This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.
The CFL has seen its share of bad teams. But perhaps no team, exemplified futility quite like the 2003 Hamilton Tiger-Cats. How bad were the Tabbies in 2003? This particular squad posted the worst record, since the CFL expanded to an 18 game regular season in 1986. The Ti-Cats only one once all season, while losing the other 17 games.
Things started to go wrong early in the year, and the Tabbies never recovered. The Ti-Cats were blown out in Week 2, by their arch-rivals, the Toronto Argonauts, to the tune of 49-8. Four days later, the Tabbies had to travel to Edmonton, for a game against the Eskimos. The Eskies proceeded to thrash the Ti-Cats 52-15. By all accounts, the season was over. The only win the Ti-Cats recorded was a tense 27-24 overtime win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Ti-Cats were awful on both sides of the football. The Tabbies finished dead last in both offence and defence in 2003, averaging a mere 16.3 points per game, while giving up 32.4 points per game. Do the math. The Ti-Cats gave up twice as many points to the opposition, to what they put up themselves.
The offence shouldn’t have been this bad. The CFL is a quarterback driven league, and the Ti-Cats had a fine signal caller in Danny McManus. The Florida State grad, led the Ti-Cats to the Grey Cup in 1999, and is considered a sure-fire Hall Of Fame candidate. But, even the good ones can struggle. McManus only completed 53.13% of his passes, for 9 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His QB rating of 67.3 was second worst amongst starting quarterbacks in the CFL. The Ti-Cats did try other quarterbacks. Luminaries such as Reggie Slack, David Corley and Pete Gonzalez all took a turn behind centre. All had little to no success whatsoever.
McManus only had one target to throw to all season. Receiver Archie Amerson did have a fine individual campaign, catching 75 balls for 96o yards and 4 touchdowns. Other than Amerson, the rest of the Ti-Cats receivers were as invisible as Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Running back Troy Davis also had a fine season, rushing for 1,206 yards and 5 touchdowns. The disappointment in the backfield was first round draft choice Julian Radlein, who only rushed for 167 yards for the entire season. Radlein was supposed to be the featured back, but a case of fumbleitis and a lack of confidence hurt the UBC product.
The defence was toothless and mangy to say the least. The Ti-Cats surrendered more yards than the French Army in World War II. Only defensive end Tim Cheatwood can hold his head high. The Ohio State alum, led the Ti-Cats with 10 sacks and was name an Eastern Division All-Star. However, one man cannot make a defence, as Cheatwood had to hold the fort far too often. Teams began to double team Cheatwood at the line of scrimmage, forcing other players to step up. The Tabbies had no other players to step up as they were getting steamrolled by the opposition.
By the end of the season, the team had enough. Head coach and CFL legend Ron Lancaster was let go. A new owner, Bob Young bought the team, much to the delight of Ti-Cats fans. Young earned his fortune in the software industry and used his great wealth, to purchase the team, thus saving the franchise.
The Ti-Cats did turn it around the following season. Under new head coach Greg Marshall, the Ti-Cats finished above .500, going 9-8-1. However, the Ti-Cats fell off in 2005, going 5-13 and missing the playoffs yet again.
There are high hopes in Hamilton in 2012. The team is led by quarterback Henry Burris and the team is considered a Grey Cup contender. A far cry removed from the horror that was the 2003 season.
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