Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Random, Quasi-Coherent Thoughts

Those of you familiar with how the offseason works around here will not be surprised by the title of this post. For those of you that are new to this, basically unless there is some big Rider news or I come up with some filler posts (which rest assured will be coming), most blogging days you will have to settle for a series of random thoughts on current CFL events that as the title implies I can’t promise will be coherent (though if it was coherent thoughts you were after you would have given up on this site a long time ago).

Let’s get to it:
- With the Riders eliminated, I have been trying to decide who to pull for of the remaining teams. In the East I will go with Hamilton because it was the 90s the last time those fans got a championship (plus now that Burris isn’t their QB they are infinitely more likable… as well as likely to succeed). Bonus points for being the only fan base to care enough about the playoff game to sell it out.

- As for the West, since double default isn’t likely a viable option, I guess I will have to go with the Esks. Not that I particularly like them, I’m just a big fan of Calgary’s repeated playoff chokes.

­- BC started their offseason off with a bang by firing Head Coach Mike Benevides. The Lions regressed every year under his leadership and I was never sold on him being a great HC. Though to be fair the Harris injury and the QB situation were not really his fault. I’m surprised more criticism isn’t being directed at Buono. He was so convinced that Benevides was the right guy for the job that he gave him a 2 year extension in June. One has to question Buono’s judgment if 6 months later the determination is that Benevides needs to be fired. I honestly think it should be policy that if a GM wants to fire a coach who he hired or extended within the past 12 months he needs to also resign.

- One name to watch as BC sorts out their coaching situation for next year is Khari Jones. Given the uncertainty surrounding Cortez’s future and our likely desire for a QB coach, if he shakes loose I bet we will be giving him a call.

- The RedBlacks started the coach firing train when the let OC Mike Gibson go. Now I don’t think Gibson is anything special as an OC but can you really blame him for Ottawa’s offensive ineptness when he was given Henry Burris and a cast of 4th string receivers to work with? You can’t make chicken soup out of chicken shit.

- The Riders have an extensive list of potential free agents. I won’t bother getting into the list now as it will likely change as some signings are announced. Plus I can’t waste all my potential material in one post… otherwise come January you may have to endure posts that are just me listing which of the cartoons Prophet Jr. watches that I hate and detailing the plot holes therein.

- Finally, its almost time for the Rider Prophet Awards and that means that starting Monday voting will open for the 8th annual Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year Award. Jon Cornish is the 2 time defending champion but competition in the field of douchebaggery was stiff this year. Check back Monday for this year’s nominees and to cast your vote.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Sad Edition

Riders 10 – Eskimos 18

Apologies for the lateness of this post, there was no way I could bring myself to write about that game in time for Monday morning… at least not without the text being over 75% profanity.

Sunday the dreams of a Rider repeat (no matter how remote the chances) game to an end in miserable fashion as the Riders lost the Eskimos. I think that whatever deal we cut with the football gods to get us the Grey Cup at home with unseasonably warm weather, the cost was losing Durant and being forced to endure this playoff game. I just hope our debt in now paid.

The parallels between that game and the playoff game of 2008 were uncanny. Defense doing everything in their power to keep us in the game. Offense doing everything in their power to lose it. Only difference is we could have reasonably expected Bishop to be terrible. While I was under no illusions that we would be getting the ’07 Joseph, I incorrectly assumed he would be at least mildly competent. In time, my views of Kerry Joseph will return to the beloved fellow who had an MOP season and won us our 3rd Cup. For now though, he is that bumbling idiot who picked the worst possible time to play his worst football. Honestly, that was beyond awful. I mean I know pressure and unlucky bounces contributed a bit but most of those INTs were Joseph just making terrible reads, terrible decisions and terrible throws. I haven’t completely ruled out the possibility that Joseph has early stage Alzheimer’s and thought he was still playing for Edmonton? He made Seth Doege look conservative with the ball by comparison.  Simply put with a decent QB we win that game. Problem is, we don’t have a decent QB not named Durant.

As bad as he was, Joseph was not the entire issue in that game. In fact, all the issues that plagued us all season were summed up nicely in that loss… with the possible exception of Milo bouncing one off the uprights. In addition to terrible QB play we also saw our old friends:
- Special teams meltdown resulting in a TD
- Inconsistent play from our receivers such as Korey Williams and Getzlaf (who could not figure out motion to save his soul)
- Terrible play calling. I was calling out our plays from the couch and I am just and a borderline drunk that watches a lot of football. It’s no wonder that Chris Jones (who channeled his inner Corey Hart win those sunglasses) was read us like a book. We refused to adjust to the blitz. We passed on 3rd and short. We didn’t find ways to get production our of our RBs… we just kept assuming the run up the middle would eventually pay off.
- Inconsistent O-line play
- We also got the added bonus of embarrassingly bad officiating. Good lord receivers were practically in the endzone before the ball was snapped and no one saw the offside?!?!

There was a lot of talk about how good the Eskimo D was and admittedly they are a damn good unit but how about our defense? We threw 5 INTs and if we factor out the kick return TD they allowed just 11 points. 11!!! And only 1 second half point (though by that point the Esks had figured out that they had no need to try anything risky on O because we weren’t about to score). They gave up a lot of yards to John White but you should win any game where your defense allows just 11 points.

I realize that Durant’s injury killed any legitimate shot at a repeat but dammit we could have won that game. We needed just one play offensively and didn’t even come close. I’ll likely stay bitter about this for a few weeks… unless of course my Vikings decide to go on a Super Bowl run… stop laughing…. it could happen… you’re right, looks like I’m stuck with bitterness.

Welcome to the offseason. Don’t worry though as always I will be here all along the way to get you through this. The fun starts later this week when we open the voting for Fans Choice Douchebag of the Year.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Riders vs. Eskimos: West-Semi Final

Sunday the Riders will attempt to take the first step in defending their Grey Cup championship when they travel to Edmonton to battle the 2nd place Eskimos. All the successes and struggles of the previous 18 games don’t mean a damn thing anymore. It all comes down to 1 game.

At the beginning of the year I bet more than a few people predicted that the Riders and Esks would face off in the WSF… however I’m certain no one thought it would feature the epic QB battle of Nichols vs. Joseph.  Speaking of things I didn’t expect, how about the fact that headed into this game the Rider QB situation is not the hottest topic. Chances of Durant starting were always remote and I personally didn’t think it would happen so we’ve known for a while that Joseph would be our guy. As for Edmonton… they are just trying to find a healthy QB. Rumours have been swirling since Reilly got hurt 2 games ago that he had a broken bone in is foot. Turns out they were true as Matt Nichols has been named the starter, though its being said that Reilly could be available in an emergency situation (aka if Nichols sucks so bad that a cripple is deemed an upgrade). Complicating things for the Esks is that 3rd stringer Pat White has a concussion and is questionable. That means the Esks are one bad hit on Nicols away from having to choose between crippled Reilly, newbie Matt Scott or newly acquired Justin Goltz (you know, the guy who adjusts his tie while celebrating TDs despite being down a ton of points).

While I don’t believe that the loss of Reilly suddenly makes the Riders the favourites (have you seen us play over the past 2 months?), I do believe this is a significant blow the Esks. Reilly’s mobility is an x-factor in that offense. It’s torched us before.  It’s a nightmare for defenders and opens up the running game and passing game. Nichols is nowhere near the running threat and that will allow our defender to focus more on stopping John White and rushing the passer. Nichols is a decent QB but nowhere near the passer Reilly is either. Also factor in that they like to insert Pat White with the odd running play and the end result will be a significantly different playbook for the Esks than usual.

Despite my less than glowing endorsements of Nichols, he is still a competent QB and able to do the 2 biggest drivers of that Esk offense. #1 he can hand off to John White who is a dangerous and talented RB (and like Reilly he has torched us before). #2 Nichols can also throw short high % passes to Bowman. The Esks do that a lot to get the ball in the hands of Bowman and let him get YAC yards, which he is good at, always has been. So Nichols is a downgrade but I’m under no illusion that the Esk offense will suddenly be rendered useless just by his presence. Defensively our success hinges on our ability to limit John White. We did an alright job of that when we met in October and we had a chance to win that game. Conversely you can’t even call what happened in our first meeting an attempt to stop him and we lost badly. If we can force Nichols to throw then he is going to get harassed by our D-line and our secondary will be more than up to the challenge of stopping him. Look for the Esks to try and get Kendial Lawrence involve on some short misdirection stuff to help keep pressure off Nichols. Also, if there was ever a guy I would worry about a postseason breakout game, its Fred Stamps… guy is simply too good to have this quiet a season. We have yet to allow the Esks to get more than 24 points and I bet we hold them to a max of 3 TDs this game too. White will get some plays but I expect our defense to come out fired up and give Nichols all kinds of trouble.

Offensively, we will be turning back the clock and hoping old man Joseph has one more miracle playoff run in him. He faces an imposing foe in that Eskimo defense though… #1 against the pass, #2 against the run, least points allowed, most INTs. Let’s not over think this. We have been the most successful when we run the ball so let’s give them a heavy dose of Allen and whichever of Messam or the Space Cowboy make the roster.  A big key will be our O-line. Assuming Best plays, it will be the first time since Game 8 and only the 7th time this season that all 5 starters play together.  We expected a lot from them this year but injuries and inconsistent play have plagued them. A strong performance Sunday will make us forget about how the regular season went. Unless, Chris Jones suffers an acquired brain injury he will be expecting us to run and likely key up the D to stop it. While we can’t be scared to run, we need to be able to do other things in order to keep the chains moving.  Dressler and Getzlaf will need to step up and lead the way in the passing game but unless we spread it around to the likes of Bagg and Williams we are not going to be very effective. Also Joseph is going to need to use his legs. We don’t need him to duplicate what Durant did last year and literally carry the team (mostly because at this age that workload would probably kill him) but if he can mix in the odd run it will help open the running game up and give him more time to pass. We will need contributions from everyone on offense if we are going to beat a defense this talented. Spread it around and be smart with the ball. Each turnover dramatically decreases our odds of victory.

Also we really need to get better production in the second half. 0, 6 and 8… that’s how many second half points we’ve generated this season against the Esks. That simply won’t cut it. This is going to be a knock down drag out fight… we need to fight like hell until the very last second expires, no letting up and trying to coast to the end.

People have been talking about the concern about Milo’s reliability and it’s valid but Hugh O’Neil does not exactly instill confidence on the other side so at best that match-up is a wash and I still give Milo the edge (not that that’s saying much).

The paper match-up in this game is close with the edge likely going to the Esks. The one thing that I think will be a big difference is playoff experience. Our locker room is full of guys with playoff experience who know how to win. The Esks don’t have many guys with that experience. That “heart” factor can be a big difference maker come playoff time.

Maybe I’m picking with my heart but…
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