Monday, March 31, 2008

A Series Of Outrageous Claims

For today’s post, I decided I would make 4 outrageous claims about my blog and then try to prove the validity of those claims. As you can tell there’s no football news but then again if you were looking for actual news you wouldn’t be here in the first place.

The Rider Prophet can save you 15% on your car insurance
The more time you spend reading this blog, the less time you will be driving thereby reducing the chances of getting in a costly accident. However, if you want even more savings, follow the Rider Prophet’s patented advice… sell your car. Then you will save 100% on your car insurance.

The Rider Prophet is bigger than Jesus
Research will tell you that people today are taller than our ancestors were. Plus when you consider that Jesus, back in those days, would not have had access to food with the same ease that I do nor would it have been in the same quantity, it’s reasonable assume he would have been far skinnier that me.

The Rider Prophet can reunite you with your estranged father
Given the sheer number of children I may have unknowingly fathered over the years, odds are good that some kid out there will read this blog and figured out that I’m their dad and we will reunite.

This blog is better than sex
Even I didn’t think I could substantiate this claim but hear me out… If you’re a fast reader no one will make fun of you, the size of your computer hardware doesn’t matter, you don’t have to make me breakfast in the morning (though I wouldn’t turn it down), there’s no risk of STDs or pregnancy involved with reading my blog, you don’t have to get me drunk to read my blog, if you read this blog once and never do it again no one will call you a slut. These last two reasons only apply to some people (but hey, I don’t judge): Prophet doesn’t charge by the hour and won’t lead to possible jail time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ottawa 33 1/3: The Final Insult

The CFL announced Tuesday that a conditional franchise in Ottawa has been granted to an investors group led by Jeff Hunt, who runs the Ottawa 67's, and includes some other prominent local businessmen. The team could be in operation as early as 2010 provided a number of hurdles are overcome, most notably renovations to Frank Clair Stadium.

There has been much talk about the strength of the investor group. All members of the group have close ties to the Ottawa community and when you throw in the fact that Hunt has experience managing a sports team it makes for a pretty impressive bid. As successful and well-regarded as these people are, I do have to question their sanity. I mean what businessman in his right mind decides that this is the best venture to invest his money in? They are making an investment in a concept that has failed twice and hinges upon a stadium that was condemned last year and was slated for demolition. Not to mention the fact that the keys to the venture's success (quality players and coaches) are currently under contract to their competitors, potential fans are jaded since they haven't had a decent on-field product in over 30 years; it cost them $7 million for the opportunity to pursue this venture regardless of whether the team actually comes to fruition; and the league's future has been cast into doubt now that a large American competitor is starting to move in on their territory. I would really like to see that business plan and how they manage to justify it as a good investment!

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that football may be returning to the nation's capital and I think this group of investors has a good chance at developing a sustainable franchise. It's just that when you look at this from a purely business perspective it seems pretty crazy.

CFL fans, Ottawa fans in particular, have good reason to be skeptical about this announcement. Football in Ottawa dates back over 100 years and that history has been full of ups (such as winning 4 Grey Cups in an 8 year span) and downs (such as having 2 franchises fold in a similar span). Here's a brief history...

It all started in 1876 with the Ottawa Football Club (130 years later people in Ontario still hadn't come up with an original idea for a team name and give the same name to a soccer team). They adopted the name Rough Riders in 1898 and went on to win 9 Grey Cups, the last being in 1976. But that's about where things began to go wrong for the Rough Riders. Poor on-field performance and even worse management put the team in a downward spiral. This spiral reached an all-time low in 1995 when the team drafted Derrell Robertson. Although Derrell had a decent college career, Ottawa overlooked the minor detail that he had died a few months earlier. Finally in 1996, they folded.

In 2002, football was resurrected in the form of the Ottawa Renegades but a string of losing seasons and dwindling fan support once again put the team in a downward spiral.

Then in 2005, two knights in shining armour arrived... Sir Bernie and Sir Lonnie of Glieberman. Not being satisfied with failing as owners of the Ottawa Rough Riders and Shreveport Pirates, the Gliebermans looked to complete the trifecta by taking over the Renegades. Sure enough, team operations were suspended prior to the 2006 season due to mounting debt that the Glieberman's didn't want to cover. Some highlights of the 2nd Glieberman regime in Ottawa include hiring a coach who hadn't coached since the Shreveport Pirates folded 10 years earlier and who, at one point, couldn't remember the name of his starting QB (hint: it rhymes with Merry Boseph). They also came up with a promotion that involved offering Mardi Gras beads to women at home games which drew much public criticism. Apparently the whole story has inspired a made for TV movie entitled "Boobs and Bimbos: The Glieberman years"

So here we are again hoping the 3rd time is a charm. At least this time the Glieberman's are not involved which increases the chance of success exponentially. While there are still some major hurdles before this conditional franchise becomes an actual franchise it looks like Jeff Hunt and his group are off to a good start and I wish them all the best. And hey, if Hamilton continues their futility and Montreal continues its fall from glory, Ottawa may be pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot in their first season (if Winnipeg rejoins the West division it could even be a home-playoff game).

Monday, March 24, 2008

On This Day In Roughrider History: One Hull Of A Fullback

Welcome to my second installment featuring notable moments in Roughrider history.

For today's history lesson we take you back to 1994... Ace of Base ruled the airwaves with their smash hit The Sign, the Dallas Cowboys had just handed the Buffalo Bills their 4th straight Super Bowl loss and children everywhere were playing Mortal Kombat on their Sega Genesis... ahh those were the days... now where was I? Oh right the Riders...

It was on this day 14 years ago when we signed a young Canadian fullback by the name of Bart Hull. That's right Bart Hull as in the son of NHL Hall of Famer Bobby Hull. Bart Hull as in the brother of the NHL's 3rd alltime leading goal scorer Brett Hull. Now if for some reason you aren't as familiar with Bart's career as his family's here's a quick history lesson...

Bart was a 1st round pick (4th overall) by the BC Lions in the '91 Canadian College Draft where he played until signing with the Riders. A recurring knee injury brought an early end to his career.

Can you imagine what it would have been like for poor Bart at Hull family get-togethers...

Mrs. Hull: So Bobby what's new?
Bobby: Well Mom, I was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame
Mrs. Hull: Congratulations! And young Brett how about you?
Brett: I just became the 3rd alltime leading scorer in the NHL Grandma.
Mrs. Hull: Well isn't that nice. Bobby Jr.?
Bobby Jr.: My hockey team won the Memorial Cup.
Mrs. Hull: Good for you! And who could forget Bart...
Bart: I play fullback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Mrs. Hull: ... that's ... okay... I guess... so how many records do you hold?
Bart: None Grandma
Mrs. Hull: Win any championships?
Bart: No.
Mrs. Hull: (whispers to Bobby) Is he adopted?

So on this day we salute Bart Hull and all others who's highly successful family members make their life accomplishments look meager by comparison.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

CFL News - Chicks and Olympians

Good Day Riders fans, Rider Prophet here with your weekly CFL news round-up. I was going to post this yesterday but there were rumours floating around that a Rider trade was in the works so I decided to hold off so I could include that in the post (some may call that being lazy, I prefer to call it being efficient).

Apparently we were trying to work out a deal with Hamilton for the 1st overall pick in the draft but the deal broke off because Hamilton wanted too much in return. This is a clear sign that things are different now that Bob O'Billivich is running the show. Previous GM Eric Desjardins would have given us the pick for 3 tensor bandages and jug of Gatorade.

According to a certain award winning blogger, there was also a rumour that there was a deal in the works with Winnipeg that would have seen us trade Jyles and Crandell for Kevin Glenn. Of course this rumour is about as believable as that Johnny Fairplay guy on Survivor.

Rumours aside, here's what actually happened this week...

In: John Chick (re-signed), Barron Pullum (free agent)
Great news in Riderville, as it was announced that John "Don't Call Me Dixie" Chick had signed a 2 year plus an option extension. Chick is only 24 and is already developing a reputation as a defensive end to be feared by QBs around the league. Word of advice though if you ever meet him in the streets, please address him as John. Apparently he's one of those "don't call me a Chick" Chicks.

In: Jamel Richardson (free agent)
Another former Rider has resurfaced. Richardson tried out (unsuccessfully) for the Dallas Cowboys last season after spending 4 seasons in Saskatchewan. The Als appear to be slowly but surely stockpiling our old receivers. They even thought about pulling off a trade with Hamilton to acquire Jason French and complete the set, but reports indicate the trade talks broke off when Bellefeuille insisted that he couldn't part with his offense's go-to guy.

In: Ian Smart (contract extended)
Some people are wondering why it took so long for BC to extend last year’s Special Teams Player of the Year. Well, as always, I have the answer for you. Apparently Wally Buono was at the local cinema a few weeks back to see I Am Legend and saw a preview for the new Steve Carrell movie, due out in June. He misunderstood though, and thought that "Get Smart" was someone in Hollywood sending him a reminder rather than the film's title. Immediately upon leaving the theatre, Buono returned to his office and launched a complaint against Warner Bros. Not only did he take issue with the fact that they had spied on him and broadcast his player personnel strategy around the world, he also felt that they were guilty of blatant false advertising since I Am Legend wasn't about him at all. I understand the matter is currently tied up in the appeals process.

Out: Scott Coe (released)
The Stamps never cease to amaze me. They continue to try and improve their embarrassing excuse for a defense by releasing the few players they have that were decent. Maybe they needed to free up some more money to invest in the offense, maybe they've just given up completely on trying to play defense or maybe they just got tired of looking at Coe's ridiculous hairdos week in and week out.

With Brian Clark already released, you have to wonder... Why are they releasing all their linebackers? Well here's my theory. Calgary realized late last season that their 3-4 defense wasn't working so they switched to a 4-3 defense and saw a slight improvement. So now they are thinking "hey if a 4-3 defense is better than a 3-4 defense, why stop there?" Look for the Stamps to unveil the revolutionary 6-1 defense in 2008.

In: Ryan Dinwiddie (re-signed), Abraham Morlu (free agent)
I didn't think this Morlu guy was worth mentioning until I read his bio. Turns out this guy represented Liberia in the 2000 Olympics and 2001 World Track and Field Championships as a sprinter. He can run the 40 in 4.1 seconds. Pretty impressive hey? But here's the best part... he hasn't played football since high school. Obviously this is a project player. Though his signing has got other teams thinking...

We already know that soccer players can be converted into kickers, now apparently sprinters can be converted into receivers. With this in mind teams have started scouting other Olympic athletes. Edmonton will be watching the power lifters for a lineman prospect, Montreal is looking for a volleyball player to help block kicks on special teams, Hamilton is keeping an eye on the shot putters for the QB of the future and BC hopes to find an offensive lineman in the heavyweight boxing division.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Eric Tillman Goes to the Used Car Lot

In his short time with the Riders, Eric Tillman has shown that he’s not afraid to make a deal. And whether or not you agree with the trades he’s made, the fact remains that Tillman is a shrewd negotiator. It makes me wonder what he would be like outside of a football setting.

I imagine it would look something like this…

Salesman: Well hello there sir, how are you today? Is there anything I can help you with?

ET: I'm just looking to see what's out there.

Salesman: You thinking about upgrading to a newer model?

ET: Well I guess that depends what I can get.

Salesman: We have a wide variety of vehicles. What is it that you're looking for?

ET: My sedan isn't performing like it used to. It's just our back-up car, we don't drive it too often, but I like to have something that I can count on when I need it. It's parked most of the time - it just doesn't impress people like my BMW does. I'll be honest with you though, neither of my cars is getting any newer, so it's time to start thinking about what I'll do when they finally pack it in.

Salesman: Well, this one is our top of the line model. All the bells and whistles you could ask for, and it's only $30,000.

ET: Woah, woah, woah. I'm working with a tight budget here! Sure, I could probably find a way to spend that kind of money on a backup car if I really wanted to, but then I wouldn't be able to buy the new washing machine we need, we'd have to cash in half of our mutual funds, and my wife would have to start buying No Name cereal for the kids to eat for breakfast. I just can't do that; breakfast is the most important meal of the day you know.

Salesman: So I'm told. Alright, well if price is an issue, why don't I show you this model. It's got a few more miles on it, pretty bare bones in terms of features, but it can definitely get you from point A to point B. Only $8,000.

ET: Well that's great, but I've already got two cars in my garage at home that are as good if not better than this thing.

Salesman: Okay, so you don't want a new car with all the extras, and you don't want an older car that is still reliable. Maybe you could tell me a little more about what you had in mind.

ET: What about a Yeti?

Salesman: Pardon?

ET: A Yeti! You know, the new model from Tomara. I'd like to see one of those.

Salesman: I'm sorry sir, I've been in this business for 20 years, but I'm not familiar with that model. And to be honest, I've never even heard of... what did you call it, Tomara? And besides, would you really want to drive a car called the Yeti? Doesn't sound like that great of a car to me.

ET: Hey, just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it's no good. I don't really care what other people think of it.

Salesman: Well if you don't care about perception, why don't you just buy one of those smart cars?

ET: I've thought about it. Sure, people might laugh now, but just wait until gas skyrockets to $1.50 a litre over the summer and all my friends want me to drive them places because they can't fuel their own cars. I'd rather be popular in October and November than in March.

Salesman: It was a joke sir, I don't have any smart cars here any more than
I have any Yetis.

ET: Fine... well show me that one then.

Salesman: Ah, an excellent choice. This one has low mileage, lots of power, and is very reliable. I could let you have it for only $20,000 if you trade in your old one.

ET: Well my old one is still pretty valuable, so you're going to need to throw in free gas for a year and drop the price to $15,000 if we're going to make this deal.

Salesman: Ummm... I'm not sure I can do that.

ET: Well forget about that then, what if I traded in my BMW instead?

Salesman: I thought you were looking to replace your second car?

ET: I told you that both of my cars were getting older, and that the back up car could still get the job done. Besides, my Beamer still looks good and all my friends like it, but the starter is about to go and I'm not sure if I'm willing to spend the money to fix it. And something tells me it's going to start to have some troubles shifting into those higher gears any day now.

Salesman: Well that sounds like quite a few problems, but I'm sure we can fix any mechanical issues. So what are you saying then... you're willing to give me $20,000 and your BMW for this car and free gas for a year?

ET: You wish! If we're talking about the Beamer, you're going to need to throw in a minivan and drop the price to $15,000, taxes in.

Salesman: But you just told me that your BMW is old, and is very quickly starting to show its age!

ET: Hey, it's still better than anything you have here. My backup car is too, come to think of it - it just hasn't had a chance to shine yet. I mean, for the amount it's been used, I'm sure I can get at least another 5 or 6 years out of it without any drop in performance.

Salesman: Then why are you looking to replace it?

ET: Look, I'll level with you. The cars I have now are hard on gas, and it costs me a lot of money to run them. But that shouldn't matter to you, it's not like you're going to drive them anyway - they'll just sit on your lot until you sell them to someone else. I bet as soon as I drive away in my new car, towing my new minivan behind me, someone will come in here, take one look at the BMW you have up for sale, and they'll tell you "you know what, I don't mind that it's best years are already past, and that I'm going to have to give up on the dream of that new washing machine, sell half my mutual funds, and feed my kids generic breakfast cereal, I must have this car." And I can tell that you're a good salesman, and I'm sure that you'll make all kinds of money on that deal. In the end, we'll both come out ahead.

Salesman: You know what sir, I'm starting to think that I'd be a sucker
NOT to accept $15,000 and your BMW for this new car and a new minivan.

ET: Actually now that I think about it, switch the BMW with my sedan.

Salesman: What?

ET: And throw in the gas for a year.

Salesman: *Sigh* Fine. You drive a hard bargain sir, but I think we have a deal.

ET: You know what... never mind, I can just get a newer model import for half that price.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CFL News - Addendum

Shortly after I posted yesterday's CFL news, there were a couple signings that are worth noting...

Omarr Morgan Returns
The Riders announced yesterday that they had signed free-agent cornerback Omarr Morgan. Morgan is coming off a disappointing season in Edmonton (as if there were any other kind of season in Edmonton) which have many questioning whether Morgan has lost a step. I for one think this is a great signing. Morgan is a seasoned veteran who has a wealth of experience with Richie Hall's defense. Best case scenario, Morgan regains his all-star form now that he's reunited with Hall and Eddie Davis. Worst case scenario we have a veteran back-up in case one of our starters goes down. And given that no DB played all 18 games last season, it's a good insurance policy to have.

You kind of have to feel for Morgan. In terms of career moves, he definitely ended up making one of the more boneheaded ones. Last year, Tillman offered Morgan a very lucrative deal to stay with the Riders. Morgan turned it down in favour of an even more lucrative deal with the Eskimos. One disappointing season later, the Esks cut him and he comes back to Saskatchewan (after missing out on a Grey Cup ring) for a contract that I guarantee pales in comparison to the one he was offered last year. And you know the humour isn't lost on Tillman. I can just picture the contract signing...

ET: Now where did I put that contract? Oh it's right here under my Grey Cup ring. Silly me, I always leave it laying around. I bet you know what that's like hey Omarr?... oh wait..... awkward...

James Johnson Re-signs
If you're a regular reader you can probably guess that I had pretty mixed emotions over the news that we had extended the contract of the Grey Cup MVP. Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of James Johnson and I was very critical of his play over the course of the season. That said, do I think we should cut Johnson? Well, that seems a bit drastic... besides, as far as I know, he's not even Jewish! I won't write him off completely as he has shown glimmers of greatness, most notably his record setting Grey Cup performance. Problem is those glimmers of greatness are mixed in between moments of covering receivers as if they had SARS and displays of tackling that make him look like he's doing his best impression of a man with no arms trying hump someone into submission. Now Johnson is young and hasn't been playing football all that long so there's still a chance he could develop into the greatest defensive force of our generation... or since that clearly won't happen, at least a solid DB.

The signing of Morgan makes me feel a lot better about Johnson being on the roster. In order to keep his starting spot next year, Johnson will have to prove he's better than Morgan and Airabin Justin. And if he does that, then great, he deserves to play and I'll ease up on ridiculing him. If not, he'll have to ride the pine and continue to withstand a barrage of Rider Prophet mockery. Either way I'm happy.

Charles Thomas Resurfaces
Former Roughriders lineman Charles Thomas signed with Hamilton yesterday. The news surprised me. Thomas kind of fell off the face of the earth after being released by the Rider last year and I assumed he was dead... turns out he just wasn't playing football. Many are questioning why Hamilton would be interested in a lineman whose blocking prowess while with the Riders earned him the nickname "Turnstile". Well I have a logical explanation. While Thomas is clearly not among the top linemen in the CFL, he's also not the worst. You likely won't win a Grey Cup with him lining up at tackle but a mediocre season isn't out of the question and let's face it, a mediocre season would far exceed expectations in Hamilton this year. Thomas may very well be one of their best linemen but given that it's the Ti-cats I guess that's not saying much, kinda like being the star pupil in the remedial class.

Sources say that Thomas was initially hesitant about signing with the lowly Ti-Cats but it turns out Bob O'Billovich is a pretty persuasive guy. When Thomas asked why he should sign with the worst team in the CFL, O'Billovich astutely pointed out "We may not be the best team out there, but we're the only one that's interested in you." Check mate O'Billovich.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CFL News - Catching Up

There's been so many big stories over the past couple weeks that a few CFL transactions have slid under the radar. So here's a summary of what's been happening in the CFL with a healthy dose of Rider Prophet commentary.

In: Quentin Griffin, Brock Stratton (free agents), Chris Getzlaf (re-signed)
Griffin's story goes like this... he's a former Denver Bronco who holds the franchise record for most rushing yards in a season opener with 156 yds. In 2004 he tore his ACL which effectively ended his NFL career. He spent last season in NFL Europe. I really like this story for some reason. Maybe it's because the last former Bronco who had a promising NFL career cut short by a knee injury who signed with Riders turned out so great. Then again maybe it's because I'm just highly in favour of any signing that could result in Henri Childs being cut.

In: Jermese Jones, Nate Curry (free agents)
Out: Brian Clark (released)
So the Stamps release one of the few bright spots on last year's sorry excuse for a defense and bring in 2 offensive players... looks like the Calgary mentality of "improve your defense by pumping money into the offense" will continue under new coach John Hufnagel.

In: Thaddeus Washington, LB (free agent)
Out: Omarr Morgan and Robert Brown (released)
So only a year after bolting Saskatchewan for the lucrative five year deal being offered by Edmonton, Omarr Morgan finds himself out of work. Most agree that he had a fairly disappointing 2007 season, and this is possibly attributable to the fact that he left Regina in such a hurry that he forgot to pack a few essential items - most notably, Eddie Davis and Richie Hall. Without ED and Richie to make him look good, it turns out that Omarr is just another mediocre defensive player. Of course if Edmonton cut people just for being mediocre defensive players they wouldn’t have enough players left on the roster to field a defense.

In: Orlando Steinauer, Kenny Weaton, Wayne Shaw and Michael Bishop (contracts extended)
Many people, myself included, were surprised to see the Argos extend Bishop after they acquired Kerry Joseph. Obviously they weren't satisfied with his performance last season. We'll have to wait and see how Bishop handles this demotion to a back-up role. To his credit, Bishops seems to be taking this all in stride. When asked about the presence of Joseph on the roster he said "I feel good about it, and I'll continue feeling good about it. I feel we've got two of the best quarterbacks in the league"... I'm surprised he thinks so highly of Rocky Butler.

In: Dahrran Diedrick, (re-signed)
Out: Patrick Dorvelus (retired)
Although neither of these moves is all that interesting or important, if I left out the only French team in the league there may be accusations of discrimination and such so I'm including it just to be safe.

In: Ryan Donnelly (free agent)
It is clear that Winnipeg has made signing offensive linemen a priority this offseason, having already extended Goodspeed and Sheridan. This is probably a very good idea considering they are 3 months away from camp and only have one QB under contract. Sources say that rather than signing a back-up QB, the Bombers are just going to line up 7 linemen and hope for the best.

In: Pat Woodcock, Jermaine Mays, Calvin Carlyle and Nick Kordic (free agents)
Out: Sir James Delgardo, David Lofton (released)
Woah, woah woah... Hamilton had a player named Sir James Delgardo?! Why am I just finding out about this now??? Who names their kid Sir James? I'll tell you who... Sir James Delgardo Sr. He liked the name so much he passed it on to his son. Awesome! How cocky must you be to give your kid a name that essentially likens them to royalty? Problem is when you are a no name player who gets cut from Hamilton it kind of tarnishes that royalty image.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Roughrider Celebrity Look-alikes

Given all the anger and sadness surrounding last week’s big trade, I decided I would start the week out on a positive note with something that should cheer you up (or at least temporarily distract you).

Whether or not you’ve realized it, many of our Saskatchewan Roughriders (both past and present) bear an uncanny resemblance to certain celebrities. Take a look for yourself….

Corey Holmes and Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince

Scott Gordon and Ben Stiller

Yannick Carter and Sanka from Cool Runnings

Eric Tillman and Beaker

Roy Shivers and Whoopi Goldberg

Tristan Clovis and Anthony Calvillo

Dominique Dorsey and P Diddy (or whatever he’s calling himself these days)

And my personal favourite…

Scott Schultz and King Kong Bundy

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kerry Joseph – Most Valuable… Argo?

Tear up your season tickets, burn your jerseys and sharpen up your pitchforks. Eric Tillman has gone insane! (Before you rush out and do these things please realize that I am being sarcastic and don't encourage you to do any of this... well except for the pitchfork part, nobody likes a dull pitchfork).

Well by now you've heard the big news. The Roughriders traded reigning league Most Outstanding Player Kerry Joseph to Toronto along with a 3rd round draft pick in 2010 in exchange for Glenn January, Ronald Flemons, a first round pick in 2008 and a 2nd round pick in 2010.

Okay, before I go any further please, take 5 deep breaths... and hopefully the urge to kill will diminish.

People are having a hard time believing that we couldn't afford to pay Joseph the money he wanted since other teams seem to manage. Well let's look at those other teams. Edmonton may pay Ricky Ray $400K but that has meant they have no money left over for an offensive line, a running back or more than 1 talented receiver. Hamilton pays Casey Printers $500K but it means they can't afford any talented players not named Lumsden, Moreno or Setta. Football is the ultimate team game, and the "teams" that chose to invest the most in their respective quarterbacks managed to finish 2007 with a combined 8 wins - 4 less than the budget quarterback Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"But Prophet," you say. "What about BC? They are very successful and invest heavily in QBs." Very true, BC has done very well but let's not forget that they were one of the biggest users of pre-cap deals that were heavily front loaded. Watch them over the next 2-3 years and see how much of the team stays together and how much they are paying their QB at the end. The departure of Dave Dickenson this year already shows that the wheels are in motion towards more affordable quarterbacks in Lotusland, and I expect that trend will only continue.

The part that people just don't understand is that this is all part of Eric Tillman's evil, diabolical plan. First he comes into a city to take over a team that just needs a little boost to get over the hump and win a championship. Then when he has the entire fanbase eating out of the palm of his hand, BAM! He dismantles the core of the team nearly overnight, all in an effort to prove the age-old belief that it is very difficult to win back to back championships in professional sports. And in an evil twist, Eric could not afford to pay Kerry Joseph the extra money he was looking for because *gasp* he recently bet $50,000 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' roster budget on the B.C. Lions to win the 2009 Grey Cup! Deliberate sabotage from the inside!

That all seems completely plausible, unless you consider the fact that it makes very little sense. And now you know how I feel as a result of reading conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory on the message boards these last few weeks.

Plain and simple, Tillman is not out to ruin the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
He has made a choice to invest our salary money to put talented players at all positions rather than bet the farm on one franchise player. That's why he asked Joseph to take a pay cut last year, and that's why he moved him rather than pay him more money this year. He made the tough decisions last season to get rid of some high priced veterans, and that turned out okay. This year, he's not afraid to do it again.

Eric Tillman has proven that he is more than willing to fulfill the requests of his players... but it is definitely a "be careful what you wish for" approach. Remember when Jason Armstead wanted to see the ball more or be traded at the end of the season? He found himself with the cellar-dweller Hamilton Ti-Cats by the end of the week. And when Fred Perry wanted to renegotiate his contract for more upfront money? Tillman had found a team willing to oblige him practically before the words had even got past Fred's gold teef... it just happened to be the struggling Edmonton Eskimos. And now we have Kerry Joseph, who wanted to be included among the top paid players in the league. Once again, Eric was more than happy to oblige him through trade.

I can almost envision the following conversation taking place between Eric
Tillman and Norm Fong as they pass in the halls at Mosaic:
Tillman: Hey Norm, how's the equipment business?
Fong: Pretty good Mr. Tillman, always interesting. Why just this morning,
I had Scott Schultz calling in and asking if he thought we could work something out to get him in John Chick's #97 jersey next season.
Tillman: Schultz wants to wear 97, does he? Well I'll tell you what Norm, next time you talk to Scott, ask him how he looks in red. We can make this happen!

I would like to close today by dipping into the mail bag and responding to some of the more ridiculous concerns that have been sent to me from across the Rider Nation. If you share one of these concerns, hopefully I can put your mind at ease... although your mind is likely an unstable one to begin with.

Q: Why did we trade Joseph? Doesn't Eric Tillman realize that by trading Joseph, we are only left with Crandell backed up by three inexperienced quarterbacks? What happens if Crandell gets hurt?
A: You're just upset because Eric traded Joseph when you expected him to trade Crandell. Don't you realize that if we'd traded Crandell instead, we'd be left with Joseph backed up by three inexperienced quarterbacks? What's the difference?

Q: Why didn't we just trade Crandell to Toronto for the same package?
A: Because Adam Rita is trying to cut back on the crack. Next question please.

Q: How can we possibly make the playoffs with Marcus Crandell as our starting QB?
A: That's right, there's no way a team with Marcus Crandell at quarterback could ever win the Grey Cup! How soon we forget that he is a former Grey Cup MVP and in training camp last year he was neck and neck with Joseph for the starting spot on the team that eventually went on to win the Grey Cup. It was pretty much a coin toss to decide who got the starters role at the end of camp, and need I remind you that early on in the season there was no shortage of fans that thought the wrong decision had been made.

Q: How can Eric Tillman possibly justify trading last year's league MOP for two complete nobody's that I've never heard of?
A: You mean Eric didn't run the trade past you before pulling the trigger? I for one am outraged. But take off the green glasses for a second and be honest with ourselves. There haven't been this many question marks surrounding the CFL's Most Outstanding Player since people were trying to figure out why Wally Buono would bench his in the Grey Cup. Everyone seems to readily give Kent Austin full credit for Kerry Joseph's significant improvement in 2007, and a month ago the sky was falling because Kent wasn't here to continue his work with Kerry. So who deserves the credit? Kent or Kerry? I don't know the answer... that's a question mark. Add to that the fact that Kerry Joseph is not young anymore, and he doesn't exactly play a style that will allow him to be successful after his athletic prowess begins to decay. When will that be? Again, I don't know the answer... but I'm willing to bet it will be sometime before the 24 year old Glenn January (who attracted some attention from NFL scouts after his brief time starting in Toronto last year) can no longer play on the offensive line. And before the 27 year old Ron Flemons can no longer chase a quarterback. And before the early 20's kid that we draft next month (with the 5th overall pick in what is believed to be a very deep draft) can no longer strap on the pads.

The fact is, Eric Tillman is in direct competition with the fans in that all the armchair GMs out there are only concerned with winning the Grey Cup in 2008. Tillman is clearly concerned with the long-term future of the team, and needs to find a balance between having a team that can be immediately successful and having a team that can be successful for many years into the future.

Am I happy to see Joseph go? Absolutely not, he’s a very talented player and a classy guy. Does Joseph have a few more good seasons left in him? Probably. Do I think we got a steal of a deal for Joseph? No but we got a good draft pick and filled 2 starting roles on our roster so I also don’t think it’s terrible. Do I have concerns about next season? Of course we are now down a coach of the year, league MVP and 2 defensive all-stars. However, I’ve said before that Tillman has some master plan that is so complex none of us could hope to understand it even if he drew us a diagram and I’m sticking to that. While I still have some doubt as to how well this plan will pan out, I say let he who has 3 Grey Cup rings cast the first stone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Top 10 things you'll never hear said at Mosaic Stadium:

10) “Good guy that Ballsy”
9) “When are they going to put that guy with the face paint and mohawk on the Maxtron?"
8) "I don't care what anyone says, that gopher is one intimidating mascot."
7) “Bring back that Sheri Trapp fellow!”
6) “I sure hope we have that French ref today”
5) "Nkeyasen at the 20... the 10... and he will score!"
4) "There's no way I'm running out on the field, that security guard just looks too athletic and focused."
3) "I don't feel like I'm paying enough for this beer."
2) Willy Cole – “Section 26, Row 31, Seat 3, you’re up to win $1000 if the Riders go all the way on this drive, and I hope you were listening because I’m not going to repeat that.”
1) "If you think about it, you really have to respect Troy Westwood."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Kent Austin - Coach of the Year

The list of hardware earned by the Riders in 2007 already includes the Most-Outstanding Player Award, the West Division Championship and of course the Grey Cup. Well now you can add one more to the list...

In what is no doubt the biggest surprise since that scientific study found that exercise is good for your health, it was announced Thursday that Kent Austin was the winner of the Annis Stukus trophy as 2007 Coach of the Year. Truthfully, this announcement could have been made back in November when the voting was conducted since there was never any doubt as to who would win. Here's a brief summary of Austin's season.

He managed to win a Grey Cup despite:
* Being a rookie head coach with a new offensive coordinator
* His starting QB taking a huge pay cut, being forced to compete for the starting spot in training camp and being pulled twice during the season for poor performance
* Last year's starting RB, who happened to be the team MVP, leaving for the NFL
* His replacement RB being acquired after the final preseason game and completely missing training camp
* That same RB also missing the last 4 games of the season due to injury
* His FB cutting the tips off 2 of his fingers
* His receiving core going like this: #1 got hurt and missed half the season, #2 was traded halfway through the season, #3 had family emergencies on 2 consecutive weeks and missed practice both weeks, #4 got temporarily benched, #5 missed the first half of the season with injury, #6 missed the end of the season with injury
* The starting safety playing himself out of a job halfway through the year
* 3 of his 5 O-linemen being brand new (and one of the other two contracted mono)
* No defensive back playing all 18 games, including his best DB who missed 9 games
* The rookie starting at defensive end wearing an insulin pump on the field
* His punter recording 7 special teams tackles
* His team leading the league in both CFL-imposed fines and league-issued apologies regarding blown calls
* His team also leading the league in man-games lost due to injury

Not too shabby.

Austin joins some elite company as 1 of only 5 Rider coaches to win the award. He joins John Gregory (1989), Joe Faragalli (1981), Eagle Keys (1968), and Steve Owen (1962).

Austin received 21 of the 42 votes, which isn't surprising given the competition he was up against. However, Austin overcoming 2 great opponents pales in comparison to Doug Berry overcoming not being nominated to garner 1 vote. This is what you get for letting people in Manitoba vote. Obviously the instruction "Place an X beside 1 of the 3 following names" was too complicated. To be fair, the balloting method is a relatively unknown process in Manitoba. The preferred method is, of course, to grunt once to vote for the first guy, twice for the second guy and so on. So it's hard to fault a guy for voting incorrectly when the CFL doesn't respect local voting practices.

Now the nominees themselves created a slight controversy that I would like to address before we put this Coach of the Year story to bed. Many people were shocked that Doug Berry was not nominated and equally as shocked that Pinball and Buono were nominated. Allow me to compare these 3 (bare in mind voting occurs prior to the playoffs).

Buono - Led his team to the best record in the CFL despite missing his #1 and #2 QB for most of the season.
Clemons - His team went from competing with Edmonton for the final playoff spot in the East to finishing 1st in their division fueled by an amazing 9-1 run to end the season.
Berry - His team went from being pretty much a lock to run away with the East to finishing with only 3 wins in the last 7 weeks of the season, landing in 2nd place.

I'm not taking anything away from Berry's coaching ability or the season the
Bombers had, I'm just saying the right people were nominated for the award.

Speaking of coaches it appears Jamie Barresi will be joining the Riders as our new Running Backs coach. Barresi spent last season as the receivers coach in BC and was also the offensive coordinator in Hamilton in '04 and '05. Just when you think Tillman has run out of former Ti-cats to recruit he proves you wrong again.