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.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 50-59

We have hit the halfway point of our journey through the greatest players by number. My hope is that at some point I’ll be able to transition to talking about real football but I guess we’ll just have to see.

We are into the 50s which means we are starting to talk about a lot of linemen (something this franchise has a proud history of).

50 – Starting off with a controversial one. Any Rider historian or fan over the age of 45 will point immediately to Wayne Shaw. Not to diminish what a great career Shaw had but this one has to go to LB Jerrell Freeman. Simply put he was one of the most talented players I have every watched. He would fly around the field and always find himself around the ball. He went from an unknown Div 3 player, to a outstanding Rider to an NFL starter. He was unreal to watch.

51 – First name that came to mind was Chunky Adams. Now, I like Chunky for a lot of reasons but had a hard time calling him the greatest. The bar didn’t go a lot higher but OL John Terry gets this one. He was named an all-star twice in his 5 year tenure with the Riders.

52 – Cliff Shaw was an option but I’m sticking with the O-line theme and going OL Wayne Smith. He did not have a particularly long Rider career but he was a top end starting OL that helped put this team over the hump in 2007. He is also part of one of the greatest trades in Rider history… when the Ti-Cats just gifted us everything we needed in exchange for Rocky Butler.

53 – This one was a no brainer. It goes to one of the most unique combinations in all of sports… that being the combination starting O-lineman/Placekicker. Yes you heard me right! OL Jack Abendschan. Not only did he play O-line at an all-star level he also kicked field goals. I don’t think we will even see anything even remotely similar again.

54 – I’ll give him minor demerit points for not being able to kick a FG but for 10 years OL Jeremy O’Day was a rock solid presence in the middle of our OL. He’s arguably the best centre in franchise history.

55 and 56– Doing this in combination as the story is the exact same. Both Mario DeMarco and Ray Syrnyk were top end OL who had their careers ended much too early in a tragic plane crash.

57 – One of the toughest choices of this whole thing. Two Saskatchewan Products. Two talented linemen. Two Grey Cup Champions. Two tough SOBs. Bob Poley is probably more iconic but I’m given I slight edge to OL Brendon LaBatte. He is a 5 time all-star and has won Lineman of the Year. He also had to overcome getting that Winnipeg stink off of him… which is no small accomplishment.

58 – Shonte Peoples anyone? Come on, he was in Frontlyne. Plus he made things interesting off the field. Ok fine. I’ll go with someone who played alongside Labatte. OL Xavier Fulton. In his prime, I don’t think he got credit for how good he was at tackle. Fun fact: we acquired him from Edmonton for a 6th round pick.

59 – I did want to give this to Jocelyn Frenette for being a solid long snapper and excelling as the designated “fake an injury after the convert on a defensive or special teams touchdown so the guys can catch their breath" guy. But OL Ralph Galloway takes this one. 5 straight western all-stars and 2 time CFL all-star.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 40-49

After a brief 1 week hiatus, we are back continuing our look at the greatest Riders by number. I’d offer an explanation for my lack of posting last week but… screw it we are in quarantine I don’t think my lack of effort on any particular day requires an explanation. I'm just impressed I'm wearing pants.

We are now into the 40s.

40 – If you are one of the 8 players in franchise history to have your number retired, you are worthy of being up on the list. Mel Beckett was one of the 4 Rider players to die in a plane crash coming back from the all-star game in Vancouver. It was a tragedy that set this franchise back many years on the field.

41 – Some notables here such as Fred Perry who did some great things aside from getting into business with Marcus Crandell. Of course recently Tyron Brackenridge set a pretty high standard. But this one has to go to DL Ron Atchison. A dominating defensive player for an amazing 17 seasons as a Rider. Also one of the few guys whose most infamous stories involves a pair of hush puppy shoes.

42 – This one was a tough one. Larry Bird was an option (the lineman not the Celtics great). Just spend 3 seasons watching Derrick Moncrief dominate. But even an impact player like Moncrief isn’t quite up to the standard set by LB Eddie Lowe. 9 years as a Rider including a Grey Cup ring and an all-star nod in 1989.

43 – One thing the Riders have in spades is a history of great O-linemen. OL Ted Urness was one of the forerunners in that legacy. He was an all-star at centre for 6 straight years! He has also been inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

44 – No brainer right here… OL Roger Aldag. A local Saskatchewan product who went on to play in 17 season, the second most games in franchise history, a 5 time all-star, a 9 time team nominee for top OL and 2 time CFL Most Outstanding OL. One of the best players in the history of the franchise.

45 – While some would disagree, an argument could be made here for Mike McCullough. He is one of 3 players in franchise history with 2 Grey Cup rings as a player. But I think if you look at impact on the franchise, this one has to go to QB Glen Dobbs. He was a big part of the early rise of the Riders' popularity in the province.

46 – Going to go with a completely personal choice and give it to LB Kitwana Jones. He was never a star but he remains one of my favourite players ever. Just one of those high energy high effort guys that are a staple of any great team. Great on special teams, rotational depth at LB. Hell he even happily took on being a defensive tackle when Etchverry stupidly lined him up there. While looking back on his career I was reminded of how we traded him to Edmonton in 2009 for QB Juan Joseph. That really worked well.

47 – Out of principle I wanted to give this to Mo Lloyd purely to piss off my buddy Rob. While Lloyd is certainly a worthy candidate based on his play in ’06 and ’07. I’m actually going to give this one to a different linebacker. I really don’t think we fully appreciated how good LB Sam Eguavoen was. An impact player who is deservedly now playing in the NFL.

48 – The trip down linebacker memory lane continues with LB Rey Williams. Played his early CFL years here and came back to be a key part of the defense in the 2013 championship year. Dude could fly around the field.

49 – The first name that came to mind for me was Jeff Knox and while I was a Knox fan I assumed that if I kept digging, I would find someone to supplant him… I did not.  So LB Jeff Knox it is. He was one of the few bright spots on some dismal teams in 2015 and 2016.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 30-39

We are back with the newest installment of the Greatest Riders by numbers. We are into the 30s this team. This is a weird set of numbers. It contains some of the greatest Riders ever and some guys I was forced to include because they were somewhat noteworthy at a number that not many were noteworthy at.
30 – Sentimentally I wanted to give this one to Jamie “The Juggernaut” Boreham. But as much as I love punters who hit like safeties, that doesn’t exactly qualify as greatness.  Have to go with DB Bruce Bennett. He sits third all-time in interceptions for the Riders and until they start counting rotations that kick returners make after getting hit by punters as an official stat, that’s good enough to lock down 30.

31 – Sean Lucas is certainly a candidate here. He played solid for a number of years at that cover LB spot. But there are a number of reasons why people would object to that. I don’t care to count those reasons but trust me. Besides, 31 more deservedly goes to WR Hugh Campbell anyway. In 1966 he hauled in 17 receiving TDs, a franchise mark that remains unchallenged to this day.

32 – Guys like Milson Jones and Terry Irvin come to mind but this one was decidedly between two very deserving RBs: Neal Hughes and Mike Saunders. Saunders sits 3rd in rushing. Hughes doesn’t have the lofty stats but was a key special team/depth guy and an important part of 2 Grey Cup championships. I’m giving the edge to RB Neal Hughes, he is part of a very select group in franchise history… he’s one of just 3 Rider players to win 2 Grey Cup rings as a player.

33 – If I don’t give this to the Canuck Truck I’ll have to endure a barrage of fans chastising me for him not being a big enough part of my blog content. So yes this goes to FB Chris Szarka. He scored 12 TDs in 2003. In his prime he could carry a pile like few others. I personally loved his 2009 season. He was running for city council and each TD he scored that season was more effective than any campaigning or door knocking.  

34 – Possibly the easiest choice in this entire series. George Reed is the definition of greatness both on and off the field. He is the #2 all-time rusher in CFL history (with 309 less than Mike Pringle). Now consider that all of Reed’s stats were amassed before the introduction of the 18 games season.

35 – The recency bias has me thinking Weldon Brown here. He was a talented defender with a Grey Cup ring though his tenure was not very long. Gotta turn back the pages of the history books for this one. DL Bill Clarke played 15 seasons for the Green and White. He was a 2 time all-star and 2 time team nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian.

36 – Another no-brainer. Clearly its Robokicker. K Dave Ridgeway is the best kicker in franchise history. While many have since been broken, in his day he set many of the CFL records in the kicking department. He also may have had a quasi-important role in the ’89 Grey Cup.

37 – Look I apologize in advance for this one. The thing is 37 is not a number that people want. It is a crappy number given to training camp guys and practice roster players who hope one day to be good enough to merit an upgrade to an actual good number. So it wasn’t just slim pickings at this number, it was next to no pickings. The best I could honestly find was DL Terrence Melton.

38 – I am partial to Tristan Jackson who was a solid DB and even better kick returner. Lamar McGriggs also came up in my research. This one has to go to LB George White.

39 – I waffled on this one for a while. Names like Chris McKenzie and Dave Albright are options. But I think I have to go to DL Charleston Hughes. I realize that his best years were as a Stampeder and he has only been here 2 years but he is one of the best pass rushers in league history. Also ask yourself when the last time a Rider lead the league in sacks in consecutive years?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 20-29

After a brief pause to talk about the draft, we return to our look at the best Roughriders by numbers. It’s certainly a more uplifting talk than the increasingly unlikely CFL season and the financial woes of the CFL (I keep telling you, run a telethon, they work).

The 20’s were a set of numbers that were very bipolar. It contained some of the easiest choices possible and some choices that made me die a little inside.

20 – Ken McEachern would be worthy candidate here but I’m going with a more recent player. If you look in the Rider rushing records you will find one name consistently after George Reed. RB Wes Cates. In 2007 we needed a replacement for Kenton Keith and Cates stepped in and solidified the spot. He was one of those prototypical 3 way players: solid runner, receiver and blocker. We shouldn’t also forget that in the 2007 Grey Cup he played on a broken foot that he had frozen.  

21 – There’s obviously some sentimental love for hometown product Paul Woldu. On a personal note I liked Rontarius Robinson, though it’s tough to classify him as a great. As much as I don’t want to do this this one does have to go to RB Al Ford. Say what you want about Al Ford the GM (and I’m sure many of us have) but as a player Ford was a swiss army knife. He could play multiple positions and fill multiple roles.

22 – This number was surprisingly depressing to look into. The first player that came to mind was Stu Foord but I was sure there would be someone better as I looked back further. After uncovering names like Bart Hull (as in the brother of Brett Hull), Dylan Ching and Sedrick Shaw, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that RB Stu Foord is the guy. I have nothing against Foord. His jump from the Thunder to the Riders is a great story. But for a guy with less than 500 career yards to be the best is a bit sad. My favourite Stu Foord story is how a big reason he made the team in 2008 was because Quentin Griffin pulled himself in the final preseason game and refused to play. Griffin was cut at the airport. Foord went on to evidently be the greatest 22 to date.

23 – Clearly the easiest decision on the list. I’m pretty sure that even suggesting anyone but the Little General is the best 23 is a capital offense in Saskatchewan punishable by revoking of your season tickets and a lifetime ban from Wisers, Watermelons and the Coop. QB Ron Lancaster is Rider royalty. He is the greatest QB in franchise history and along with George Reed, the best player in the history of the franchise and a huge reason that the Riders are the team they are today. His career stats are made even more amazing by the fact that he did them all in an era where smoking on the sidelines and in the locker room was common practice.

24 – Some good options here. Recent fans will remember Tad Kornegay throwing up the X as he ran out of the tunnel. Older fans may point to Ventson Donelson. I’m going with another memorable defender: LB Jackie Mitchell. Always like him as an LB and I think every Rider will remember that time he almost killed Dave Dickenson.

25 – This is a player before my time but I think it’s telling that he’s on my radar in spite of that. When you think of rushing in the 60s obviously you think of George Reed. But from 63-67 he shared the backfield with another talented back: RB Ed Buchanan. What sold me on this one was that I recently read George Reed’s autobiography and he spoke glowingly of Buchanan’s talent and impact on the Rider offense. When one of the greatest to ever do it gives praise that carries a lot of weight for me.

26 – This was another surprisingly depressing number to research. Scott Gordon was the first name that popped into my head but I was adamant that there had to be someone one better. I mean Gordon was an adequate at best safety who could deliver a big hit from time to time but there may not have been a less effective safety blitzer than him. So I scoured and I scoured but nothing better came up. That was until DB Larry Dumelie. Statistically he’s actually about on par with Gordon but I’m giving him the edge a) as a local product and b) as I refuse to give it to Scott Gordon.

27 – I can already hear you grumbling but there is no debate that this has to go to DB Glen Suitor. He’s the franchise leader in interceptions (and up there on the all-time CFL list). I know some people don’t care for him as a broadcaster but that doesn’t diminish his impact on the field. The only thing I find weird is that despite being one of the best DBs in franchise history there are only 2 things that people will remember of him off the top of their head. The fact that he held for “the kick”. And that one time he took a stupid penalty that cost us a game. Seriously, name another Suitor moment off the top of your head.

28 – I was tempted to give this Craig Butler purely for the time he almost decapitated Buck Pierce (between that and the Mitchell hit, I had a fun time researching this post). I know not everyone will agree with this but for me, the best 28 has to be RB Kenton Keith. I know he is a controversial figure (mainly for off field stuff) but on the field this franchise have not had many players with his ability to change a game on any given play. He was electric. Go back and watch any west-semi final during the Danny Barrett era if you to be reminded how good Keith was. Just don’t subject yourself to the West Finals that followed. Barret era playoff football was a maddening repetition of KK dominating the semi and then in the final teams would game plan around him and we had no ability to adjust and quite frankly always seemed shocked that they did.

29 – Ending the 20s with another super easy selection. Hands down the best halfback to suit up for the Riders was DB Eddie Davis. His job day in day out was to cover the best receiver on the field and he routinely did his job so well that his name was rarely mentioned in the game. His arrival from Calgary was integral in the development of the defense of the early 2000’s that became so dominant. What is most amazing about Davis was his longevity. DBs tend to have a very short lifespan. Davis played at the highest level in the most difficult position for 14 years. Bonus points for having spent one year as a Birmingham Barracuda.