Monday, December 11, 2017

10th Annual-ish Rider Prophet Awards

So these awards have reached an amazing milestone as this is the tenth time I am handing them out. I use the term "annual-ish" though because apparently I didn’t bother doing these last year… not really sure why but the official story is that I was preoccupied tending to orphans and volunteering for the underprivileged. But enough outright lies from me… let’s get to the awards.

In honour of our tenth anniversary award recipients will get the biggest prize package in the history of the awards. The bar for that is of course set extremely low as there has never been an actual prize handed out (my original plan to call them the golden rod’s hit a legal snafu with an adult film company). This year’s prize is the winner’s choice of either 2016 or 2017 Calgary Stampeder Grey Cup Champion hats… for some reason they were looking is dispose of a ton of both of them.

Best Player Name
It was really a lacklustre year for quality player names. I mean previous winners like Willy, SirVincent and Lirim Hulahoops are still around but we were lacking in new entrants into the category. So with limited options I had to go with a predictable but still always popular around these parts option…
Rakeem Cox

I like Cox, what can I say?

Previous Winners: Akawasi Owusu-Ansah, Lirim Hajrullahu, SirVincent Rogers, Drew Willy, Bear Woods, Solomon Elimimian, Craphonso Thorpe, Charleston Hughes, Chijioke Onyenegecha

Quote of the Year
Honourable mention to the Rider defense following the Duron Carter Pick 6… “Hey Bo, he’s still your best receiver.” But this year’s winner gets the nod not for comedic merit (as usually occurs) but pure ineptitude. The co-winners for 2017 are Kavis Reed and Jacques Chapdelaine for their explanation of the Bear Woods release.

Kavis: This was a football decision
Chapdelaine: This was not a football decision

Way to get your stories straight guys. Unsurprisingly this was the tip of the iceberg of a leadership situation in Montreal doomed for failure.

Previous Winners: Greg Quick, Solomon Elimimian, Ed Hervey, Joe Mack, Henry Burris, Eddie Johnson, Jason Clermont, Mike Abou-Mechrek x2

Play of the Year
Many plays this year entertained me. Such as Crezdon Butler bouncing off the uprights (though it wasn’t so funny at the time) or Duron Carter making a first down and then cheap shotting the defender. The runner up was for Rider Tevaughn Campbell giving up a safety on an interception and in most other years it would have won. But while my Play of the Year for 2017 happened on the football field it was not a football play.

In the video below you will see Simoni Lawrence steal Antonio Pipkin’s towel and it devolve into a game of keep away where Pipkin looked as helpless as a nerdy grade schooler. Hilarious!

Botched Call of the Year
This tends to be the most difficult award to hand out as there are literally dozens of potential winners each week. But while botched calls are nothing new to the CFL (particularly the Command Centre it seems), few have ever had such large and public consequences as what happened on July 13.

Ryan Lankford had already scored a kick return TD and in the second quarter Martese Jackson also broke free. CFL fans far and wide know what 2 kick return TDs mean… $1 million dollars in Safeway touchdown to win! What a glorious moment! Karen had won $1 million and the CFL world was full of excitement. But wait… the was a flag on the play. Sure a great PR story for the league was about to occur but who has time for that when minimal contact has occurred on an opposing player that in no way affected the play?

To their credit, the CFL and its sponsors were quick to give poor Karen a lot of consolations prizes but it was no million dollars and it was only after the damage of a bogus call had already been done.


The Commercial I Didn’t Get Sick of Seeing Even Though TSN Made Me Watch It 54,297 Times Award
In a first for this award we have a repeat winner. This is not really a reflection of how good the commercial is but rather a reflection on just how little effort advertisers put into in game commercials. The Buck Pierce BelAirDirect insurance commercial where Craig Butler destroys him wins again. 

I can't actually track down a video of the commercial anymore as it seems that like most of Buck Pierce's memories predating that hit, it has vanished.

Most Insulted Sports Figure
This should come as no surprise to anyone to regularly reads the space. My hate list is decidedly lean of late (generally a good sign for the team’s performance). While I wish Bakari Grant would not wear sleeves and I make not attempt to hide my lack of Dan Clark love, one person stands above all others in terms of those I’ve insulted this year. Offensive Coordinator Steve McAdoo. From his seemingly religious based aversion to running, to his insistence on randomly inserting the 3rd string QB at the most inopportune times, to his inability to adjust his play calling when adversity hits, I had many choice words about Mr. McAdoo (many of which were curse words). I guess the good news for us is that he wasn’t the least successful McAdoo in the football coaching world this year. 

Previous Winners: The Riders Secondary, Any Rider QB not named Durant, Pat Neufeld, Chris Getzlaf, Ryan Dinwiddie, Jim Daley, Michael Bishop x 2, Marcel Bellefeuille

Fans’ Choice Douche-Bag of the Year
You the fans have spoken yet again… and resoundingly so. In the largest majority in this history of this award (shattering the previous mark of 66%), you the fans have decided that with 78% (93 out of a possible 119 votes) Jason Maas is your Douche Bag of the Year.

It should really come as no surprise. Maas has a face only a mother could love and an attitude that only the blind and deaf could love. He throws more temper tantrums than a toddler. He breaks equipment. He berates his own staff. He rolls his eyes. He has unwavering belief in the power of the field goal. By the end of the season it got so bad that TSN essentially had a camera devoted to him looking to catch his tirades.

So congratulations to the most unanimous douche bag in the illustrious history of this award.

Previous Winners: Cory Chamblin, Chris Jones, Jon Cornish x2, Henry Burris, Dwight Anderson, Mike Kelly, Jason Jimenez, Rob Murphy

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Welcome to the Offseason

While the calendar won't officially switch to 2018 for another months. The 2018 CFL offseason is now upon us. The real work of GM's across the league now begins as they have scouting to do, contracts to rework and pending free agents to tamper with (oh don't act like it doesn't happen).

As with every offseason I will do my best to keep you informed on all the new that is news across the CFL. Though for newer readers be warned, my timeliness and punctuality tend to take a slide in the offseason. So feel free to add that to the list of things I don't do well (like grammar, coherent thoughts and personal hygiene... though at least you don't know about that part). 

Before we get to it, just a reminder to get your vote in for the Fans' Choice Douchebag of the Year Award. Currently an overwhelming majority of you are going in the same direction with your votes (not that I'm overly surprised). Vote on the poll on this site or an Twitter. Votes by carrier pigeon and signing telegram are also accepted and count for triple value.

On to the news:
- Biggest speculation with a Rider slant is the ongoing search for a  head coach in Montreal. According to a report, one scenario could see Kavis Reed move to Vice President (yet another promotion for reasons I can't comprehend) and bring in John Murphy as GM with DeVone Claybrooks as coach. Certainly worth keeping an eye on as Murphy would be a loss to a scouting system that is finally starting to show results.

- Other names on the Alouettes radar for head coach beyond Claybrooks include Tommy Condell, Corey Chamblin and Mike Benevides. I'm still waiting for Jim Popp to somehow end up coaching them again.

- On the other side of the country, Ed Hervey was hired as BC's GM and Buono will be back for one more year of coaching (he retires about as well as the Rolling Stones).

- There have been a few re-signings so far and generally that means the team has extra salary cap space (Winnipeg and Ottawa seem to). While the Riders have deals in place for a few guys (most notably Willie Jefferson) they aren't making the deals official meaning that we are likely fairly close to the cap. 

- Of course there is a ton of speculation on what could be a busy offseason for QB shuffles and the Riders figure to be actively involved. I will devote a future post to that entire topic (veteran move by me not blowing all my material at once).

Coaching Carousel
- Ottawa fired a number of assistants including Tavis Moore, Bryan Chiu and Ike Charlton
- Calgary fired DB coach Kahlil Carter (well technically his contract wasn't renewed)

NFL Watch:
Bo Lokombo – signed to practice roster of San Fransisco
Eric Rogers – workouts with NY Jets and Detroit
Stefan Charles (Edm) – Workout with Tennessee
Tevaughn Smith (Edm) – signed to practice roster of Oakland
Roy Finch, DaVaris Daniels, Shaq Richardson, Jonathan Mincy and James Franklin – NFL teams have requested workouts with them.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: RB Timothy Flanders, K Justin Medlock (contract extension)

In: WR Brad Sinopoli (contract extension)

Out: DB Jonathan Mincy, DB Tyree Hollins, DB Taylor Russolino, DB Travis Hawkins and DB KJ Morton (released)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cast Your Vote

On December 11th I will be handing out the Annual Rider Prophet Awards. That means its time to vote for one of the most dubious distinctions there is... the Fans' Choice Douchebag of the Year. 

This year we have a number of people who have excelled in the field of douchebaggery. Be sure to cast your vote for your favourite. (Note for those viewing the mobile version of the blog, you will need to view the full version of the site to vote. There will also be a poll on Twitter if that's more your thing).

With out further adieu, here are this year's nominees:

Micah Awe - Nominated for his repeated headshots (not that the League seemed to mind too much)

The Hamilton Ti-Cats – Nominated for their epically misguided attempt to hire Art Briles… well technically they did hire him and then had to quickly un-hire him.

Henry Burris – Nominated because his GMC Playbook Segments were generally utter garbage. Plus the whole “Ottawa is missing leadership”… “Oh I’m not talking about me”… showing up at RedBlack practice the next day drama.

Jason Maas – Screamer, Tantrum thrower, Headset abuser, Field Goal enthusiast…. Did I miss anything?

Jon Cornish – Did absolutely nothing of note but it was requested by you the fans that he be nominated every year no matter what. (Predicting he finishes no lower than 3rd in voting because people are that spiteful)

Let your voice be heard. Vote now!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Grey Cup Thoughts

The 2017 CFL season came to a close last night and it left everyone felling very happy... well everyone except of course Calgary fans who are crushed and Toronto residents who probably aren't even aware. The Grey Cup delivered excitement in spades: big plays, lead changes, a blizzard, shovels, snowplows a dog sled. We were essentially a rouge and flipping snowmobile away from Canadiana bingo.

The game went exactly as scripted with Calgary outplaying the Argos for the majority of the game. Yet in the process they made just enough mistakes to let the Argos stick around and deliver a dramatic come from behind victory. Campbell was just off on that 100 TD pass to Posey. Calgary was on the doorstep of scoring the points that would have been the nail in the Argos' coffin before fumbling. They were once again on the doorstep in game tying FG range before forcing a pass into double coverage. You take away those 3 plays and the Argos likely get pummeled in this one. But instead of getting redemption for last year's choke job, the Stampeders further cemented their reputation as regular season all-stars and post season choke artists. I know it's petty to take pleasure in the pain of others but a) as a Rider fan many people have taken much pleasure in my pain over the years and b) its the Stamps and they are dicks so its kinda like a victimless crime.

While I would have liked a better finish for the Riders, the 2017 overall was a great one for the CFL. Great games, great plays, great championship, ample rack on the halftime act. Great season.

Don't go anywhere though. With the 2017 season ending , the 2018 season is just beginning and you can bet there is a ton of news that has been kept quiet until after the Grey Cup. Lots moving parts this offseason and your friendly neighbourhood Prophet will be here to get your through it with insights and irreverent commentary.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grey Cup 105: Stampeders vs. Argonauts

Sunday the 2017 CFL season comes to close as the Grey Cup (or at least the pieces of it that remain intact following someone inevitable breaking it) will be handed out to either the Stampeders or the Argonauts. Clearly I would have much preferred writing this post if the Riders were in the game but then again I would probably also be in full party mode and even less coherent than normal so there’s that. Either way I always enjoy the Grey Cup game regardless of who is playing. So let me regale you with my thoughts on the game.

On one side you have the CFL’s best team in the regular season. They’ve had 10 or more wins in every season since 2008. They have the League’s best defense and well, we all pretty much hate their guts outside of residents of Calgary (and even a lot of them hate them too). On the other side you have the best team in the CFL “My mom says I’m cool” division. They haven’t been to the Cup since they won in 2012 and Ricky was old even then. We are all pretty much ambivalent to the Argos outside of residents of Toronto who likely aren’t aware the Argos exist but could name you the starting line-up for every Maple Leaf team that failed in win a Cup in the preceding 50 years.

This is a battle of 2 heavyweight defenses and arguably the best two front 4’s in the CFL.  Going to be a tough night for the O-lines and QBs. As good as Toronto’s D is overall, when they decide to try there is no better defensive group then the Stamps. I expect a low scoring affair. Not great news for a guy who got stuck with both teams needing to score over 48 in the office charity Grey Cup pool. The big challenge for Calgary’s D will be shutting down James Wilder. If they can make him a non-factor then Toronto is in big trouble. Without the balance he brings (both as a runner and pass catcher) the Calgary D-line will start teeing off on Ricky Ray. Given that it would probably take until Grey Cup 106 for Ray to run way from pressure, keeping that from happening is Trestman’s #1 priority. Also need to find a way to get SJ Green involved. HE was very quiet in the East Final but in championship games your studs need to be your studs. I expect Calgary will lock Tommie Campbell on him.

For Calgary their offense revolves around 2 guys. They need Messam to pound along the ground and McDaniel to be Bo’s security blanket. Certainly guys like Finch, Jorden and Daniels have big play ability but in a game they will likely be a defensive battle the reliable chain movers like Messam and McDaniel will be the keys to victory. I give the edge to the Calgary O-line here as no QB faced less pressure than Mitchell.

If we are being honest with ourselves, we want to see two things on Sunday. #1  Calgary lose. #2 – Dancing Sharks and backflipping snowmobiles…. Or… or…. Dancing shark doing back flips on a snowmobile. Give the people what they want! It’s actually for this reason my attempts to launch a career as a halftime show planner failed.

Them - Umm… Mr Prophet do you have any ideas that don’t involve mascots or snowmobiles?
Me – First off I don’t see the need for any other ideas. Second, of course I have other ideas.
Them – That we can show on television?
Me – I’ll just show myself out.

I will be cheering for the Argos on Sunday but if I was a better man (something you all know is true), I would unfortunately be betting on the Stamps. I think the Stamps D grinds out a close victory. Say 20 – 15. But it would sure be nice if old man Ray had some magic left in him.

Enjoy the game.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The End Of The Line

Riders 21 - Argos 25

Months and years from now when we look back on the 2017 season it will be viewed as a successful year. We went from a train wreck in 2016, overcame a 2-6 start and came within 1 score of a Grey Cup appearance. We went from basement dweller to legitimate contender. But for now in the days following the East Final we can only feel great disappointment and a as if a big opportunity was missed. 

Let me get a couple things out of the way before proceeding:
1 - If you think our defense cost us the game, you're an idiot
2 - If you think the refs cost us the the game, you're an idiot
3 - If you actually think there is some kind of anti-Rider conspiracy  you're... you guessed it, an idiot.

With that out of the way, onto the game...

That game was 3 quarters of misery followed by a 4th quarter than was a roller coaster of emotion from the highest of highs, to pretty low (given our history of heartbreak you can't even put that game among the top 10 in disappointments).  I went from cheering so enthusiastically that animals and small children got scared to cursing so prufusely that said small children learned some new new words (It's ok, they weren't my kids). On one side of the ball we were playing some of the best football you will see. On the other, I'm not even sure what we were doing could be considered football... until the 4th quarter.

I can't say enough about the job the defense did. We should have been pummeled by the Argos but the D somehow kept us in the game. They forced 3 turnovers, they kept Wilder largely in check, they kept SJ Green a non-factor. They did all this while receiving not only zero support from their O but having their O actively working against them. Yeah they couldn't get the stop they needed on that final drive but there is no way you can fault them. They played their asses off and were the only reason we had a chance.

Offense started great with a nice drive for a FG. Then there was about 40 minutes where it was like watching flashbacks of Michael Bishop's '08 playoff game or Kerry Joseph's '14 playoff game. Kevin Glenn decided to be the crappy, playoff choking version of Glenn, and was intent on ensuring every Argo defender had a reception. It was weird because when we pulled him the first time I was pissed because I didn't think he was doing that bad yet. Bridge came in and was equally terrible (though in a less "here Toronto, take the ball" kind of way). Glenn came back in and well I'm actively trying to repress that part of the game with rye. Something clicked in the 4th and Bridge finally put a drive together but it was a matter of too little too late. For me, the creativity of last week's O was gone. No sweep to Owens, no screens against pressure, lackluster run game, forgetting Duron Carter existed for the 2nd and 3rd. We knew coming in that the Argos would get pressure and still seemed powerless to do anything about it until too late in the game.  You can't win a playoff game when you don't play offense for 3 quarters. Feels an appropriate time to break out this timeless Mo Lloyd quote from 2008: "You can play against the deaf, blind and the homeless and you will never win a game with (seven) turnovers''

Man is Christion Jones electric! As much as I knew there was a ton of time left on the clock, I so thought he'd stolen the game for us.

As I said, we will eventually look be back and be proud of the steps we took in 2017. But it's a bitter pill to swallow knowing that even 1 more quarter of quasi-respectable offense and we are likely still playing football. Oh well. We walk off with our heads help high, knowing that even though it wasn't our best game, we still fought tooth and nail until the final whistle. I bet bosses across the prairies are happy, productivity just avoided a cataclysmic drop.

Thanks to all for another great season. I love the interaction on Twitter and in the comments (even those idiots who say I have green tinted glasses when I predict the Riders to lose, entertain me). Stick with me through the offseason as I'll have coverage of the Grey Cup and all the offseason goings on. Not to mention a ton of filler posts to keep you entertained over the dreary winter break.

Other random thoughts on the game:
- Chris Jones is the model of consistency. +30 or -20... same outfit. I wonder if he only has one shirt or a closet with like 20 of the same shirt?

- When I lamented Bradbury being named our ref, I got a ton of "at least its not Proulx" from folks on the interwebs. I realize I'm in the minority but I think Proulx is a damn good ref. I'll be starting a fan club complete with T-shirts next season.  I fully realize no one will by the shirts since its essentially like wearing a kick me sign but its the thought that counts.

- I get that it wasn't blatant but I still don't understand how that wasn't roughing the passer on the pick 6. I've seen less contact on a QBs head get called. By the way I get the irony of being mad at Bradbury for not throwing a flag. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Riders vs. Argos: East Final

Well here you have it Rider Nation, after spending much of the season lamenting that we did not play in the much weaker East division, we now have an opportunity to represent the East in the Grey Cup. I doubt many thought we would find ourselves one game away from the Grey Cup after our offseason/rocky start. Turns out there may be method to Jones’ madness (though I will say that at time he is a bit heavy on the madness even for my liking). At a combined age of 243, Glenn and Ray may be the oldest combined starting QB age in playoff history (at least if you exclude games where Damon Allen played).

That East-Semi win was sweet but we have to put that behind us as Toronto represents a very different type of challenge. Unlike Ottawa I don’t expect Trestman to not try and pressure Glenn and forget he has a good running back at his disposal. Jones and his staff we need to come up with new game plans on both sides of the ball.

Offensively the key will be dealing with pressure. I don’t know what game film Rick Campbell watched but let’s assume Cory Chamblin (Chamberlin as he’s still often referred to around these parts) watched the vast amounts of footage showing Kevin Glenn/our line struggling when pressure is sent. Toronto has a very talented front 4 and thus the ability to get pressure without relying on blitzing (though you can bet those will come too). Our O-line will need to step up and play their best. McAdoo can also help by keeping Thigpen heavily involved. Toronto is #1 against the run so it may be slow going at times but we need to stay committed to keep the offense balanced and the D-ends from teeing off on Glenn (not to mention that Thigpen is a threat to break one on any play). Keep the Owens sweep going, toss in some swings/screens. Hopefully Glenn is as dialed in as he was last week because he’ll need to make quick decisions. Get Carter involved early again, lean on Roosevelt when in doubt and look for Owens. With all the focus on our big 3 and Thigpen I think Owens could have himself a big game. First and foremost, we need to control the ball. The stakes will be high and turnovers can be killers… just ask the RedBlacks.

Defensively, for all the hype that Ricky Ray and that passing game will get (deservedly so), the #1 thing we need to concern ourselves with is shutting down Wilder (easier said than done). In just 10 games Wilder put up 1400 yards. Trestman loves to use his RB both as a runner and a receiver and Wilder has been deadly at both. Pressure and sound tackling from the front 7 will be key. Even if we do manage to contain Wilder, Ricky Ray is still a pretty good QB and has some quality weapons in Green, Posey and Edwards (that Dyakowski/Edwards trade was one of those that works out great for both sides). Our DBs need to bring their A game (I’m looking at you Kacy Rodgers). Toronto chews up a ton of yards (#2 in offensive yards) but doesn’t score a ton of points (lowest scoring offense of any of the playoff teams) thought they were better down the stretch. In their last 7 games their failed to crack 29 points only once… and it just so happens that was against the Riders. Toronto can beat you in a lot of ways so we need be disciplined on D. We also need to make every play that presents itself as I don’t see Ray making as many mistakes as Harris did so we need to seize the few opportunities there may be.

For the second week in a row we get a match-up of marquee returners. Both Jones and Martese Jackson have multiple kick return TDs to their name. The team that best manages to corral the opposing returner will have a big advantage in this game and I really like how our special teams have played all season on both sides.

There’s no denying that Toronto became a stronger team down the stretch and they pose a far more formidable opponent than the RedBlacks mainly because they have a veteran QB and more playmakers on defense. While prepping to write my pre game preview I always pour over the stats and pull out interesting ones. I also make up stats when I can’t find any good ones. Just kidding… or am I? Most of you are too lazy to prove me wrong even if you wanted to (insulting your readers is always good practice right?). Anyway, the stat that is the most telling for me headed into this game is this: Toronto is 3 and 7 versus the West (and 1 of those wins was a victory over BC in a game that was meaningless to the already eliminated Lions). Toronto is no pushover but I think they are beatable. The Rider have the ability to make big time plays in all 3 phases of the game. Between that and Toronto’s struggles against Western opponents, I like the Riders to prevail in what will essentially be a home game for them.

Riders by a Duron TD.