Once the carnage had ended at BC Place on Saturday night, Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie tried to come to grips with the humbling 44-3 defeat he and his club had just endured at the hands of the Lions.
“I don’t have the words,’’ Dinwiddie said. “That was flat-out embarrassing. We looked like a college team.”
It was worse because the Argos looked like a team that lacked coaching and talent.
The shellacking evoked memories of the 2019 Argos team — which lost 55-8 in Vancouver that season — prompting changes to all levels of the club’s operations.
Two games into the new CFL season, there’s no point in trying to come to any rash conclusions about the Argos, but clearly something is amiss.
“We can go in either direction,’’ said Dinwiddie. “We can take the loss and implode or we can get better.”
On paper, the Argos, pre-season, were considered championship-worthy contenders. But that paper has now been shredded.
Granted, the team has been dealt with a series of early injuries that have exposed its depth.
The coaching staff is pretty inexperienced and the front office has just one true seasoned football man in senior adviser Jim Barker.
A lot was made of B.C. keeping its young QB Nathan Rourke, in the game when the score was out of reach. Some felt the host Leos were running it up.
“I don’t care about that,’’ said Dinwiddie, who has much more pressing issues on his plate. “We deserved to get our asses kicked. No hard feelings. We just got embarrassed.”
Toronto’s defence couldn’t get off the field. The secondary looked lost or confused on so many easy and routine throws that led to wide-open touchdowns, leaving one to question what game plan was being run.
Offensively, the Argos’ inability to finish drives resurfaced — the lowlight arriving early -when they were stopped three times from B.C.’s one-yard-line.
The offence couldn’t stay on the field because it couldn’t run the football. Prized off-season signing Andrew Harris managed just 27 yards and fumbled for the second week in a row — only this time it led to a turnover.
Outside of a DaVaris Daniels reception for 48 yards on the opening drive, the Argos’ biggest play came when Brandon Banks drew a pass interference call that netted Toronto 37 yards after the visitors threw a challenge flag. The penalty led to a field goal, the Boatmen’s lone points of the night.
Poor clock management at the end of the first half and a knee injury to starting left offensive tackle Dejon Allen only added to the misery.
Dinwiddie is keeping his fingers crossed that Allen’s injury is not season-ending. The O-line has already been stung by the injury bug. Isiah Cage has yet to play a game, while Peter Nicastro remains on the six-game injured list.
The Lions exposed the Argos and how Toronto rebounds will tell a lot about this management group and coaching staff.
It’s one thing to get embarrassed, quite another when a team enters a season amid so much expectation.
In eight quarters to begin the season, the Argos have manufactured one offensive touchdown.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson attempted only 21 passes on Saturday night, the same night rookie Rourke slung it 45 times for 436 yards, the most passing yards thrown in a game by a Canadian QB.
It was a debacle of epic proportions, not the type of performance any team with title aspirations can tolerate.
Veteran linebacker Henoc Muamba drew comfort knowing no fingers were being pointed in the locker room. This is, after all, a veteran team and players who have been around the football block know what to do, what to say and what not to do and say.
Toronto’s play in B.C. did say a lot, though.
THE MONTH AHEAD
Despite their problems, the Argos are technically in first place in the East at 1-1. The Argos and Als are the only teams in the East to post a win. Ottawa is 0-2, Hamilton 0-3.
Toronto’s next game — a rare Monday nighter at home on July 4 — is against Winnipeg, the team Harris helped lead to back-to-back Grey Cup titles and a fearsome squad that features two of the game’s premier edge rushers in Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat.
If the Argos can’t control the line of scrimmage, a beatdown like the one in B.C. is assured.
The Argos play four games in July with a back-to-back against Saskatchewan sandwiched between the Bombers game and a July 31 home date against Ottawa.
It’s possible the Argos can lose all four.
Wynton McManis, hands down, has emerged as Toronto’s best player on either side of the ball.
The LB produced 10 tackles and one sack in B.C. and lowered the boom on James Butler on a clean, vicious hit that knocked the running back out of the game.
In two games as an Argo, McManis, who returned to the CFL following an NFL stint, has recorded 17 tackles and two sacks.
WELCOME TO THE CFL
Chad Kelly was thrown to the wolves, in this case the Lions, when he made his debut late in the game.
On his third play from scrimmage, the Argos’ backup quarterback was sacked when the back side protection was non-existent.
On the game’s final play, Kelly heaved it down the field for an interception. On the night, the Argos committed five turnovers.
In two games, the Argos have turned the ball over seven times and are a minus-4 in that ratio.
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