Coach Scott Milanovich threw himself on his own sword in the wake of the Toronto Argonauts’ 36-10 loss to Saskatchewan on Monday.
“Clearly I didn’t have them ready to play tonight,” the rookie head coach said of his 7-7 team. “And I’ve got to do a better job of getting them ready to go, giving them the chance to be successful offensively.
“The only encouraging thing about tonight is we get to play again next week.”
In truth, there was ample blame to go around the Argos’ locker-room and everyone seemed to know it following a comprehensive drubbing that saw Toronto outplayed in every aspect of the game in its return to the Rogers Centre following a 1-2 road trip.
Quarterback Jarious Jackson, filling in for the injured Ricky Ray for a second week, said his coach’s mea culpa spoke more about Milanovich’s character than about who actually was to blame.
“I think that’s just leadership ... that’s Coach [Milanovich] being a great coach,” he said.
“Whenever your coach can stand in front of the bus and take one for the team, you know as players you can’t ask for anything better,” Jackson added. “You better be willing to come out (and) do your job week in week out when you’ve got a coach like that because he can only stand in front of that bus so many times.
“It comes down to the players and how we play.”
An 81-yard return by Saskatchewan’s Brandon West on the opening kickoff was the first sign that things were going bad for the Argonauts. Had the Roughrider defence been more predatory or the offence better able to convert chances on the day, the score could have been a lot worse.
Five Sandro Deangelis field goals, two from within the 20-yard line, suggest the beating could have been much worse. An ineffective Argo offence meant the Toronto defence was on the field for too much time and it showed in the third quarter when Saskatchewan outscored the Argos 17-0.
Milanovich took the Harry S. Truman approach to the loss (“the buck stops here”), saying he was planning some face time in the mirror when he got home to see what more he could have done.
“Ultimately it falls on me,” he said. “We didn’t play well and the head coach’s responsible for that. And so put this one on me.”
Pressed on the issue, the 39-year-old Toronto coach said he expected players and coaches alike to take ownership of the debacle and to do some soul-searching of their own.
“To be candid with you, that’s one of the things we talked about in the locker-room,” he said. “I’m not going to go into details.”
Milanovich said he had no answer to why the team started so poorly. He called his locker-room “electric” before the game. Lack of intensity was not an issue, he added.
“Just like last week was a three-phase win [29-10 over Winnipeg], this was a three-phase loss,” the coach said.
Added Jackson: “We just got our butts kicked in every phase of the game today.”
The veteran quarterback, who completed 16-of-31 passes for 162 yards with one TD and one interception, said he felt prepared and thought the game plan was a good one.
Saskatchewan had the ball for 34 minutes 36 seconds to Toronto’s 25:24. The edge in net offence was 392 yards to 214 in favour of the Riders.
Even the Saskatchewan fans were louder than Toronto’s.
Montreal’s loss to Winnipeg earlier in the day meant a win would have moved Toronto into a tie for first place with the Als in the CFL’s East Division. Toronto hosts Montreal next weekend.
Jackson said the Argos need to put the loss behind them, starting Tuesday.
“If we’re still lingering on this loss, we can’t move forward,” he said
Added Milanovich: “This can certainly not happen again next week.”