Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Saluting Durant

The news hit Friday morning like an earthquake across the prairies. Months of speculation was finally put to rest as the Darian Durant era ended in Riderville. While the rightness or wrongness of the move will be debated endlessly, today's post will not focus on the trade but rather honouring the man leaving town. In a rare change of pace, this will be a relatively serious post devoid of most of the normal smart assery and humour that fills this space .

Over the years I have grown fond of many players but have developed a strong emotional attachment to very few. Durant was one of those few. It took a couple years to find out what we had in this unassuming 3rd string QB from North Carolina but once we did he went on a meteoric rise to stardom. I won't lie and say I knew from day 1 that he was special. In fact, I distinctly remember after that first game in '08 the nicest thing I had to say was that he managed to do just enough for us not to lose. But he quickly won me over during the hot streak that ended with a blatant dirty hit to his ribs... which sadly paved the way for the Michael Bishop era (a fact that I'm still mildly bitter about). Though he ended that season in less than superstar fashion, I was sold. We had our QB.

In 2009, he vindicated my view by leading us to the Grey Cup. While the end is something no self respecting Rider fan ever wants to discuss, Durant played like a champion and cemented his status as one of the League's top QBs. He followed up in 2010 and one his best statistical regular seasons  (highest passing and rushing totals of his career). He also led the team back to the Grey Cup looking to right the wrongs of the previous year. Unfortunately, the season had taken its toll on his body and he was a shell of his normal self in that game. He gritted it out pretty good but he was not near healthy enough to carry the team.

Then came some tough times. 2011 was brutal and while it wasn't all Durant's faults (I mean this was the short-lived era of the coach who said it wasn't his job to motivate the players) his play slipped. Critics began to muse aloud if Durant would be able to make the transition from young hot shot running QB to poised passer. It was a transition that many failed to make (such as Nealon Greene... though the presence of tangible talent separated Durant from Greene but I digress). 2012 brought a new coach and a chance for Durant to show he'd made that next step in his development. It was an up and down year and certainly Durant was not the model of consistency but though they lost the game, in the west semi that year I saw a Durant that  had clearly taken that next step.

Durant was always a guy who like to prove people wrong but he entered 2013 with a chip on his shoulder the likes of which I'd never seen. He was focused and driven by only one goal. Under the guidance of George Cortez he posted career highs in TD passes and QB Rating. That year also brought one of my favourite off-field memories of Durant. He called someone on social media a "dumb f*%$" (the guy deserved it).

If you ever want to watch a QB play at the absolute highest level possible, go back and watch the 2013 playoff run Durant had. He was on a whole other level and took the team on his shoulders and took them all the way to the single greatest moment in Rider history. He had finally cemented his rightful place among the champions.

I was convinced that Durant would be the first Rider QB to win 2 Grey Cups. And the way 2014 started it looked like he would not have to wait long. A freak injury derailed that dream and set in motion a chain of unfortunate events that ultimately led to his departure. The only good thing was that his final moment as a Rider is a happy moment. For a fan base that booed the greatest player in franchise history in his final home appearance, you really can't ask for a better moment than this to end on. Maybe its for the best that we didn't know this was it (otherwise there may have been a lot more dust in my eyes).

Both on and off the field few have represented this team as well as he has. I hope many people realize like I have that we witnessed the second best QB in franchise history. Players like him don't come around very often. Thanks for every Double D.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Catching Up

As expected the new year has brought with it a resurgence on CFL news... from restructured contracts, to extensions, to NFL deals to the general rumour mill. From a Rider perspective there has certainly been some good news as well as some... well I'm not sure how to classify it but its certainly not good.

Let's start with the good. Kicker Tyler Crapigna has been extended through 2019. This is great news! He is a young, rock solid, Canadian talent. He puts in the "In Ya" in Crapigna (sorry that's the best you're going to get from me in mid-January). If you exclude his trainwreck of a Labour Day, he was damn-near robotic and was 5 for 7 on kicks over 45 yards. Locking him up is important. Along with the extensions given to Roosevelt, Cox, and Gainey, the Riders are making good strides in re-establishing the core of the team. Were it not for the fact that there is a huge pile of uncertainty at the most important position I would feel pretty good about where the team is at.

Which brings us to the not good news. The Riders (after apparently unsuccessfully exploring trading him to Montreal for Vernon Adams) have made another contract offer to Durant. Depending on who you listen to the offer may be less than previous ones and may be just for optics. So, yeah, things are going well.

Here's the deal... I get those of you in the "time to move on camp". Yes, Durant is up there in years. Yes, he's not currently among the top QBs in the league. I love Durant and want him back but I can be sold on the logic of moving on. BUT... there's one Nik Lewis sized problem with that plan. There is literally no other better option (with no apologies to Mitchell Gale and Brandon Bridge). The logic of "move onto a young QB of the future and sign Glenn to back him up" is great but only works if said QB of the future exists.

There's a concept in negotiations called a BATNA. Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Basically, your BATNA is what your option is if you walk away from negotiations (look at all the useless knowledge you gain reading this blog). In Durant's case, his BATNA is to see what Montreal will pay him. This is a decent BATNA so he has little incentive to give up much in negotiations with the Riders. The Riders BATNA, is to enter the opening season at a new stadium with Gale at QB (or possibly Glenn now). Unlike Durant, their BATNA sucks so unless they unearth a better BATNA and quick, logic dictates they better keep negotiating. I'm sick and tired of losing and Durant is by far our best option at winning. I can't afford to drink away any more sorrows at the inflated drink prices sure to be in the new stadium. I personally thinks its insanity to just assume we can find the QB of the future... particularly given the long line of failed attempts last season: Coleman, Huesman, Kinne, Moniz, Lee, Smith, Waters, Sims etc... Until such time as a viable new QB actually appears on the scene, any option other than Durant for 2017 just seems crazy to me.

NFL Watch
Richie Leone (BC) - signed with Arizona
Deon Lacey (Edm) - signed with Miami
Derel Walker (Edm) - signed with Tampa Bay
Mitchell White (Ott) - signed with Philadephia
Jeff Richards (Ott) - signed with Carolina
Adam Bighill (BC) - signed with New Orleans
Forrest Hightower (Ott) - signed with New Orleans
Frank Beltre (Cal) - signed with NY Jets
Anthony Gaitor (BC) - signed with New Orleans

Greg Ellingson (Ott) - tried out with Tampa Bay
Otha Foster (Sk) - tried out with Kansas City
Kenny Shaw (Tor) - tried out with Oakland
Tony Burnett (Win) - tried out with San Diego, NY Jets
Bryan Burham (BC) - tried out with Cincinnati
Mic'Hael Brooks (BC) - tried out with Seattle, Jacksonville
Alex Bazzie (BC) - tried out with Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Oakland
Nevis Drake (Ham) - tried out with Carolina
Quincy McDuffie (Win) - tried out with Denver
Diontae Spencer (Tor) - tried out with Los Angeles
Greg Van Roten (Tor) - tried out with Seattle
Troy Stoudemire (Edm) - tried out with Los Angeles
Derek Dennis (Cal) - tried out with Carolina, Washington, Chigago
Bo Lokombo (BC) - tried out with Cleveland
Cleyon Laing (Ott) - tried out with Miami, Cincinati
Darvin Adams (Win) - tried out with Cincinnati
Gabriel Knapton (Mtl) - tried out with Jacksonville

CFL Ins and Outs

In: K Tyler Crapigna (contract extension), WR Kelvin Muamba, DL Jordan Reaves (re-signed), RB Daniel Thomas (free agent signing)

In: WR Kamar Jorden, DL Quinn Smith (contract extension)
Out: DL Frank Beltre (signed in NFL)

In: DB Keynan Parker, FB Rolly Lumbala (contract extension)
Out: K Richie Leone, LB Adam Bighill, DB Anthony Gaitor (signed in NFL)

Out: LB Deon Lacey, WR Derel Walker (signed in NFL)

In: K Justin Medlock, OL Stanley Bryant, QB Dominique Davis, WR Gerrard Sheppard (contract extension)
Out: QB Kevin Glenn (released)

Out: DB Forest Hightower, DB Mitchell White, DB Jeff Richards (signed in NFL)

In: QB Drew Willy (contract restructured)

In: WR Nik Lewis (contract extension)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday Morning Senitmonies: Happy New Year

Welcome to 2017.

Hopefully you a good holiday season filled with friends, food and cursing at teenage hockey players... what could be more Canadian?

With the new salary cap year upon us expect CFL news to pick up soon. For now though, I thought we'd start the year on a lighter note. In the spirit of the New Year I present to you resolutions from all 9 CFL teams:

BC Lions
Wally Buono resolves to finally listen to what the fans have been yelling at him and spend less time on the field.

That crazy guy who beats the drum resolves to switch to decaf (seriously, I personally am likely to die of a coronary in the stands and that guy makes me look like Gandhi by comparison)

Edmonton Eskimos
Jason Maas resolves to make up for all the people in the League he's pissed off in his short tenure in Edmonton by sending a fruit tray to the League office.

Mike Benevides resolves to find a happy medium between the hobo-wear he sports on the sidelines and mafia kingpin-wear he wore while on the TSN panel.

Calgary Stampeders
Quick six resolves to hold out for a contract involving reduces work hours, higher quality feed and the ability to poop wherever it wants.

The Stamps resolves to make Drew Tate's role on the team even less significant (having already lost the starting job to Mitchell and the plunge role to Buckley).

Saskatchewan Roughriders
Chris Jones resolves to expend his wardrobe by experimenting with different shades of black. He may also get so brazen that he undoes the top button on special occasions.

The Riders resolves to finally once again play meaningful football in October (please, I beg you).

Winnipeg Blue Bombers
With the money from his new extension, Mike O'Shea resolves to exchange his shabby shorts and hoodies for slightly more upscale shorts and hoodies.

Bomber fans resolve to just come to terms with the fact that they are probably still one or 2 decades away from another Grey Cup win.

Hamilton Ti-Cats
Kent Austin resolves to work on his anger management issues... and by "work on" he means get more proficient at yelling at people.

John Chick resolves to get his wife pregnant again (assuming she isn't already).

Toronto Argonauts
Jim Barker resolves that this is the year that he finally quits Ricky Ray... but only if Ray retires.

Drew Willy resolves that in a dramatic change from the norm he will adopt his wife's last name to finally bring an end to all the Willy jokes.

Toronto residents resolves to care slightly more about the Argo football... though not enough to actually tangibly support the team.

Montreal Alouettes
The Als resolves to find a way to still someohow have Jim Popp end up as interim head coach this season.

Kavis Reed resolves to come up with a new ridiculous catch phrase in honour of his new job to replace "Consequence" and "What say you?"

Ottawa RedBlacks
Henry Burris resolves that when the RedBlack QB situation inevitably dissolves into a Favre/Rodgers scenario, he won't go full Favre and start texting pics of his junk.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi Coherent Thoughts

We've reached that point in the offseason where I try to spin 1 or 2 shreds of CFL news into a somewhat draw out post in an attempt to provide content, lest you learn that you can live without my weekly sentimonies (you can't and don't you forget it). I'll start by opining on what's going on across the CFL (spoiler alert, it's nothing) and end with a listing of what CFLers are getting NFL tryouts.

- The big news is Kavis Reed being named GM in Montreal. There are usually concerns when a successful coach makes the jump from coaching to front office... so understandably there is a great deal more when a not successful assistant coach makes the jump to GM. By the way the news articles on this are incorrectly reporting that Reed was the successful man in the GM search. The more accurate report would be that he was the only one crazy enough to step into the current Alouette mess.

- The Reed/Chapdelaine combo has already led to rampant speculation that the Als will target Durant in free agency. I could certainly see the interest and if I'm Durant, a viable suitor certainly increases your bargaining power. I still keep telling myself that this will all sort itself out and Durant will be back in green and white... though I'm hedging by bets and stockpiling whiskey in the event that I'm wrong about that.

- You can tell who is in a good salary cap position by who has the space to re-sign people in December. If you have unused cap space you use it now to get a leg up on re-signing players. We have extended Roosevelt and Cox so we must have some $$. BC, Ottawa Calgary and Edmonton are too.

NFL Watch
Here's a list of CFL players who have had NFL tryouts so far
Greg Ellingson - Chicago
Adam Bighill - New Orleans
Otha Foster - New Orleans
Kenny Shaw - Chicago
Khalil Bass - New Orleans
Tony Burnett - New Orleans, Detroit
Bryan Burnham - Minnesota, Arizona, New York Jets
Mic'hael Brooks - Minnesota, New England, New York Jets
Alex Bazzie - Minnesota, Arizona
Deon Lacey - Minnesota, New England, Denver, Detroit
Derel Walker - Minnesota, Chicago, New Orleans
Nevis Drake - New Orleans
Richie Leone - Arizona
Shakir Bell - New England
Quincy McDuffie - New York Jets
Diontae Spencer - New York Jets
Greg Van Roten - New York Jets
Frank Beltre - New York Jets
Mitchell White - New York Jets
Forest Hightower - Detroit

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Assessing Free Agents

For the most part all is quiet across the CFL landscape... with the exception of Montreal where Plan A was a Maciocia/Taman combo and plan B appears to be Kavis Reed. While I feel that we have been denied some comedic gold with Maciocia spurning the Als, Kavis Reed is one hell of a consolation prize. That is of course unless you are an Alouette fan, in which case this is the equivalent of coal in your stocking, when what you really wanted was a slightly less crappy lump of coal.

Today, I will delve into the list of potential Rider free agents and opine on who we should be priority re-signings and who shouldn't let the door hit them on the way out (provided they weren't already among the literally hundreds already cut by Jones). I will leave Durant our of this analysis. I've already written plenty about him and there' been no new news. There's only so many ways I can say that there are no viable alternatives that would represent an improvement.

Top Priority:
When I look at the list of pending FAs, 2 names stand out above the others: Otha Foster and Willie Jefferson. Foster was an unheralded but key piece of our defense. He is a veteran leader who plays the very difficult cover LB spot and can drop and play HB. Getting him back would be huge step in establishing an impact D. Jefferson played only a few games with us but was easily the most impactful d-lineman of the season (not that the bar was set high). A pass rush is key to pretty much anything you do defensively and Jefferson is an athletic freak who can chase a QB, drop into coverage and knock passes down. The fact that he's an athletic freak who is not one of Jones' conversion from another sport projects is also a plus in my books.

Important targets:
Not an absolute must, but I would like to see these players back.
Dylan Ainsworth - There's a huge question mark on him after missing all of 2016 due to injury but he can provide needed Cdn depth on DL and is a very solid special teamer when healthy.
Thaddeus Coleman - He's an adequate lineman but for a team with no OL depth that's good enough to warrant attention.
Jeff Hecht - Similar to Coleman he's adequate at best but really solidified the safety spot. I think we should be looking for the safety of the future but Hecht should be retained so we at least have a reliable option if that doesn't pan out.
Andrew Lue - Lue is part of the seach for safety of the future. He's young, Canadian and has potential to be a safety or at least contribute on teams.
Jorgen Hus - A reliable snapper is a must... plus his name is Jorgen, not many teams employ a Jorgen (at least outside of Europe)
Jeff Knox - The presence of Eguavoen, Jones and Muamba push him off the top priority list but Knox is still a guy I would love to have back.
Gregory Alexandre - Can provide depth at Cdn defensive tackle (which is important if we plan to start Gaydosh)

I honestly don't care whether these people return or not.
Phil Bates
Ivan Brown - love his energy and hustle
Randy Chevrier - good emergency fill in but not likely in the future plans
Jeff Fuller - extremely talented but is made of glass we have a bunch of good import WRs so not sure how much $$ you want to tie up in him with more glaring needs
Mitchell Gale - if needed he's an adequate back-up QB but I'd like to think we can find better (our current track record would disagree though)
Corvey Irvin - Was a much hyped offseason signing but was pretty underwhelming for most of the season. I'd take him back but for what he did last season there are probably cheaper options.
Curtis Steele - He's a decent blocker and had some good games (when we actually decided to run) but I'd like to think we can find an impact running back as opposed to an adequate one (like McKnight could have been)
Jonathan Williams - Between age and injury, not sure what he has left

I think we should see other people
Shamawd Chambers - In retrospect it would have been equally as beneficial to just keep Getzalf. We are not exactly in a position to be too picky about Canadians but his salary can likely be put to better use.
Matt Webster - Never been a Webster fan and I'd like to think that we are to a point where the fact that he is a token Canadian Special teamer does not equate to long-term tenure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Welcome to the offseason

The weather is bitterly cold and there is no football for the foreseeable future (I'm mean sure there is the NFL but as a Vikings fan I'm doing my best to block from my memory)... clearly the offseason is upon us. And things get different in the offseason. I mean clearly not the punctuality of my posting which is as erratic as ever but other things.

For those of you new to the CFL offseason here's the low down. There will be a flury of news between now and the first week of January as teams try to re-sign their pending FAs. Then there will be a lull. Then free agency will open... then another lull. Then that combine event here in Regina... and a lull. And so on. I will keep you up to date during the actual notable events and fell your time with mindless filler posts that are occasionally entertaining during the lulls.

Other than the fact that there is growing concern over the future of our franchise qb, our projected starting RB was murdered and a big name defensive end retired (did you really think that 2016 "the year of the retirement" wouldn't end with another retirement?) it's been a relatively uneventful offseason. Pretty sure we are just missing "criminal charges" and "social media faux-pas " for a line in ridiculous offseason occurrences bingo.

The list of potential free agents is out. Outside of Durant, names like Otha Foster and Willie Jefferson jump out as priorities. On the topic of Jefferson, turns out both he and Fuller signed one year deals upon returning from the NFL. I'd be very curious how much we paid them because unless it was substantially more than others were offering they would be stupid to sign with a non-playoff team and miss out on playoff money. Either we made it worth their while or they need to find new agents.

I will have a full analysis (or at least half assed analysis) on our pending FAs next week. I would expect a singing or two before Dec 31 and then a bunch more in early January when the new salary cap year starts. For now I will leave you to your Christmas shopping... which by the way a donation is a loved one's name to the Rider Prophet fund makes a great gift. I'm not a registered charity or anything but I'll gladly accept your donations just the same.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Holy Hell

The 2016 CFL season ended with a huge bang (and I'm not talking about what most of the RedBlacks likely did after the game). What started as a so-so spectacle of an unstoppable force crumbling like a prairie highway, ended with one of the most dramatic, ridiculous finishes seen in many years. Miracle comeback, onside kick, a kneel down that featured more F-bombs than are normally uttered during a Rider loss, overtime, bobble catch. It was crazy! An outstanding way for the CFL to cap off the season!

I'll be the first to admit that seeing Burris choke would have been entertaining, but seeing Calgary choke is certainly a damn good consolation prize. Their stingy D looked lost for most of the first half. Jamar Wall uncharacteristically got worked over. Bo Levi Mitchell looked like he decided to come to the Grey Cup as Bad Hank. To their credit they managed to overcome all the odds and fight their way back. Hell if they knew how to get 2 yards they probably would have won (at least they didn't go full Seahawks and throw a pick).

As for Ottawa, I feel very happy for their fans. I feel mostly happy for the players and coaches and feel a mild bit of contempt for the doctors who managed to unlock Burris' knee and rob me of my perfect Harris as QB scenario after teasing me with the possibility. Give them full credit, they took it to the best team in the CFL and made them look very average. I'm sure both Burris and Sinopoli both appreciate the blacks squares they got to honour their achievements as Grey Cup MVP and Most Outstanding Canadian. Can't we envy pop for something with class leading technology and stuff?

Side note (and I know this makes me a terrible person) but for how much they harped on it, is anyone else even the tiniest bit skeptical that the whole Burris knee thing was fabricated? I don't think that would actually happen but it did seem to make for a very convenial narrative.

And thus ends the 2016 season, but be sure to stay with me throughout the offseason as I do my best to use my wit, humour and analysis to get you through the long offseason. Once the Grey Cup moratorium on news is lifted business will pick up and I will be right there to keep you up to date... or at least within 3-4 days (it's not like I was punctual or reliable at all times during the regular season).