Monday, April 8, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Remembering Hopson

Last week we bid farewell to an important figure in Rider history. Former president Jim Hopson passed away. Ever since his passing many wonderful things have been written and many wonderful memories have been shared about the impact Hopson had on the team and on the people he interacted with. I won’t pretend that my words will add anything that hasn’t already been said but I do want to add my perspective on what he meant to Rider history.

The defining impact of Hopson will be the resetting of expectations when it comes to the Riders. Prior to his arrival the prevailing attitude was that we should just be happy we have a team at all. Their survival was at risk year to year so if the team sucked for decades at a time then we were all taught to just be happy they didn’t fold. We thought it was fine that we had only 2 championships ever. We thought it was fine that we had no jumbotron. We thought it was fine that it was not cool to wear Rider gear unless your goal in life was mockery and physical beatings. We were lovable losers… with heavy emphasis on the losers.

Until Hopson’s leadership that all changed. Now he didn’t do it all himself (and he would be the first one to admit that). But change of the magnitude that took place requires strong leadership with a clear vision and relentless pursuit of that vision. Hopson brought that. Old Mosaic was brought out of the stone ages and into the 80s (being only 20 years behind was a big step forward) and eventually replaced completely. We brought in GMs, coaches and players that expected greatness. We won games. Seats filled up. We won as many championships under his tenure as in the 90 previous years. Merchandise flew off the shelves. We put a logo on anything and everything and people were proud to display it. We went from the CFL’s equivalent of a lovable but unemployed and mooching uncle to the benchmark of excellence. 

And its not like it was all roses and sunshine for Hopson. Sure the timing of the ’07 Cup probably accelerated everything but let’s not forget that in his tenure involved some rocky moments. He had to make the tough call to fire Roy Shivers. He had to deal with Shiver’s replacement having to be put on administrative leave while he dealt with legal issues stemming from alleged inappropriate conduct with a babysitter. There were 4 head coaches during his tenure. There was brawl on Dewdney ave involving players. But despite all this, the expectations and accomplishments of the team continued to rise. On top of the successes, I think most telling is all the stories coming out about how much people respected Hopson as a person. 

His impact on the franchise will never be forgotten… unlike Andrew Harris’ quest to find the person responsible for tainting his supplements.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: You Can’t Get Fooled Again

For the love of god, please check the date on the calendar before reading anything today. In the immortal words of George W Bush “There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.” So don’t get fooled again. 

If you see a headline saying “Trevor Harris Traded” or “Competition for #1 QB Spot now a surprise battle between Drew Willy and Tino Sunseri” just ignore it. 

If you see a headline saying “Schaefer-Baker Retires To Pursue Career As A Bovine Doula” don’t retweet it. 

If you see a headline saying “Riders Sell Hat for 150% more than the same hat is sold for other teams”… well that one is probably accurate. Same as if you see a headline “Rider Prophet Named World’s Greatest Sex Machine.” 

While you generally should not believe most of what you read on the internet (this site included) any day this is the day you definitely should not believe it. No the Riders aren’t changing their colours to blue and gold. No the league is not adopting a 5th down to get ahead of the curve. No Tom Brady is not coming out of retirement to finally throw for a Montreal sports team. No Pilsner intake has not been scientifically determined to be correlated with intelligence. And No, Rider Prophet did not get drunk and expose himself to bus full of seniors on a bingo tour (only part of that headline is correct but I’m not telling you which part). 

Let’s just try and keep our cool for one day. Please.  

Monday, March 25, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Hits and Misses

With the CFL Draft approaching, I thought it would be interesting (and only mildly depressing) to look back at the past 5 drafts for the Riders. Take a look at which picks we nailed, which one were not so great, and who we missed along the way. 

The rating system I will use to assess each draft class is based on comparisons to previous Rider QBs. 

2019

Early Round Success: This draft was about restocking the receiver shelves (which we needed). We took McInnis 6th overall and Lenius 15th. Both have proven to be starting caliber Canadian receivers (though both were only able to show it in flashes as a Rider)

Late Round Success: We only had 4 picks after the second round and we used one on Cam Judge’s mostly out of football brother (remember that?). But we did hit one home run in the 5th round when we selected Charbel Dabire. There were 9 DL’s drafted before him and a total of 3 of them you can maybe argue are legit better than Dabire. Great value pick who has been a valuable contributor for the Riders ever since.

Biggest Hit: Brayden Lenius

Biggest Miss: Honestly nothing major. Brady Olivera went one pick before Lenius which meant if we wanted him it would have had to be 6th overall. In retrospect, yes you do that. At the time, that’s super high for an RB.

Overall assessment: I would give this one a rating of Kevin Glenn… nothing flashy but pretty good overall.

2020

Early Round Success: None. We used the 7th overall pick on Mattland Riley who retired with one career game played (not sure he even got on the field). Even at the time Riley was “safe” pick, not a top end prospect, though it was a relatively weak draft class overall. The whole experience made O’Day so leery to take an OL high that he’ll never do it again (at least that’s what it seems).

Late Round Success: Rider fans are willing to forgive O’Day the Riley because in the 4th round he landed us Kian Schaefer-Baker… the steal of that entire draft.

Biggest Hit: Schaefer-Baker by a mile.

Biggest Miss: In the second round, there were only some moderately successful players taken like Marc Antoine-Dequoy and Nathan Rourke, that we could have used our first round pick on.

Overall assessment: This one rates a Michael Bishop… overall unmitigated disaster with one brief moment of brilliance thrown in there.

2021

Early Round Success: This was the Covid draft and it was a pretty thin class. We used the 2nd overall pick on Nelson Lokombo. In theory a great pick but injuries have greatly limited his impact so far. We used our second round pick on Terrell Jana. Again, in theory a good pick but he retired without ever playing a down. But hey, the first overall pick by Hamilton was TE Jake Burt… so by comparison we did OK.

Late Round Success: Continuing the theme of “in theory” we did get Logan Bandy in the 5th round. He’s been our 6th OL for a while and started due to injury. The team really seems to believe in his potential. I don’t think he’s good and would add that the fact that O’Day believes in Bandy may be an indication of why our OL has been a week point until his watch.

Biggest Hit: Bruno Labelle, not exactly a huge impact player but he’s at least been on the roster consistently and using a 3rd round pick on him was about bang on for his value.

Biggest Miss: Not a ton of big name players came out of this draft. Ben Hladik who went 22nd overall and is now a legit starter is probably someone who would go much higher in a redraft.

Overall assessment: This one rates a Kerry Jospeh starting the 2014 playoff game… it seemed like a good idea at time but in retrospect you have the regrets.

2022

Early Round Success: Early last season it became apparent that Sam Emilus was a very good use of our 7th overall pick. We grabbed OL Zach Fry in the second round who O’Day is still pumping up but who has yet to make a material impact on the team. Hopefully he’s on the Chris Best development path.

Late Round Success: Were it not for a home run in the 5th round, anything after Emilus in this draft would have been written off as a failure for the Riders. But with the 54th overall pick, O’Day landed a scrappy safety who has blossomed into a starting caliber player in Jayden Dalke.

Biggest Hit: Sam Emilus/Jayden Dalke

Biggest Miss: Honestly, none. Based on where they picked the Riders did not “miss” on anyone. In fact, it was not a super strong draft class once you got past the first round.

Overall assessment: I give this one a Cody Fajardo (while in green and white), was it the best? No. But it’s the best we’ve seen around here in a few years.

2023

Early Round Success: Still early to know the full impact but getting both Korte-Moore and Ford, who were defensive contributors as rookies, looks to be a good move at this point.

Late Round Success: In the fourth round we drafted a bruising RB out of Delaware by the name of Matthieu Bertrand-Hudon. In a mostly awful season, he was one of the few bright spots.

Biggest Hit: Hard to say at this point but Korte-Moore has so far lived up to the hype.

Biggest Miss: Too early to tell. Teams my regret letting the Stampeders get Clark Barnes at 24 but I would have lost it if the Riders used another high pick on a receiver with all their other needs.

Overall assessment: I’ll give this a Trevor Harris. On paper it looks okay and there have been some early flashes, but we will need to see a lot more in year 2 to be truly satisfied.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Make It Canadian

Note: I will warn you in advance that today’s post is very light on actual news and serious analysis and very heavy on the ridiculous and whimsical. Obviously if you are a regular reader here you are used to a fairly regular dose of the ridiculous but if that ain’t what you are after this morning then try again next week.

I, like many of you, fell in love with the Canadian football game. The unique rules set it apart from its American counterpart in so many good ways and it is steeped in tradition and heritage. But today I ask, is the game Canadian enough?

Sure we have bigger fields, unlimited motion, less downs and the beloved rouge (the rouge is wonderful and I will not her arguments to the contrary) but there are so many more ways the game could be made even more Canadian.

 

1.     Metric system – the most obvious place to start is by fully implementing the metric system. Yards should be replaced with meters. First and 9.144 will be the new standard starting point. Players will strive for a 914 metre season instead of 1000 yards. And we will ooh and aah as Bret Lauther bombs kicks from 46 metres out and further. All player heights and weights would also need to be converted to metres and kilograms.  

2.     Aboot - next we clearly need to fully incorporate Oot in the lingo. Failing to get a first down is a two and oot. GMs will send their scoots to go recruit new players. Receivers will run roots. And Sports Centre may report on the ootcome of a blowoot or even a shutoot.

3.     Apologies – Anytime a player is penalized the amount of the penalty should double if they don’t immediately apologize. If the opposing team does not reciprocate the apology the penalty should be negated.

4.     Tims – All Gatorade container will be replaced with Tim Horton’s coffee. The post game Gatorade shower will become quite dangerous and hydration levels will plummet but dammit if we won’t representing the awful coffee that our nation seems to adore.

5.     Royal Assent – In keeping with the rules of our constitutional democracy, all player transactions should be subject to approval by the King/Queen via the Governor General or Lieutenant Governors.

6.     Public Health Care – The team’s individual injured reserves should be replaced with one central injured reserve that is funded by the league through public taxation.

7.     Bilingual – All PA announcements and referee calls must be in both official languages. Trash talk between the players will only be allowed if it is also in both official languages. Coaches are also encouraged to have their play calls in both official languages. Watch for L’option de courrir passer avec un déroulé de quarterback. 

Do have any suggestions for how to further improve the Canadiana of the CFL?

Monday, March 11, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Delayed Random Quasi Coherent Thoughts

Apologies for not writing a post last week. Rest assured the person responsible has been admonished and given a fine equal to 50% of their salary. When this blog cannot even live up to the extremely low standards it holds itself to, we take that very seriously.

While much of this is dated, let’s get caught up on what’s been going on in Riderville…

 

-        The Riders’ marketing team got themselves in some hot water over a “Girl Math” promotion they sent out. This was clearly a case of trying to be trendy and just missing the mark. I think they honestly would have been fine with the “Girl Math” headline but each successive line just get worse and worse. The Riders have apologized and I say good enough and move on. They tried to be creative it flopped, they apologized, case closed. No need for a further witch hunt.


-        It does make me wonder who the hell reviews and approves their material though. I (an aging white male, with no marketing experience) could clearly tell that was not in good taste. Somehow a team of marketing professionals who are presumably younger and more female than me, did not see the issue. That is like the equivalent of your finance team producing a financial statement where all the numbers are replaced with 58008 and not thinking it will be a problem. If you don’t immediately get that reference then a) you are clearly much younger than me and b) should go ask you parents for a calculator (maybe first ask them what a calculator is), type in that number and turn the calculator up side down. (This is what we used to do for entertainment).


-        The Riders signed a new LB by the name of Diego Fagot. Now a younger and even less mature Prophet would have had a hay day with this back in the day. All I will say now is that it’s definitely not pronounced like you think but I hope he makes the team purely to make the play by play guys sweat bullets. One Freudian slip and there’s trouble.


-        Good on the Riders for honoring former president Jim Hopson by naming the Jim Hopson Auditorium at Mosaic Stadium. And given his health, good on them for doing the honour while he was still able to receive the honour in person. We may bemoan the current state of our Riders but look back in history at what the team was before Hopson. There were years where they would have killed for down years like ones we bemoan now. Hopson was key part of raising expectations.


-        Speaking of a key part of raising expectations, it remains criminal that Roy Shivers has not been honoured in a similar way by the team. No plaza induction, no in-stadium recognition. The freakin’ CFL saw fit to add him to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame but we have not. Let’s not wait until its too late.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Football-less Void

We have officially reached the painful final stretch of the offseason. Free agency is over, the draft is two months away and the NFL is even over so there is no football whatsoever. If we can just make it through this final stretch then football will be back and life will be good again.

God bless the Argos and Chad Kelly for trying to keep the CFL in the new cycle but there were likely better ways to go about it. A wrongful termination lawsuit was filed against them by a female trainer who Kelly allegedly made advances at. Since the news broke both the Argos and CFL have made themselves quieter than people who have run out of candy on Halloween and are trying to pretend like they aren’t home. It’s a media strategy that works about as well as Craig Dickenson’s coaching tactics in October.   

As someone whose day job involves human resources, things like this just make me shake my head. Rather than deal with an issue that was raised, they tried to sweep it under the carpet. Literally all they had to do was do some kind of internal discipline to Kelly for his alleged inappropriate behaviour and this probably never gets spoken of outside of Argo facilities. Instead they opted to make things much worse and turn it into a public story. The court of public opinion is always much harsher than actual court… and in the world of human resources both should be avoided.

I am willing to bet that since the Argos have no interest in losing Kelly’s services they will find a fall guy in management (John Murphy has previous experience getting turfed for doing dumb things) and give Kelly a slap on the wrist and have him do a super fake apology (that I can tell you right now will include “that’s not who I am”, “I found the lord through this” and maybe even “I have many friends who are women”). I will add a bonus prediction that given some people’s addiction to finding a way to tie the Riders to bad new stories, the headlines will read “Former Rider Assistant GM forced to resign in disgrace from current CFL team”.

In more positive CFL news, Vernon Adams signed a long-term extension in BC. Good for him. I am actually glad to see him have success. Remember that his CFL career started with more trades (BC->Montreal->Sask->Hamilton) than starts. Also remember that for a period in 2017 the Riders had him 3rd on the QB depth chart behind Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge. Excuse me while I go silently weep for a few seconds.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Big Additions

For the most part the official opening of free agency was about as exciting as most all-star games. Not a lot of real excitement and a whole lot of going through the motions. We made official all the deals we were expecting which was great, just not particularly exciting. I honestly thought that we were mostly done. But O’Day had other plans.

He made 2 more big (both literally and figuratively) signings. The first was bringing back Micah Johnson. Now I’ll be the first to admit that having Micah play for us in an even numbered year will be weird. He played for us in 2019, left for BC in 2020 when the season ended up being cancelled, returned for 2021, left for Hamilton in 2022 and returned in 2023. He was not due back in these parts until his 4th stint came around in 2025. But dammit am I happy he’s staying! I have been campaigning for this all offseason (you’re welcome). In a crap season, Micah was one of the few guys who gave it his all the whole year. Not only was he a strong veteran leader who demonstrated the heart you want to see from your key guys, he was pretty damn good still. At 35, he played a full 18 game season, notched his most sacks as a Rider and I contend, was our best defender (I get that the bar was pretty low but still, point remains, he was good). I think he is exactly the veteran leader we need to head up this revamped D-line under Coach Mace.

The second addition caught me completely by surprise. With Ferland and Blake back and young guys like Bandy, Fry and now Zerr, I assumed O’Day would be content at Canadian OL. In what might be the first time the term “pleasant surprise” has been used in conjunction with anything O’Day has done with Canadian OL in the past 3 years, he went out and landed Ryan Sceviour (I assume Mueller and Mace’s Calgary connections had some play in there as well). An 8th overall pick in the 2018 Draft who has locking down the RG position on the Stamps OL for a few years now, and was named a West Division all-star in 2022. This was a massive addition to our OL. The only downside here is that this makes me pretty confident that O'Day will now continue his streak of completely ignoring OL in the draft... but I guess that's a future us problem. For now let's focus on the good.  

Honestly, other than American receiver (which we can address through recruiting), I feel like O’Day has checked all the boxes in terms of our major needs. The cynic in me fears becoming hopeful because decades have history have shown that hope almost always precedes that hope being violently bashed to pieces. But like Michael Scott I am ready to get hurt again.

I don’t expect there is much more coming our way in free agency but there are a few names still out there that I would certainly at least be looking into to see if you can get some late value. Some names include receivers like Cam Phillips, Rasheed Bailey or Lucky Whitehead. Even a Canadian WR like Nate Behar or Tevaun Smith (we will need depth if we look at starting 3 Cdn WR). DBs like Roberson Daniel, Winston Rose, Alden Darby or Jeremy Clark. Or DL such Woody Barron or AC Leonard. For the right price there could be some good value here.