The Toronto Argonauts' statistics-defying decision to release CFL rushing leader Cory Boyd (who's since landed in Edmonton) has seen plenty of criticism, and some of that criticism is apparently coming from inside the fanbase. At least, Argos' chairman and CEO Chris Rudge appears to think so. Thursday morning, Rudge sent out an e-mailed letter to season-ticket holders addressing complaints over Boyd's release. Here's what he had to say (via Cam Charron):
To our loyal Argonauts fans,
This past weekend, General Manager Barker and Coach Milanovich made the decision to release running back Cory Boyd from the team. There has been considerable response to this and we are aware that some of you are confused and upset by the move. This was not a decision that was taken lightly, nor was it made without considerable discussion about the impact on our fan constituency.
At times, our football leaders need to make decisions that are unpopular with our fans in order to put the team in what we believe will be the best position to annually contend for and ultimately win Grey Cup Championships. This type of decision within the professional sport environment is certainly not without precedent. One has only to look at the departure of such Toronto luminaries over the years as Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Chris Bosh, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour and Doug Flutie, all of whom moved on for a variety of reasons that left the fans feeling a sense of loss.
Our leadership team at the Argos is focused on success, excitement, sustainability, loyalty and profitability. We stand behind Coach Milanovich and his vision for success on the field and his commitment to a winning and exciting team. We will continue to be sensitive to your commitment to us and the impact our football and business decisions have on our relationship. While we recognize that you won't always agree, please know that your voice is heard and your opinions highly respected.
It would be easy to mock this letter, but from this corner, it actually seems like somewhat of a good idea. Unpopular decisions are always a part of football, and running a team based solely on what fans would like would be problematic (although Rudge seemed to veer in that direction earlier this offseason, with the rather-bizarre claim that fans would prefer high-scoring games to wins). Still, that doesn't mean that the team should just sit there quietly in the face of fan criticism; acknowledging that they're listening to the complaints is a step above your typical franchise's response, and it's a good one.
Of course, there are still two problems here. For one, should the Argos make any move with "considerable discussion about the impact on our fan constituency"? The view from this corner is that they shouldn't, as that's way too close to Rudge's comments earlier this year that a team's style of play matters more than its record. That simply isn't true; put a good team out there and fans will come, regardless of how the team wins or who's in the jerseys, but a 3-13 team that scores 30 points a game and gives up 35 isn't likely to have great attendance. In general, football decisions should be based solely on what's best from a football standpoint, not how it may affect fans. As Rudge himself said in more sensible comments earlier this year, "The thing that counts most is the product on the field. Without that, everything else is in vain."
The bizarre element of this situation is that the Argos might be better off from a football perspective if they'd listened to fans in this particular instance, though. This corner isn't one to advocate for running a team by popular vote, but it's notable that the paying customers can recognize the folly of releasing the league's rushing leader and saying that statistics are irrelevant along the way, while the Argonauts' highly-paid football minds can't seem to figure that out. Rudge deserves credit for acknowledging fans' concerns, and that's a smart move by the Argonauts' leadership. Unfortunately, it's about the only intelligent move they've made in the whole Boyd saga.