Tuesday, August 11, 2020

HOW THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF THE XFL MIGHT IMPACT THE CFL

The recent news that former Calgary Stampeders man Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson is part of the group that has splashed $15m to take the busted flush that was the XFL from Vince McMahon's company Alpha Entertainment has raised a few eyebrows.

 Here we look at the deal that's taken place and how it could impact the CFL.

What's the deal with the new owners?

Any purchase of the XFL would have hit the headlines but the fact it comes with such a big-name heading thing up has instantly raised awareness of the league. Johnson isn't in it alone though. Also, in the group are Dany Garcia, who was married to Johnson for a decade prior their separation back in 2007 and RedBird Capital, which is a company owned by Gerry Cardinale - a former partner in Goldman Sachs.

Johnson and Garcia have entered the business world together already in the shape of Seven Bucks Productions who have been responsible for movies such as the remakes of Jumanji and Shazam!

The duo has cited their "passion" and "expertise" in the "sports and entertainment" sector as reasons they'll be a success whilst RedBird Capital have their fingers firmly in the sporting pie already.

The big question marks?

In spite of the lifeline offered by Johnson and co, there are still some gaping holes that need to be addressed before we truly understand what a new look XFL will look like. When XFL made it's comeback it did so with some subtle differences to both the NFL and CFL. Like the NFL, the XFL works on 22 players being on the field - a smaller one - at any one time with the play clock greatly shorter at just 25 seconds.

The second nagging thought is around salary because, let's face it, money talks. That also prompts the question of whether or not the number of teams will increase. At the moment, there are significantly fewer game weeks in the XFL compared to north of the border where there are 21 game weeks. That’s nine more than the maximum of 12 in the XFL.

This, of course, means the earnings are averaged at a preferential amount per game. The average salary in the CFL sits somewhere around the $65k CAD mark, which puts it on par with the lower end of the XFL structure. The XFL works based on a tiering system, the bottom end being between $50-70k USD. That doesn't immediately sound like too much of a problem but the upper tier allows salaries up to near on $800k CAD, which will turn a few heads.

Whether the new guys in town tweak any of those rules remains to be seen.

The realistic impact on the CFL

The initial reaction to the announcement has been fairly muted on the CFL front. That said, there have been a few come and get me pleas from players such as one time XFL player and now Ottawa Redblacks wide receiver Jalen Saunders suggested that the CFL needs to “stop lackin” whilst Chris Frey of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats fears a “ton of talent” could turn it’s back on the CFL.

You can understand their concern given the current coronavirus cloud looming over the CFL combined with the salaries possibly available in the XFL and the buzz that the new ownership will generate.

Many sports leagues were left on hold or postponed, such as the Kentucky Derby and that caused quite an economic impact.

Click here to know how the current odds on the Derby are, happening in September.

There is cause for optimism though because there is one thing that people universally don’t like, particularly where paychecks are concerned. That’s uncertainty. The XFL brings that in abundance.

Even so, the odds are that there are bound to be a few CFL players who jump ship and the players who emerge from the college system but miss out on the NFL will now have multiple options close to home, which could further dilute the talent pool in Canada. The reverse of this though, which cannot be completely ignored, is that the CFL rule makers increase the salary cap. If that was to occur, then there is an argument to say that the overall quality of the CFL could increase.

And how will the Roughriders be impacted?

Even in a world that sees the XFL take a fair share of CFL talent, I’d fully expect the Roughriders to come out the other side smiling. Could some of our players leave? Sure, they could.

Could our college targets opt for the XFL? Indeed. The same is true for every other team in the CFL too though and with pull of Saskatchewan a big one in Canada there is no reason why the roster compared to the rest of the league shouldn’t be in a stronger position than it is now.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 90-99

I suppose its time for me to finish of this salute to the greatest Riders by number that started back in April. I was kinda holding out hope that I could talk about actual football instead but I have a feeling that if I wait on the CFL to figure out a plan I won’t need to wear a fake white wig and beard because I will actually be that old. Look you have the notoriously ill-planned CFL dealing with the government (known for their speedy response times)… they should honestly just submit the 2021 restart plan now if they want approval to play by next summer.

So back to the salute.

We finish off with the 90s and a look at best pass rushers in franchise history. Well technically most of the best pass rushers didn’t wear 90 so its some of the best pass rushers.

90 – If this was a self-nomination then clearly Stevie Baggs would win. Not only would he consider himself the best player to wear 90 but the best defensive player ever. Brent Hawkins had potential but a bum shoulder always limited him. So although he really only had one good season, and it was arguably due mostly to playing opposite of John Chick, DL Stevie Baggs takes this on account of a lack of competition.

91 – In the early 2000’s there wasn’t a lot of good going on. We were building to better things but the on field payoff would not be for a couple years. DL Demetrious Maxie was one of the few bright spots during that period, notching a career high 11 sacks in 2000.

92 – The winner of this number has had a very odd career as a Rider. He made the team straight out of junior and had his formative years in green and white. Then just as he was about to hit his prime, a certain GM (not known for always making the best decisions) left him inexplicably unprotected in the expansion draft and Ottawa wisely swooped him and benefited from his prime years. The we repatriated him after a 4 year hiatus. Interestingly enough only 3 of his career 24 sacks have come as a Rider. I maintain that he’s on a sharp downward trend in his career but DL Zach Evans still remains the best #92.

93 – His career didn’t end on the best of terms (there was some legal issues) but prior to all that DL Terrius George put up 32 sacks and was a member of the 2013 Grey Cup team .

94 This was almost a default number. There are not a lot of people period to wear #94, let alone good people to wear it. Kyle Mitchell played 4 games and had 10 tackles. Dario Romero played a full season in 2011 (a fact I’d completely forgotten about). That’s pretty much the list unless you want me to look into the best player to wear 94 in training camp and get cut. So DL Dario Romero gets it, I guess.

95 – A couple solid Canadian options at 95. Mullinder was never a top end player but he was underrated rotational contributor who played an important role during his tenure. But this one has to go to DL Rickey Foley. He spent just 2 seasons in Green and white but he had 20 sacks in time period and was big part of the defense that led us to the Cup in 2013. Man I think back to that D-line… Foley, Chick, George, Hall. That’s almost not fair.

96 – There’s an obvious choice here and I am going to make it but I want to preface it with the following. In terms of top all-time personalities there is no denying this person’s greatness. But on the field I would argue that he was a decent to above average DT who benefited from playing alongside a damn near unstoppable beast. But lines like "fat, sassy pigs" and "I would make that his on Jesus himself" earn DL Scott Schultz this one.  

97 – Without question, the best pass rusher to play for the Riders in the 2000s. He’s 4th all-time in sacks with 53 sacks (a number eclipsed only by the number of children he fathered). Twice an all-star as a Rider, Most Outstanding defensive player in 2009 and one of 3 people ever to earn 2 Grey Cup rings as a Rider player… oh and he just happened to do all that as a diabetic. DL John Chick.

98 – I’ve seen a lot of dominant defensive players for the Riders but precious few that you could say were too good for the CFL. In his prime, DL Nate Davis was one of those. He legit should have been the NFL but that didn’t work out so Shivers scooped him and instantly made our D-line a force. Through that ’03-’04 period he was a one man wrecking crew. Doubled, tripled, he commanded a ton of attention. Also his signature dreadlocks pretty much guaranteed that his helmet would come off a minimum of twice a game. He was a scary dude. 

99 – Last but not least, the final number in this salute. Shomari William wore this number but that one didn’t really pan out. Alex Hall wore it, in his brief stint with the Riders (legitimately a great player but was only really here for the 2013 playoff run and a return for the 2015 season… what a wonderful year that was sigh). So this one goes to DL AC Leonard. At first I was convinced he was a product of the Chris Jones system and playing opposite of Willie Jefferson. But he has become a consistent performer regardless of system of teammates… not bad for a converted tight end. Legitimately probably the only Chris Jones “project” that actually panned out.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

REMEMBERING THE ROUGHRIDERS GREY CUP WINS


It’s fair to say the last few years haven’t quite gone to plan with a combination of play-off failures and failure to even make the play-offs giving us Roughriders supporters a rough ride of things. We’re not here for moping around though so we’re going to look on the brighter side of life by taking a walk down memory lane as we look back on the four Grey Cup successes we’ve had over the years.


1989


The 1989 season looked like being bang average for so long that the fact it now ranks amongst the best in Roughriders history is almost hard to believe. Throughout the regular season the most consistent run of form the team showed was a streak of four losses. With regards to recording victories the most they mustered back to back was two giving them an overall record of 9-9. 


Thankfully, that form improved in the post season as the Roughriders bounced back from a final day 49-17 thrashing at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos to put three wins together ironically with the West Final coming in the form of a 32-21 victory over the Eskimos. The Grey Cup match got off to a sticky start with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats easing into a first quarter lead, but Kent Austin and Dave Ridgeway starred to bring home the second Grey Cup in Roughriders history with a narrow win.


2007


The 2007 campaign was all about Kerry Joseph as he was named Most Outstanding Player. Rightly so too with a contribution of over 4,000 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. Of course, there was a team game to be considered too and it just so happened the Roughriders turned in one of their best years for a couple of decades as they ended the regular season with just six defeats to their name. It meant they finished second behind the BC Lions. 


A standout moment came in game week five. The Roughriders welcomes Edmonton to Taylor Field and turned them over a whopping 54-14 making it their sixth best offensive points return in history (it’s now ninth in that list). It was also the start of a five-game winning run. 


Come the post season, a West final against the Lions had the odds stacked against the Saskatchewan side but what transpired was four quarters where the Lions failed to dominate any. In the Grey Cup match, the Roughriders ended their drought with a hard earned 23-19 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who to this day blame their defeat on the absence of quarterback Kevin Glenn. We don’t care one bit.


2013


The 2013 offseason was a busy one with a host of staff changes; most notably the arrival of former Hamilton Tiger-Cats coach George Cortez, who had been part of the Roughriders staff years earlier. Any question marks over the new setup were soon put to bed as the Roughriders lost just one of their opening nine fixtures with a shutout win over the Tiger-Cats a display of the team’s defensive capability alongside what was a relentless offence. A mid-season wobble did knock fan confidence though as the team suffered four defeats on the bounce to lose their grip on top spot in the division. 


Three wins from the last five saw the Roughriders through to the post season though but after overcoming the BC Lions 29-25 a faceoff with the Calgary Stampeders didn’t leave the support with much expectation after they’d emerged victorious twice in the regular season. Not this time though with Darian Durant the man of the moment with three touchdown passes to his name in a 35-13 win. The big match pitted the Roughriders against Cortez’s former side in Saskatchewan. The Tiger-Cats were made to look like fluffy kittens in a comfortable 45-23 win.


Then there was 1966...


The 1966 team picks itself as the greatest of all time with relative ease in our minds. Yes, the team wasn’t flawless as the Roughriders gave away a fair few points throughout the season but the offence, which included All-Stars George Reed and Hugh Campbell, was a force to be reckoned with. 


Seven wins from the first nine matches gave Eagle Keys’ men a tremendous start but the form became inconsistent in the second half of the season as they only won two of their last seven with one tied. Even so, the Roughriders had done enough to scoop the regular season win. 


What came next was a two-game showdown with the Blue Bombers to decide who would be crowned Western champions and head into the Grey Cup season finale. The Roughriders prevailed 2-0 with a 24-7 and 21-19 triumph. 


It all boiled down to one match, the Roughriders showdown. Could the team from Saskatchewan defeat the Ottawa based team of the same name? Damn right they could. A blistering first quarter saw a 14-6 lead established and although a 0-8 second restored parity before a scoreless third, victory was never in doubt. The final quarter came, and Ottawa were sent packing 15-0. It brought the final score to 29-14 meaning the first - and only - clean sweep in Roughriders history was secured.


There you have it, four Grey Cup wins. Here’s to many more moments like those. And if you enjoy football check out the latest odds from the NFL here: https://extra.betamerica.com/nfl/odds/ 



Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Let’s Talk Football


I know you were all looking forward to the thrilling conclusion of my series on the best Riders by number. And don’t worry it will come. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like talking about football. Not theoretical, or historical or absurdly comical football. But real life, present day football.

It’s been a while. My vocal chords are in better shape then they have ever been mid-summer. Wisers called me the other day to see if I was still alive because my purchasing has nosedived. Even my neighbours came to check on me because the loud curse words that usually emanate form house on a weekly basis have gone silent. I’m not dead, just missing football.

You’ll note that since this whole pandemic started I have talked very little actual football. I honestly just started mentally preparing myself for no CFL season. But with every other major league starting their returns and the CFL in a series of discombobulated conversions about its own return… it’s time to jump back in and talk football.

I get asked lots if I think there will be a CFL season. It’s second only to “Could you do up your fly?” in terms of the question I get asked most frequently. The honest answer is I don’t know. Two months ago I would have said zero chance. Today I would say there is a chance, but I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly great one. They have a hub city. As if the pandemic isn’t bad enough, CFL players would have to spend it locked down in Winnipeg. That could be considered capital punishment in some countries. But what the CFL doesn’t have is money or a deal with the players or a Health Canada approved plan. They can probably get a deal with the players but the money… well that’s the major issue. The feds already nixed the Jays so the health plan is also no guarantee. 

With no fans in a gate-driven league money is hard to come by and the federal government appears to the only other source of revenue available. Without it, there will be no season. It’s really that simple. I mean they haven’t tried the trusty old telethon yet but I’ve been pitching that for months with no takers.

The deal with the players will also be tricky. Look I get both sides of this. For the players, they are looking at a best case scenario of a 1/3 of their salary (which for most them is not a lot of money), to play with increased risk in an already risky job, while giving up all their freedom to live in one of the last places anyone outside of Manitoba would want to find themselves, with no answers on what happens if they or their teammates get the virus. Football players may not always be the brightest in our society but even they are smart enough to not be jumping at this high risk/low pay opportunity. Some players are so desperate for money and to play football they will play regardless of the deal. Some players (the higher priced vets) probably make enough to make playing worthwhile. Some may decide to sit out and that’s ok… unless it’s a Rider player and then the punishment is a public flogging and exile… its in the constitution.

I also get the owners' side. Most of them could make more money investing in VLT playing. Their revenues are way, way down so with a 6 game season they really only can offer a portion of the peanuts they normally pay. From their perspective why would you pay a player for games they did not play with money they do not have? (I’m not saying that’s a particularly nice stance, but it’s sound business stance). Football is a great game but a crappy business.

Also, I get people dumping on Randy Ambrosie (and I won’t pretend he’s without fault) but all he is in this is a glorified human shield for the owners. He delivers their message and executes their strategy and takes all the blame. Given freedom of action he may choose a completely different strategy.

So will there be football in 2020? I hope so… but I’m not prepared to bet on it. But it was nice talking football again.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 80-89


After a brief hiatus, we are back. I took a couple weeks’ vacation… it’s one of the few work benefits I was successfully able to negotiate when I signed on for this gig. I spent the time researching the effects of whether or not beer and fishing increase the effectiveness of social distancing. I can conclusively say I found no evidence to disprove my theory.

The 80s are all about receivers. The lists starts and ends with some of the best receivers in the history of the franchise. The middle of the list proves that, much like the franchise itself, the mid-eighties leave a bit to be desired.

80 – We start off with a hall of famer and record holder for most consecutive games with a catch (a mark that will likely never even come close to be being in danger of being broke). WR Don Narcisse. Narco’s patented celebration dance is as legendary as his career itself.

81 – Though about going Geroy here just to rile people up but I’ll play this one straight. Arguably the best Canadian to ever play for the green and white was WR Ray Elgaard. He is the franchise leader in receiving yards and TDs, is top 10 all-time in CFL history and did most of it with a smoke pressed between his lips. He’s so legendary that any decent football fan will be able to tell you the meaning of the “Elgaard rule”

82 – I know there are a number of people that would want me to put Clermont here. But let’s face it, while Clermont is a Rams legend and a CFL all time great, his years in Saskatchewan where little more than a promotional tour… except that game winning TD in the playoffs that one time. No here I’m going with a recent player, WR Namaan Roosevelt. He arrived amid some pretty terrible years and almost didn’t get the chance he so clearly deserved. Once he got on the field he was productive and showed a willing to sacrifice his body for pretty much any catch.

83 – Roy Shivers does not exactly have the greatest CFL drafting record. But he nailed in in 2006 when he picked WR Andy Fantuz. Probably the best Canadian receiver to play for us since Elgaard. I still marvel at the things he did during that ’07 playoff run. Do yourself a favour and go back and watch those highlights.

84 – This is where things get a but dicey. Top contenders included Elijah Thurmon and Cary Koch. Finally landed on WR Eric Gulliford. Not a long career here but amassed 1800 yards and 12 TDs between 1999 and 2001.


85 – We continue along the dicey train. I refused to give this one to guys like Prechae Rodriguez and Karsten Bailey (both leading candidates at a very weak number). Briefly considered Willis Jacox but eventually landed on WR Kyran Moore. Small sample size but in his 2 years he’s shown he could be one of the greats if he keeps it up.

86– Honestly the best/only option I could find here was WR Demetris Bendross. It was him or Nathan Hoffart.

87 – The last of the week numbers. I had to go with WR Yo Murphy here. Yes his best years came before he arrived here and his he had a minimal role even when he was here but he takes this one unless you can suggest someone more deserving.

88 – Ok back to some quality options. Runner up here is Curtis Marsh. The winner is WR Matt Dominguez. People forget just how dominant a receiver he was up until his injury in ’07.

89 – Some great names pop up here, Jamel Richardson, Duron Carter, Curtis Mayfield. But one name rises above the rest. Look I know I make a lot of fun about his inconstency but stats don’t lie and WR Chris Getzlaf is #5 all-time in the franchise in receiving yards and only 5 people have caught more TDs in green and white then him. He was a hell of a receiver… I will just always wonder how much higher he could have risen had he been able to catch on a consistent basis in stadiums other than McMahon.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 70-79


I figured that this would be one of the most difficult sets of numbers in this series. These days numbers in the 70s are reserved for training camp fodder and practice squad players who hope to someday graduate to a “real” number… with a few exceptions. But it turns out that the 70s has a very rich history and features some of the all-time franchise greats.

70 – The franchise may have been around for a long long time but like most things, it was a long wait for the first player to be named Rookie of the Year. It took until 1981 for a young LB Vince Goldsmith to become the first. He would go on to rack up 130.5 sacks over his career. 7th all time in CFL history.

71 – Speaking of prolific pass rushers… the great one in franchise history just happened to wear #71. He holds the team record in sacks, sits 3rd all-time in CFL history with 140 and his rising sun bandana is one of the all-time iconic looks in the league. I’m talking of course about DL Bobby Jurasin.

72 – Another famous defender checks in here. LB Cleveland Vann. 5 seasons with the team and had an interception in the 1976 Grey Cup… it remains one of the few aspects of that game that people from Saskatchewan are willing to talk about.

73 – Prior to tragic plane crash that killed 3 of his teammates DL Gordon Strutridge was a 3 time all-star and viewed as an important piece of the puzzle for a team trying rise to the top of the CFL.

74 – More competition here than you might expect. Keith Shologan wore the number, as did Chris DeFrance, but few embody the heart and soul of the prairies quite like LB Dan Rashovich. He was never an all-star or award winner but was one of the glue guys that worked hard on special teams and stepped on D when needed.


75 – 7 seasons as a Rider, 3 all-star nods and a Grey Cup ring. DL Garner Ekstran takes this number.

76– This is the part of the list where things start getting a bit sketchy. The only notable 76 I found was LB Tyson St James. Who? You might ask. 1st overall pick in 2000, the very first draft pick of GM Roy Shivers. Viewed as a key build block in the new look Riders… and not longer with the team just 2 season later.

77 – Rakim Cox wore the number, and we all know I find that name hilarious. Dan Clark wore 77 when he scored that iconic diving TD reception. Even Dwan Epps wore it. But this one goes to LB Wally Dempsey who spent 7 years with the team over 2 stints and was part of the 66 team.

78 – I scoured for this number and the best I found was DB Jim Cooper… who played 5 games with the Riders in 1999. He makes the list thanks to the 2 sweetest words in the English language: De Fault.

79 – We end on a higher note here. Could have gone with Turell Jurineak but instead going with a different D-lineman, DL Gary Lewis. 2 time western all-star and part of the 89 team.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 60-69


The 60s feature an impressive cast of some of the best Riders ever. It included many of easiest choices in this entire feature. But as always it also featured some questionable inclusions due to a lack of competition

60 – We start today off with the man who has played more games in Green and White than any player in history. With a resume that features 7 straight west all-stars, 5 CFL all-stars and back to back CFL Most Outstanding lineman, he is arguably the best O-lineman to ever play for us. He also has one of the biggest heads in franchise history. OL Gene Makowksy

61 – One of the first big name defensive linemen in franchise history. In his prime he was a force and a game changing presence. DL Ed McQuarters. He had 3 straight CFL all-star nominations and even continued playing years after losing an eye!

62 – 10 year career in green and white manning the tackle position. OL Vic Stevenson was a important piece in the 89 team. He actually won 2 more Grey Cups after leaving the Riders.

63 – So turns out that good players don’t wear 63. There’s Rene Brassea (the greatest Mexican national to ever dress for the green and white). There’s Derek Dennis (who is worthy of recognition… just not for his time here). I was about to give up and declare my first N/A but fortunately I came across OL Scott Hendrickson. His career spanned some pretty bad years for the franchise but at least he has a career worth mentioning.  

64 – This number appears to be for people are great O-lineman but have their best years with teams other than us. Both Dan Comsikey and Dan Goodspeed (aka Dan Badslow) whore 64.  So out of pure necessity I’m giving the nod to OL Dakota Shepley.  I'm sorry there was no one else (something I'm sure one of my readers will correct within minutes of this post going live). I mean… he was in Deadpool.


65 – Okay, back to the super deserving players. One of the best nicknames in Rider history and his play definitely befit his name. DL Bill Baker “the Undertaker”.

66– Another one of the all-time great Rider OL and another local success story. OL Mike Anderson played for 11 years and in additional to being a steady presence in the middle of the OL, his resume includes a Grey Cup ring and an all-star nod in 1994.

67 – Anyone who suggests Dan Clark is getting slapped. Look, he’s great story, junior to all-star OL. And who knows, if he keeps playing like he did in 2019, he may yet become deserving of being included here. But for now this one goes to another OL… OL Clyde Brock. A dominating offensive tackle who was an all-star in 4 consecutive seasons. Ask George Reed how much he liked playing behind Brock.

68 – Looking back on the Rider O-line in the Shivers era, the level of talent was unreal. Gene Makowsky, Jeremy O’Day, Fred Childress and OL Andrew Greene. 3 of those guys won CFL Most Outstanding lineman awards, 1 would have had he not been playing alongside such big name guys…. And the other guy was Charles Thomas (cue sad trombone music). For all his greatness, Greene was commemorated by Wisers with this outstanding bobblehead.


69 – If you didn’t just pause for childish laughter after reading this number, I’m not sure we can be friends. Fred Childress (the Big Chill) was a consideration but his best years were in Calgary. So I’m ending today’s list instead with a guy who was named a west all-star in 3 of his 5 Riders season… and  was a professional wrestle who fought Jake the Snake Roberts at WrestleMania 2. DL George Wells.