Last season the Calgary Stampeders may have found a quarterback, did find a running back, and overcame a lot of injuries. But the roster also has to mature, both as players and people.
Whether it was Nik Lewis' inappropriate use of Twitter, Jon Cornish pulling his pants down, or the blow up on the sidelines between Head Coach John Hufnagel and Drew Tate, it seemed like Calgary progressed to a point and regressed due to personal decisions.
The Stampeders are a good team but not quite a great team. Tate is 5-0 when he plays a game start to finish; he has to stay healthy. It was a shoulder injury in his second possession of Week 2, and a fractured wrist in the West Semifinal, a 36-30 win over Saskatchewan.
I don't believe in the injury prone football player; I do feel some players have an advantage with their type of build, style of training, or genetics.
Tate now training with MMA fighters will help because so much of that is blow deliver and resistance to blow delivery. Eighteen games with Tate at quarterback should mean a consistent, progressive improvement at QB.
We have discussed this endlessly with Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Buck Pierce; Tate must avoid that label this year.
The next most important player on the team is Cornish. In one year he has become a popular person for football as well as his approach to life. At the University of Kansas he had success, as a special teams player early in Calgary he had success, and now as a starting running back he is having success. 1,457 yards rushing is a great year in the CFL. If Tate can stay healthy, that combination can take the Stampeders to another Grey Cup.
This football team really has no glaring weakness. When you take a look at the full team, the lowest statistical ranking compared to the seven other CFL teams was fifth in passing yards. In every other major statistical category they were fourth or better.
Maybe the best thing about Calgary football is their ability to keep the football. The Stamps were the best last year in accumulating the fewest two-and-out possessions across the league.
Every other aspect was pretty good too: second in points scored, second in rushing yards, second fewest sacks allowed.
A lot of winning and losing is staying healthy. If your starters stay healthy your chances of winning go way up; if you can't keep the same people on the field at the same time your chances go way down. In some ways it was amazing that Calgary won 12 games in the regular season and two more in the playoffs last year. They are a good team oh so close to being great.