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.