come to a verbal agreement with Boyd and he will fly into Edmonton on Monday. And while it will be easy to make the argument that the Esks just got better, for the Argos' pass oriented offence that is led by future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray, it wasn't working out, and it sounds like Boyd wasn't playing well in that system, and therefore, the team is moving on with Chad Kackert as their starting tailback.
Milanovich said he isn't even sure what Kackert will do with this opportunity, but at the end of the season when you compare numbers, remember that at times, numbers can be deceiving.