Tue Nov 23 09:47am EST
The Toronto Argonauts' 2010 season passed away Sunday night in Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Inquiries as to the official cause of death are proceeding, but preliminary reports suggest that the task of taking on the Montreal Alouettes was just too much for the Argonauts' heart. There had been strenuous demands on that heart all year thanks to their anemic offence and quarterback issues, but a powerful new running back, a solid offensive line (including Taylor Robertson and Chris Van Zeyl, pictured above) and an excellent defence allowed them to last this long. They survived a narrow scare in Hamilton thanks to crucial intervention by their defence and special teams, but the attack in Montreal proved too much for their system to withstand. When it came down to it, even their tremendous heart wasn't able to handle all the demands placed on it.
The Argonauts' 2010 season accomplished much in its short time. It provided some hope for a franchise that had seen too many seasons die young with little to their name recently, particularly the 4-14 2008 season and the 3-15 2009 season. It even gave some reason for optimism in a city tinged with sports malaise and it saw the Argonauts go from CFL bottom-feeders to a potential contender, even if it was stricken down young.
The season's entry into the world was rough, with a 30-16 thumping at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders. However, better times were soon to come. The Argonauts beat Winnipeg 36-34 in a Week Two shootout and recorded consecutive victories over Calgary and B.C. to improve to 3-1. The season proceeded by fits and starts from there on in, but there were substantial highs for Toronto throughout. A 37-22 victory over Montreal in Week Seven was particularly notable, as was Week 15's 24-19 victory over Saskatchewan.
There were also plenty of notable individual performances. Cory Boyd delivered an incredible season, rushing for 1,359 yards on 226 carries, and Chad Owens led the league with 2,701 combined receiving yards, almost 1,000 ahead of his closest competitor. Bryan Crawford put up a league-high 26 special teams tackles, and there were many standouts on defence as well, with Willie Pile, Kevin Eiben, Kevin Huntley, Ronald Flemons and others having strong years.
The Argonauts' 2010 season made some headlines off the field as well, but they were generally for the right reasons. One of the best CFL stories of the year was the way defensive lineman Adriano Belli decided to use his injury struggles to help a good cause, donating his entire paycheque while injured to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, an organization he's supported for quite some time. Running back Andre Durie also took part in the Pepsi Refresh project to support Community Living Mississauga, and the team as a whole helped provide funding for seven Toronto-area schools to launch or bring back football programs.
There were low moments as well, though. From getting blown out 28-13 in the Labour Day Classic against Hamilton to losing 24-6 to Edmonton in the Touchdown Atlantic game, there were plenty of results that didn't go well for the Argonauts. Perhaps even worse were some of the highlight reels they ended up on for the wrong reasons, such as Flemons' infamous fumble or losing 37-30 to Montreal on a triple-punt special. There were tragedies that were far deeper than the game itself, too, such as Boyd losing his close friend Kenny McKinley in an apparent case of suicide.
The 2010 Toronto Argonauts' season is survived by head coach Jim Barker, who did a miraculous job of turning the franchise around, but reportedly not general manager Adam Rita, whose contract expired shortly after the season. Barker's health is strong for the moment, now faces the task of raising the 2011 season to follow in the successful footsteps of 2010 rather than the less-successful ones of 2009 and 2008, and he'll have plenty of issues to address (including who his quarterback will be). Still, he should be very pleased with his return to Hogtown so far. In memory of the 2010 season, owner David Braley will be accepting season-ticket deposits in lieu of flowers.