Friday, February 27, 2009

Rider Prophet Salutes Bad Team Names: Imaginary Mascots

Here’s the latest in my continuing series recognizing bad team names from around the sporting world.

There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language but the following teams apparently felt that not one of those accurately captured the essence of their team and instead opted to make up their own word.

Top 5 - My Spell-check Doesn’t Recognize Your Team Name And Neither Does Webster’s

*Seriously if anyone knows what any of these things are please let me know. In the meantime I will just venture a guess based on their logo.

5. Kentucky Thoroughblades (defunct AHL)

Given its body proportions my only explanation is that this is some sort of horse that has been crossbred with a gorilla. Though I have no idea where a gorilla-horse would get skates and purple hair dye. Nor will I try to explain how its tiny legs could support its massive upper body mass without falling over. Apparently thoroughblades don’t conform to the laws of physics.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (NCAA)
While I realize that turkeys is not a great team name, I’m not sure that making up a word and then using the turkey as a logo anyway is really any better.
3. Virginia Military Institute Keydets (NCAA)
Even VMI doesn’t seem to know what a keydet is.

2. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs (NCAA)
So a moc is a beast with the head and torso of a bird and a steam engine for legs?

Winner: Saint Louis University Billikens (NCAA) – While the others used made up words, they at least used real items in their logos (or in the case of VMI, were wise enough not to bother) but Saint Louis wins because not only did they make up the team name, they also made up this logo which looks like some sort of pedophile goblin…

Dishonourable mention: Toronto Marlies (AHL) – Generally sports teams from Toronto manage to save the embarrassment for their on-field performance, the Marlies chose to buck the trend and incorporate the embarrassment into the team name.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Best Offseason Ever? …

... I think so!!

Last Tuesday I wrote that “I’m a Henri Childs Cut away from the best offseason ever.” … and late Monday my prayers were answered! Childs was released along with Jimmy Verdon, Dek Bake and Sebastian Clovis. Now admittedly my hatred for Childs hadn’t reached Johnson-like proportions (mainly because he rarely saw the field) but it was a hatred nonetheless.

The hatred dates back to before the 2007 season. Kenton Keith left for the NFL and we were in need of a running back. We briefly filled that spot with Hakim Hill, but like most things related to the Riders, it ended with a court appearance. Then we acquired a highly touted RB out of Montreal in a deal that cost us a first round pick (a reasonable price to pay if this guy turned out to be a solid starter). Well it took only 2 preseason games for us to realize that we’d made a terrible terrible mistake (at which point we traded for an actual RB... and the rest as they say is history). You see it wasn’t just that Childs wasn’t good enough to be a starter, he wasn’t good enough to even warrant being on the field.

His problem was all technique. While most RBs take long powerful strides when running, Childs opted instead to use a technique I can only assume he learned at ballerina school. He would prance on his tippy toes like some sort of effeminate fairy. Also, while most RBs attack the hole like a charging rhino, Childs’ attempts reminded me more of a senior citizen cautiously making their way slowly down a store aisle (again due mainly to the aforementioned effeminate prancing). He also seemed to have Scott Gordon-like ability to get struck in traffic at the line.

So it's with great pleasure that I bid farewell to Henri Childs.

Bishop, Johnson and now Childs… the Rider Prophet hatred trifecta has now been completely eliminated. In a related story, Rider Prophet Media will soon be closing their doors due to lack of material… just kidding. Though with those 3 gone it’s going to make things tough. Heck Alex Smith is not even on Special Teams anymore… I’m like a racist without a visible minority.

I’m feeling a bit torn here. As a Rider fan, the fact that there’s currently no one on our team that has garnered my hatred is a really good thing. However, as sports commentator and well known bigot, this leaves me feeling empty… much like what my posts will become if I don’t have someone to make fun of.

So the search is on for players to fill the highly uncoveted spots on my hatred list. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Eric Tillman Update

Here’s the latest on Eric Tillman. …

- The case has been adjourned until March 17th.
- No plea was entered
- There will reportedly be a media ban on the trial.

That’s it for now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Odds and Ends

Let’s start off with what’s going down in Riderville…

In one of the least surprising moves of the offseason, the Riders re-signed Leron Mitchell to a 2 year plus an option deal. I say it’s not surprising because on Monday Ken Miller hinted in an interview that Mitchell was a leading contender to start at corner this season which is generally difficult to do when you are not on the roster. I will reserve my judgment on the Canadian corner experiment until training camp. While I do have some concerns, I am also slightly optimistic. I mean hell, as long as Mitchell gives less than a 10 yard cushion in coverage and doesn’t bite on anything even remotely resembling a pump fake, he’ll already be miles ahead of our starters coming out of camp last year.

Kavis Reed was introduced as our new Special Teams and Running Backs Coach, leaving Alex Smith to concentrate on LBs. This is like the best of both worlds. We get to continue to have Alex Smith do great work with our linebackers, without having to be subjected to him doing the opposite with our kick catching game (I would call it a return game but that would imply some forward progression). Reed is young but already has a lot of coaching experience, so hopefully he can breathe some new life into our special teams. As for the addition of Running Backs into his portfolio, I’m pretty sure that was just a case of “well someone’s gotta do it”.

Many people are wondering why we opted for Reed when Special Teams guru Marcello Simmons was still available. Well, the reason is I think the Riders see this role as a stepping stone for Reed. They are likely grooming him to be our Defensive Coordinator down the road. Given the age of some of our coaches, having a succession plan in place is almost mandatory. Simmons is more of a specialist in terms of coaching and doesn’t yet have the experience to fit into our succession plan. Though I find it hard to believe no one is interested in Simmons.

Around the CFL…

The League has invited fans to make rule change suggestions which will be discussed at the upcoming CFL Congress meetings. While I did submit many recommendations, we’ll have to wait and see if my top 2 get any real consideration. #1 being mandating mascot soccer as the halftime show at every game and #2 being having officials ride atop trained ostriches during the game rather than walking. What rules changes would you like to see?

There have been talks between Commissioner Cohon and the city of Moncton about starting a yearly CFL game in the maritime city (informally dubbed the Atlantic Bowl) as part of a weekend-long event including a CIS game. I think a maritime presence can only be good for the league. That said, the plan is to showcase two eastern rivals, meaning there's a good chance that potential east coast fans will get to witness a showdown between the Ti-Cats and the Argos. That makes this move pretty much a saw-off in terms of positive exposure.


Okay once and for all I need to address a recurring concern people have been expressing: Why did we not do anything on the free agent market?

Look, we made (failed) attempts to sign Mo and Anton but other than that what did we really need? Nothing. We have pretty much every position covered with what’s already on our roster. And other than Mo and Anton who else what there really to go after? The only thing we are lacking going into camp is an established MLB (which isn't available on the market) so I assume people are just mad that we didn’t pursue Jon Oosterhuis.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: DL Matt Kirk (free agent), DB Chris Thompson (contract extension)
Out: Casey Printers (cut)
Well you could see this coming a mile away. There was no way the Ti-cats were going to pay Casey half a million to hold a clip board. The interesting thing is that no one in the league is interested in the former MOP, not even Montreal who almost signed him 2 years ago. It’s gotta say something when Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton have no back-up QB and Winnipeg, Hamilton and the Riders don’t have an established starter and still no one is interested.

I’m personally glad the Riders are not going after him. I mean I’m willing to bet he wouldn’t look as terrible as last season if he had a decent supporting cast (I still think he’s overrated but that’s beside the point). My concern (and evidently the concern of all CFL GMs) is Printers’ ego and the effect it will have on the locker-room. We are just recovering from the effect Michael Bishop had on the team. How much do you think it would set things off if we spent all off-season promising our current QBs that they would get a fair shot at starting only to bring in another outsider? Been there, done that, swore profusely, moved on.

In: Jesse Lumsden (free agent), DB Jason Nugent (trade with Winnipeg)
Out: Brock Ralph (traded to Winnipeg)
I told you Lumsden was headed to Edmonton. He’s a fragile grease ball (seriously, cut your hair or at least shower!) so the chance to take on the least strenuous rushing load in the CFL was the perfect fit for him. You’d think this move would upset Calvin McCarty who’ll be relegated to back-up, but in all fairness McCarty won’t see Lumsden as a threat to steal his job… it just means he gets to take 2-3 games off this season.

In: Luke Fritz, Shawn Gallant, Don Oramasionwu (free agent), Riall Johnson (trade with Toronto), Brock Ralph (trade with Edmonton), Ike Charlton (re-signed)
Out: Zeke Moreno (traded to Toronto along with a conditional draft pick), Jason Nugent (traded to Edmonton), Greg Bearman (cut)
Nobody has been busier this off-season than Mike Kelly and so far he made some pretty good moves. Here’s what I don’t understand though… last year Hamilton traded Brock Ralph to Edmonton primarily because Ralph’s son needed specialized medical treatment only available in Edmonton. So did Ralph’s son magically get better or is Richie not as nice of a guy as he is made out to be?

In: Dante Marsh, Jerome Dennis (contract extension)
Apparently Dennis is part of a rap group called 10,000 Lakes… meaning he joins such esteemed company as Nealon “Nee Deep” Greene and Robert “Shake Severs” Baker as CFLers who also dabbled in rap (and were equally unsuccessful at both).

In: OL Phil Bogle (free agent signing)
Bogle went from blocking for Ladainian Tomlinson in 2003 to playing in the AFL last season. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he’s on the downside of his career.

In: DT Kenny King, DT Tom Johnson, DT Montey Stevenson (free agent signing)
I’d take the time to write something insightful about this trio but they’ll be gone by training camp anyway so I won’t bother.

In: Zeke Moreno (trade with Winnipeg), Kerry Joseph (contract extension)
Out: Riall Johnson (traded to Winnipeg)
How ironic would it have been if the Argos had simultaneously announced Joseph’s extension and the signing of Casey Printers? (Actually I was somewhat surprised that didn’t happen).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Rider Prophet Salutes Bad Team Names

In my never ending quest to fill this blog with filler posts in absence of any real news, the Rider Prophet is launching a new regular feature on the blog. As you may have guessed by the title of this post the new segment will be called “The Rider Prophet Salutes Bad Team Names”.

For years the CFL was the laughingstock of the sporting world for having 2 teams named the Roughriders (to be fair the differences between a Roughrider and a Rough Rider are clearly vast but that’s a topic for another day). Well with this new segment I hope to show that comparatively speaking having 2 Roughriders isn’t all that bad. There are far more laughable things in the sporting world. Given the sheer volume of bad team names out there I will group them by themes.

This week I salute animal mascots…

Top 5 Least Intimidating Animal Mascots

5. Brevard County Manatees (Minor League Baseball) – Just to clarify, manatee (or sea cow) is not intimidating when referring to the animal but when referring to a female patron at a bar it’s very intimidating (at least until 2am when you’re blindingly intoxicated)

4. Eerie Otters (OHL) – Until PB&J Otter form a gang and start roughing people up on the street I will contend that otters are not intimidating.

3. University of California Irvine Anteaters (NCAA) – The only team even remotely intimidated by UC Irvine is the mighty Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA’s D-League.

2. University of Delaware Fighting Blue Hens (NCAA) – Now I can understand how a rooster could be classified as intimidating (hell they are so vicious that cock fighting has been made illegal), but a hen? What are they going do to lay an egg and then sit on them for weeks on end?

Winner: Columbia College Fighting Koala (NAIA) – Quick zoology lesson: Koala’s spend 20 hours a day sleeping and do nothing but eat eucalyptus the rest of the time, they don’t really have the time to fit fighting into that strenuous schedule. Besides on the off chance I’m wrong about the aggressiveness of the koala, I’m pretty sure I could take this “intimidating” creature.

It would look something like 0:34 of this wonderful commercial

Dishonourable mentions: Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (NCAA), University of Oregon Ducks (NCAA) - The Ducks were actually penciled into the top 5 until Man in the Bush reminded me of that unfortunate time he was feeding bread to the ducks in the park and one of the ducks violated him and robbed him at gun point.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

After fighting with the interweb for close to a week, I’m pleased (and relieved) to announce the launch of It offers all the same content and enjoyability as before without the inconvenience of trying to remember how to spell my last name.

The old web address ( still works and will just link directly here.

We have a few more new things in store for the site in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: The Fallout

Note: Before reading this post, please leave all pitchforks, torches and other implements of mob violence at the door.

If you’re like many people, right now you’re seething with anger over the events of yesterday. You can’t believe we let a bunch of our players leave (most notably our all-star LBs). You’re dumfounded as to how the only thing we could manage to do to compensate for all the players who walked out the door was to sign Joe-freakin’ McGrath. You’re demanding an immediate audit of the Riders financials because you’re certain the only explanation for not making any big signings is that all the Riders cap money is being spent on ivory back scratchers for the board of directors. You’re so filled with rage-ahol that you are currently punching your cat (please stop). Well fear not because the Rider Prophet, as always, is here to guide through these tumultuous (good word) times.

But before I get into dissecting yesterday’s free agent moves, there’s a matter I need address first. A news story so important to the Rider Prophet that, if it were not for the fact that we lost Mo and Anton yesterday, I would have dedicated an entire post to it. This was to be my defining moment and I will not be denied.

For the past 3 seasons I have been forced to endure a defensive performance that I can only describe as disgraceful (at least without launching into a profanity-filled and highly offensive tirade). Series after series, I would watch as this man would get burned at a rate normally reserved for suspected witches in medieval times. But inexplicably, some of the fans (and more inexplicably, the coaches) embraced this man, recognizing him as an all-star (I’m convinced this was due to a conspiracy by other team’s GMs to keep him on the field). Then in November of 2007, the man they call James Johnson forever etched himself in CFL history by setting a Grey Cup record for interceptions en route to becoming the least talented player to ever be named Grey Cup MVP. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy he did but I’m pretty sure my stapler could have picked off a rookie QB 3 times that night . And rather than embrace this accomplishment as a stepping stone to take his game to the next level, Johnson continued to let opposing QBs have their way with him like a cheap manwhore and was even given a shot at returning kicks (which JJ mistook for a chance to practice his Dance Dance Revolution skills on the field).

But finally the Riders have seen the light and banished Johnson to Winnipeg. In determining the terms of the trade, all the Riders asked was to be given a player of equal or greater value in return... which turned out to be a late round draft pick in 2011. Or to put it another way, the Riders felt that JJ was about as talented as a second year university player… I personally give the edge to the university kid.

So farewell to you James Johnson… may you continue to do what you do best on your new team.

Sidenote… word is the plan is that if Ryan “I’m about to be replaced with a southpaw“ Dinwiddie ever gets called into duty this season, they will line JJ up at wideout to ensure a few completions and a TD.

Man, first Bishop is cut and now Johnson gets traded… I’m a “Henri Childs Cut” away from the best offseason ever!

I understand that many of you do not share to happiness at this time so out of respect for you I will move on to more somber matters…

Many people can’t believe that our free agent strategy amounted to letting 6 of our players go and only signing a mediocre O-lineman in their place. Okay first let me clarify a few things… Morley and January were back-ups so they are not big loses (well unless we are looking at body mass, then it would be classified as a big loss), Gordon was not in our plans for 2009 so again no big loss, James Johnson’s departure (for reasons mentioned above) may actually benefit the team and Joe McGrath is of no relation to Mark McGrath (just thought I’d clear that up). So really the only tangible loss that occurred was that of Anton and Mo. We knew going in that we were going to lose one of them for sure. Losing both of them sucks but it’s not apocalyptic.

With Anton it boiled down to need. Renauld Williams has already proven that he is a capable replacement so we weren’t about to break the bank on Anton. We made a fair offer but did not feel pressured to go any higher. BC had no LBs to speak of other than Glatt and obviously were motivated to do what it took to land Anton. Now I was a huge Anton fan and really hate to see him go but I understand the logic in letting him walk.

Lloyd was all about money. He is young and currently the top middle linebacker in the league. This was his big chance to land a lucrative contract. Football careers can be short so I don’t blame him for doing what was best for him and his family. The Eskimos were in the same boat as BC and had no linebackers to speak of so they were highly motivated to land him (not to mention Richie Hall’s familiarity with Mo). Plain and simple, they put forth an offer we were not prepared to compete with (they were 30-50 thousand ahead in base salary and were offering a signing bonus that would normally go to an elite QB). Could the Riders have found the cap space? Probably, but much like last year with Kerry Joseph they decided that the losses that would necessitate would outweigh the benefit of keeping him here. What do you do? Pay Lloyd double what our other LBs make? Pay him equivalent to our QB? Sacrifice the roster depth that saved our asses last year for one player? There’s no denying Lloyd is among the top (if not the top) LB in the league and the odds of replacing him with an equivalent player are slim but I believe in the salary-cap era teams are better off spreading the wealth around the entire roster instead of betting the house on 1 or 2 star players.

There’s no denying that yesterday was a bad news day for the Riders but let’s not write off our chances this season before training camp has even opened.

Here’s some random musings from yesterday…

- I doubt many are as excited as I am about the return of Jamie “The Juggernaut” Boreham.

- Ken Miller hinted that we may be looking at an import safety (James Patrick) next season and possibly starting a Canadian corner (e.g. Leron Mitchell or Konrad Wasiela). While Patrick is a safe bet, many people (myself included) are quite skeptical about a Canadian corner. To be fair though, the last man we had in the position we're talking about was James Johnson, and I have my suspicions that a dude from India with no football background and a history of shoulder problems would probably do a better job than he did.

- So Burke Dales had hoped to catch on in the NFL and instead ends up signing in Winnipeg… that’s like the polar opposite of what he was hoping for.

- Gotta love the Bombers strategy on O-line. Let’s let an all-star caliber centre and tackle (both Canadians) leave and replace them with 2 players whose play earned them a spot on the Riders bench last season. And to top it off let’s pay one of them a 6 figure salary.

- As if the happiest man in the CFL yesterday wasn’t Kerry Joseph… seems the Argos finally realized their O-line was complete garbage last year and acquired 2 very talented OL to help shore things up.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Free Agent Summary

There was a flurry of activity on the opening day of free agency. So for today I’ll just give you a quick rundown of what happened and I’ll be back tomorrow with my patent-pending hilarious and highly biased commentary.

- Maurice Lloyd signs a 2 year deal with the Eskimos worth $165,000 per season plus incentives ($100k up front as a signing bonus) - Riders were at least $30,000 off the mark and were offering nowhere near that kind of bonus which is almost unheard of for a MLB.

- Anton McKenzie signs with the Lions. Surprised to see Anton go but with Renauld Williams set to go it boiled down to BC needing him more than we did and willing to pay him accordingly.

- Joe McGrath signs with Riders. 2 years plus an option

- Jamie “The Juggernaut” Boreham (2+ an option) and Mike McCullough re-sign with the Riders.

- Riders also traded a conditional draft pick to Toronto for non-import MLB Aaron Wagner and cut Matt Dominguez to avoid paying him an upcoming bonus (chance he may return though).

- Rob Murphy and Dominic Picard signs with Toronto. Murphy becomes highest paid OL in the league reportedly making $190K

- Toronto also re-signed Willie Pile and signed OT Shannon Boatman and WR Hank Edwards

- Alexandre Gauthier signs with Hamilton. 1 year plus an option, $150K a season

- Montreal re-signed Brian Bratton and Marc Estelle

- Scott Gordon, Graeme Bell and Kyle Koch signed with Edmonton.

- Edmonton traded Siddeeq Shabaaz to Winnipeg for Kai Ellis

- Glenn January signs with Winnipeg for a 6 figured salary. Wow that’s a lot of coin for a guy we had benched by the end of last season.

- Winnipeg also signed Burke Dales and Steve Morley, re-signed Matt O’Meara and apparently acquired Shawn Gallant (though that has yet to be confirmed and may turn out to be false)

- Calgary re-signed Marcus Howell

And I saved the best news for last…

The Riders traded James Johnson to Winnipeg for a 2011 draft pick!!!
JJ’s gone! WOOOOOOO!! Words can’t express how happy this news made me! Seriously this is like Christmas came early for me.

Check back tomorrow for analysis and continued elation over James Johnson leaving.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free Agency

Speculation has been running rampant since the 2008 season ended a few months ago as to what would become of this year’s crop of free agents. Well with free agency set to officially open on Monday, we will soon find out.

While it will be hard to top the excitement of last year, what with Hamilton signing Tony Miles and the gripping JoJuan Armour saga. Okay admittedly last year had all the excitement and drama of the World Championship of Chess and this year could be the same for all we know. But there are some pretty big names potentially on the market this year and a bunch of Riders, so it could be interesting after all. I was considering devoting an entire day of TV programming to this topic much like TSN does for the NHL but it pretty much would have been me dancing the Charleston for 8 hours while progressively getting drunker… sad thing is that would have been more exciting than TSN’s NHL coverage.

Here’s my predictions on the Riders’ poised to hit the free agent market as well of some big names from around the league.

Jamie Boreham – Boreham has done pretty good over the past few seasons here and very few teams are in the market for a punter so odds are good The Juggernaut will re-sign here.

Tristan Clovis – He disappeared off the face of the planet last year due to some family issues and has yet to resurface. The only place you’re likely to see him mentioned come Monday is on the back of a milk carton.

D.J. Flick – Unless Clermont, Fantuz and Dressler all decide to leave football to join the circus, there’s just no room left for Flick. It’s too bad because he’s a great player with a ton of heart. Look for him to land in either Hamilton or Toronto.

Scott Gordon – Gordon is an okay safety but not a great one. Richie hall has expressed interest in him so look for him to end up in Edmonton. Just make sure he's already at the podium before the media gets to the press conference, as he's not known for his ability to get through a good scrum.

Sean Lucas – It behooves me to tell you he’s all but locked up for next year. (Sorry I just really wanted to use the word behooves in today’s post, it’s such a great word)

Mike McCullough – Great on special teams and can be an effective middle linebacker when called upon, I think we’ll re-sign him.

Anton McKenzie – Biggest question mark. He obviously wants to play here but speculation has increased since he turned down the Riders contract offer. I still think he’ll re-sign with us… barring that he’ll be headed to Edmonton.

Maurice Lloyd – As much as it sucks, Mo is almost surely headed for BC. They are willing to pay him more than we are. Hate to lose a player of his caliber but we’ll survive.

Steve Morley – 50/50 chance we’ll bring him back. He’s massive but hasn’t established himself as a viable starter yet so if he leaves… not a huge loss.

Mike Abou-Mechrek – Abou is hilarious and adds some nastiness to our line but unfortunately he’s got a decent sized contract and is getting old. Given that we already signed two 30+ year old linemen I don’t like Abou’s chances of returning.

Glen January – Obviously the hype surrounding this guy may have been a bit premature. I’m not ready to give up on him yet and I don’t think the coaches are either but it will depend on January’s salary expectations. We won’t be paying him starter’s money and if he’s okay with that he’ll stay… if not he will try his luck elsewhere. I actually heard that if January didn't have a contract in place by the time free agency hits he was planning to go back home and enlist in the US Army later this month. In other words, January would pick February as his time to March.

Leron Mitchell – Showed tremendous speed and coverage on Special Teams before starting the broken fibula train. He’s young, he’s fast and he’s Canadian. Assuming he’s healed okay we will try to re-sign him.

Other Predictions
Jesse Lumsden – Edmonton Eskimos – The Eskimos’ strategy of only running the ball 10 times a year fits well with Lumsden’s ability to completely dominate the run game for 10 plays before succumbing to injury.

Rob Murphy – Hamilton Ti-Cats – Word is the press conference has already been scheduled despite the fact that Murphy is still under contract to BC… and they say teams never tamper with other players.

Walter Spencer – Has somehow managed to make a career out of being an outstanding special teamer which is quite a feat. I’m betting Spencer will remain in the East division somewhere.

Alexandre Gauthier/Dominic Picard – Top O-linemen on the market after Murphy. There were rumours that Picard was going to sign with the Riders and that may still happen. At least one of these 2 will stay in Winnipeg though.

Mark Estelle – Only marquee cornerback on the market. Perhaps Edmonton can sign him and ruin his career like they did to Omarr Morgan and Jordan Younger.

Willie Pile/Ike Charlton – With Edmonton and BC entering free agency with only one starting LB a piece I would imagine these 2 will attract some attention.

Brandon Guillory – Washington Redskins have expressed interest in him but if that doesn’t pan out he’s about the only half decent DL on the market… though his inconsistent play last year may make teams reluctant to pursue him.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: OL Jason Jimenez (re-signed)
Jimenez turned down an invitation to try out for Tampa Bay and instead settled on a new 2 year plus an option contract worth $140,000/season. He was intrigued by the NFL possibilities until he found out that there are way more camera angles available down there, which would make getting off on a technicality near impossible.

In: LB Derrick Ballard, CB Samuel Joseph, DB Lin-J Shell (free agent signing)
Out: Keith Stokes (cut)
Lin-J is quite the interesting first name… I wonder if his parents envisioned him growing up to be a rapper.

In: Henry Burris, Brandon Browner (contract extension)
I’ll take “Players I Wish Would Be Struck Down From Above Or Barring That Develop Some Sort Of Weird Virus That Prevents Them From Talking For 200 Alex “. I’m so torn here. On one hand I’m glad I was right about Browner being overrated and not good enough for the NFL. On the hand I’m saddened by the fact that I’ll be subjected to watching him for another season and listen to the commentators talk about how great he is.

In: DL Dario Romero (extended through 2011)
… yeah I got nothing…

In: DT Alan Harper, DE Garrett McIntyre (free agent signing)
No not THAT Alan Harper.

In: LB Joe Lobendahn, DL Josh Miller (re-signed) RB Rodney Kinlaw, OL Kyle Sleightholm (free agent signing)
It’s actually ironic that Rodney Kinlaw signed in Winnipeg of all places. That’s because kinlaw is actually a term used by Manitobans to describe someone who is both an in-law and one's own kin… with all the inbreeding it can get hard to differentiate between actual in-laws and ones that people were already related to prior to marriage.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Good News

Admittedly these haven’t been the best few weeks for Rider fans. Free agency is only a few days away and some of our top players are in a position to jump ship. And then toss in the events of last week… nothing seems to be going our way. It’s enough to drive any man to drink (or it’s at least a respectable excuse for a pre-existing drinking habit).

Well it’s a new week and we get to start it off on a good note… with some positive Rider news.

Three-time Lineman of the Year nominee Gene Makowsky has re-signed with the Riders (1 year plus an option). While he may be the second oldest player on our team and have a head that has been known to cause solar eclipses, he proved last year that he is still among the league’s elite linemen. After starting the offseason with only Wayne Smith under contract, we’ve finally gotten to a point were I’m no longer worried about our ability to field a starting line.

As good as the Makowsky news is, this news trumps it. Word is linebacker Sean Lucas is poised to re-sign with the Riders. Despite receiving very little fanfare, Lucas was the 2nd leading tackler in the CFL last year and was perhaps our most underrated defender. Lucas fills a Will linebacker spot that we’ve struggled to fill since Jackie Mitchell was released… well with the exception of that one time TJ Stancil wasn’t hurt and turned in a player of the week-worth performance. Much like our O-line, with Williams and now Lucas back in the mix our linebackers are starting to fall into place.

There is also word that Anton McKenzie will re-sign with the Riders shortly… but if you’re a regular reader of the blog you already knew that since I broke this news over a month ago (don’t believe me, see for yourself).

CFL Ins and Outs

In: Paris Jackson (contract extension)
Out: Stephan Logan (signed with Pittsburgh Steelers)
The Lions will be a very different looking team this season. In addition to Logan, they’ve already lost Clermont, Wake, Williams, Johnson and Floyd. Murphy is as good as gone once free agency opens and Buck Pierce still has his workout in Houston. The only good news for the Lions is that Jimenez has reportedly turned down a tryout invitation by Tampa Bay. Could be a tough season in BC… good thing Wally has his cholesterol under control.

In: Andrew Nowacki (re-signed through 2011)
Out: Kenny Onatolu (signed with Minnesota Vikings)
Fear not Eskimo fans. You may have lost Jason Tucker (now a coach) and Kelly Campbell (to Tampa Bay) but Andrew Nowacki is sticking around. I mean sure Campbell put up more yards last year than Nowacki has in his entire career but that’s no reason to fret. Right?

In: Anthony Calvillo (re-signed), Marcus Brady (named receivers coach)
So follow me if you can… Brady has been named the Als new receivers coach… but has no intentions of retiring from playing, so he will continue to serve as an active back-up QB. My only guess it that Marc Trestman decided that since Brady has no chance of actually seeing the field, he might as well do something useful instead of sitting on the bench collecting dust.

In: WR Phillip Brock, WR Kenny Higgins (free agent signings)
The press release describes Brock as “coming off one of the greatest single offensive efforts in AF2 history” … which falls slightly below "Top 10 finish in the chicken wing eating competition at the last family reunion, even though Uncle Ned and his three sons who are all offensive linemen and his one daughter who is just really fat all boycotted the get together because of that ongoing dispute with Aunt Mary over the unfortunate Christmas incident of '05" in the list of prestigious life accomplishments.

Out: Milt Stegall (retired), Tom Canada, Stanford Samuels (cut)
So Milt is finally calling it quits after 14 years. While there’s no denying Stegall has cemented himself as one of the greatest receivers in CFL history (all-time TD leader, all-time leading receiver), it was pretty obvious last season that is was time for Stegall to retire. To say he ran like a wounded giraffe would be an insult to wounded giraffe’s everywhere (and word is the blog rates very highly in the wounded giraffe demographic so I’m not about to piss them off).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Back to the Football

With all the controversy and craziness of the past 2 days, people’s focus has definitely not been on football matters. This has led to a number of news stories flying below the radar. One such example is a story that, if it were not for Tuesday’s events, would surely have been the lead sporting story across Canada. In a shocking and tragic turn of events… brace yourselves… the receiving force that is Pat Woodcock … are you sitting down? … has been released by the Hamilton Ti-Cats. (Pause for dramatic effect). His legions of fans are still struggling to come to terms with this news.

As you can hopefully tell from the preceding paragraph it’s time to get back to what this blog is all about: covering all notable CFL news… and mocking it relentlessly. So let’s get you caught up on what’s been going on across the league....

Yesterday Dave Dickenson announced his retirement after 10 seasons (and almost as many concussions). Over those years Dickenson was consistently one of the top QBs in the league. His skill level was such that he may have gone on to be considered one for the greatest of all time (multiple Grey Cups/individual awards/records)… if it weren’t for the fact that he was blessed with one of the least durable noggins in league history. Dickenson never completed a full 18 game season, generally due to fact that he couldn’t convince the schedule makers to have the Lions schedule not include a meeting with the Riders. The press conference almost took a turn for the worse when a reporter in the front row sneezed and there were fears that Dickenson may suffer another concussion as a result. Dickenson was lucky this time but admits he’ll have to be more careful in the future if he hopes to enjoy his retirement.

Onto Toronto, where, you guessed it, they hired more NFL Europe coaches. The Argos hired Mike Jones as their receivers coach and Ed O’Neil as their linebackers coach (both are former Frankfurt Galaxy coaches), the only redeeming thing here is that O’Neil actually spent a year as a defensive coordinator in the CFL… though it was with Hamilton so I’m not sure you can count that. In reading up on the hiring of Jones I came across this quote which cracked me up: “As a head coach, Jones was practically unbeatable. In his first season, the Galaxy dashed to a 7-3 record and a World Bowl appearance.” I was unaware that we had changed the meaning of “practically unbeatable” to include teams that lose multiple times including in the championship game. That’s like saying I’ve been practically unwavering in my faithfulness to my girlfriend… you know if you ignore all those affairs and prostitutes I had along the way (and if she happens to be reading this, I’m joking… there were no affairs).

CFL Ins and Outs

In: Jeremy O’Day (re-signed), RB Justin Beaver, WR Todd Blythe (free agent signings)
Well the good news is that 2 months ago the only starting O-lineman we had under contract was Wayne Smith. So with Belton Johnson and now O’Day back in the fold we actually have some semblance of a line. Beaver and Blythe seem like 2 interesting prospects… though I am already dreading all the bad puns the newspapers will come up with during training camp when covering Beaver. Personally I feel Beaver should never be covered.

In: Fred Stamps (signed a 2 year extension)
Out: Agustin Barrenechea (released)
I was somewhat surprised that Barrenechea was cut given that he led the Eskimos in tackles last season. Though I guess to be fair, being one of the top players on a really bad defense doesn’t do much to improve your job security.

In: Odell Willis (free agent signing)
Out: Charleston Hughes (signed with the Philadelphia Eagles)

Willis comes from the AF2 Green Bay Blizzard, who already lost fellow DE Joe Sykes to the Riders… how will they ever defeat their archrival Iowa Barnstormers now?? (10 bonus points if you can tell me what the Roughriders connection to the Barnstormers is… and yes I really like saying Barnstormers and will make every attempt to incorporate it in my posts).

As for Hughes, it seems the Rider Prophet Award for Best Player Name is somewhat of a curse. Last year Chijioke Onyenegecha won the award and didn’t return to the CFL for 2008. This year, Charleston Chews wins and will not be returning to the CFL for 2009. In light of this revelation early candidates for next year’s award include Henry Burris, James Johnson, Ricky Ray, JoJuan Armour, Brandon Browner, and Rob Murphy… or possibly a 6 way tie.

In: Jarious Jackson (contract extension)
I’m so shocked that Jackson wasn’t able to garner any NFL interest this offseason. BC fans were split fairly evenly between those who feared he would catch on down south and those who feared that he would actually return to the Lions.

In: Agustin Barrenechea, Willie Quinnie, Johnnie Morant (free agent signing)
Out: LB Cornelius Anthony, LB Michael Botterill, DE Sacha Lancaster, DE Terrence Patrick, LB Rocky Schwartz, WR Pat Woodcock, WR Tony Miles, OL Charles Thomas (cut)

As if the Pat Woodcock news isn’t shocking enough… Charles Thomas has also been released, oh the humanity. Actually, the rumours are that Rob Murphy will sign with Hamilton once free agency opens and I guess when you have a choice between a 2-time Lineman of the Year and a “turnstile” the decision is easier than a choice between Jessica Alba and Rita McNeil.

In: Jerome Haywood (free agent signing); Mike Imoh (re-signed)
10 bonus points to the first person to some up with something interesting to say about these signings.

In: Fred Reid, Obby Khan (re-signed), LB Roderick Johnson, LB Bryan Wilson (free agent signing)
Out: Matt Sheridan (released)

The re-signing of Reid reminded me of how he was named an all-star despite not starting until the midpoint of the season - yet further proof of just how bad the level of play is in the East division.

In: WR Derrick Hamilton (free agent signing)
Out: Dominique Dorsey (signed with Washington Redskins), Cliff Washburn (signed with Houston Texans)

This has been a tough offseason for Argo fans (all 37 of them). They have now lost 4 of there most talented players to the NFL (having previously lost PK Sam to Buffalo and Byron Parker to Philly). Many fans are questioning whether they will see fan favourites such as Dorsey back in double blue ever again. Well don’t worry Argo fans, if history is any indication, you can expect to see all 4 players back in Toronto… that is of course after they’ve become washed-up NFL players no one else would touch with a ten foot pole… it’s an Argo tradition.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Eric Tillman Saga

A few days ago, I heard rumblings that something big was going to go down this week in Riderville. At the time I wasn’t overly concerned. I thought to myself that at this point, outside of trading away Fantuz or Dressler, not much would surprise/anger me (especially after last offseason). Well I was wrong. The news arrived over the noon hour yesterday and it felt like I’d just been kicked in the nuts by Mike Henry (5 bonus points if you actually get that reference). I was as shocked as everyone else to learn that Tillman had been charged with sexually assaulting a 16 year old. I never thought I’d say this but I wish he would have traded away Andy Fantuz… that would have been a lot simpler. (Note: I do not think we should actually trade Fantuz, just comparatively speaking it would have been easier to take).

Yesterday I asked for your input on how to handle this story. Well you the readers have spoken and overwhelmingly feel that the Rider Prophet should go on assuming Eric Tillman is a good guy until the courts prove otherwise and after sleeping on this for a night, I agree that this is the proper approach for me to take (though to those of you who voted for “Mock Remorselessly”, I do appreciate your enthusiasm).

Given that this is a criminal matter before the courts (and one that involves a minor), I think any speculation on the alleged events or regarding guilt or innocence on my part would be completely inappropriate. Those are matters for the justice system to decide and until they do all I will say is that I consider Tillman innocent until proven guilty.

No matter how this case ends, I don’t see it having a happy ending for anyone involved. Regardless of whether he’s innocent or guilty this will tarnish both Tillman’s and the team’s reputations. As much as I would like to see this whole situation just blow over and things return to normal, I just don’t see that happening. For now, Tillman is on paid leave from the Riders until the matter is resolved and Ken Miller and Joe Womack will handle his duties in his absence. Whether Tillman will ever return to his position with the team remains in doubt. I guess we’ll have to see how events unfold over the next few weeks.

You know I can’t help but thinking this is all my fault. I should be more careful about what I ask for. All offseason I had been asking for some big news and even went so far as to post the following on Jan 16…

Where’s Tillman with a highly controversial trade when I need him?

Well I guess in a round about way I got what I asked for. Why is it that I only ever get the bad things I ask for? I mean I ask for winning lotto tickets, absolute power, a job at the Playboy Mansion, Michael Bishop to be abducted by aliens never to return to earth again and I get nothing but I ask for one piece of controversial news and voila (Note: This may be a sign that my blasphemous and sinful ways have angered God, but for now I’m going to assume it’s just a run of bad luck… fingers crossed).

For now, all we can do is wait for the justice system to sort this out. Given that I have always been a big fan of Tillman and what he’s done for this team, the coming days will be a rollercoaster of emotion as I’m sure it will be for many of you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Eric Tillman Charged With Sexual Assault

I just heard the news and by now I'm sure you have too… Rider GM Eric Tillman has been charged with sexually assaulting a 16 year old girl back in August. Wow! This is not good at all!

I had heard rumours of something big happening this week but this is not what I was expecting.

To be honest I’m still in complete shock and don’t really know how to respond. On one hand this is just the kind of juicy story that this blog thrives on and if this were any other team’s GM I would be all over it. But on the other hand Eric Tillman has almost reached the status of demi-god here in Saskatchewan and I had borderline man-crush on the guy (one I guess I should approach with caution given this news). I’m so torn.

So I’ve decided to let you the fans (all seven and a half of you) decide how the Rider Prophet will handle the scandal that has rocked Rider Nation. Please vote in the poll above.

I will have more on this terrible story as it becomes available.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Made In Canada

This one goes out to Ronbo, who asked for my thoughts on developing Canadian QBs…

Despite having a relatively small population, Canada has established itself as a strong sporting nation. Our athletes have risen to the elite levels of virtually every major sport…
Baseball - Larry Walker, Justin Morneau
Basketball – Steve Nash
Golf – Mike Weir
Track – Donavan Bailey
Hockey – pretty much every great player in the history of the sport

Hell we’ve even risen to elite levels in the pseudo sports…
Curling: again pretty much every great player in the history of the sport
Speed Skating: Jeremy Wotherspoon, Catriona Le May Doan

As well as the quasi-sports…
UFC – George St. Pierre
Wrestling – Bret Hart, Chris Jericho

And the “not really sure how it’s considered a sport”…
Racing: Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve
Figure Skating – Kurt Browning, Elvis Stoyko

The funny thing is that there is one sport that Canadians have had difficulty dominating… Canadian football. When you think of the greatest CFL players ever, how many are Canadian? None I’m guessing. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that in the history of the Canadian Football League, only 2 Canadians have ever been named the League’s Most Outstanding Player (Tony Gabriel and Russ Jackson)? Not being able to dominate at a game you invented is about as embarrassing as a scrawny white soccer player completely dominating the NBA for 2 years and only barely being bested in the 3rd year by a German ogre.

But why is it that our athletes can’t seem to reach the upper echelon of football? Obviously our success in a variety of other sports would indicate that we are not genetically inferior to athletes from other countries. I mean, we even managed to get an Olympic medal in Tae-kwon-do which was invented half way around the world.

What it boils down to is development.

Look at hockey. Canada has the most dominant junior program in the world and churns out more superstars than anyone else. This is because children are fitted with a pair of skates shortly after the umbilical cord is cut and learn the neutral zone trap before they are potty trained. From the instant, they are born Canadians have access to quality coaching and development programs. This is why Canadian hockey is so dominant and the best players from other countries want to come here to train. The developmental football programs don’t even come close. The US, by comparison, has a football program that would rival our hockey program in terms of intensity. Their pee-wee teams have better coaching than some of our university programs. That is why the best players in the sport generally come from the US. It is also why CFL GM’s tend to favour the better developed import players over the homegrown Canadian ones.

In a roundabout way this brings me back to the CFL and its Canadian players…

The league mandated ratio rule has secured a place in the game for Canadians. As a general rule those places are limited to kickers, O-linemen, safeties, fullbacks and a token Canadian receiver. A few players have also managed to crack the spots generally dominated by imports: D-line (Shultz, Johnson), Linebackers (Glatt, O’Shea), DB (Sanchez) and RB (Lumsden).

However the quarterback position has eluded Canadian players thus far (with the exception of Russ Jackson). In fact, I can only think of 4 Canadian QBs that have garnered even mild CFL interest since I’ve been watching: Daryl Leason, Tommy Denison, Jesse Palmer and Teale Orban… and none of them enjoyed any kind of tangible success (unless you consider appearing on that ridiculous show The Bachelor as success… in which case you lead a very sad life). On second thought, how could I forget Laval's standout quarterback Mathieu Bertrand, whose multiple Hec Crighton nominations during an impressive career led him to become one of the finest at his position in the CFL... as a fullback.

Canadian QBs face some tough odds. Not only is there an abundance of better developed QBs down south to compete against, but also there is absolutely zero advantage for a GM who does take a chance on one. QBs don’t count against the ratio so you’d essentially be using up a roster spot on a QB who is way farther behind on the learning curve than the import player the other teams have in that spot (which puts you at a competitive disadvantage). Athletic ability and knowledge of the Canadian game are important but for QBs it’s all about coaching and development and imports have a huge advantage in this regard. So unless the rules are changed GMs are unlikely to change their stance on Canadian QBs.

So hypothetically if you wanted to change to rules so that they encourage the development of Canadian QBs, how would you do it?

The question of course is whether to employ the stick or the carrot method. The carrot method of course being to poke someone in the eye with a carrot until they submit to your will and the stick method being to use said stick to knock someone out and then don their clothing and impersonate them to do as you please.

One approach would be to amend the rule so that non-import QBs count towards the ratio. This way if a GM happened to have an amazing Canadian QB he could play an import somewhere else. This method however has a couple problems. First, unless a GM has a phenom of a QB he likely won’t take advantage of the rule. Also, you would essentially need a back-up Canadian QB too or you would have to juggle your starters if your starting QB went down (either that or start an extra Canadian just in case). It would be a lot like the running back situation right now. Sure GM’s can start a Canadian RB and use an import elsewhere but very few do (more specifically none of the good teams do). So amending the rules this way won’t change a whole lot.

The other approach would be to increase the game day roster to 47 and mandate that the extra spot go to a Canadian QB. This would actually force GMs to have a Canadian pivot (even though they would be under no obligation to actually play them). Now you could argue that all this will accomplish is having GMs sign a token Canadian and never play him or develop him. While that may be true in some cases, a good GM will realize that if he has to have a Canadian QB on the roster he’d be better off having the best one that he can find… very few GMs are content to fill roster spots with talentless players with no potential (well excluding Toronto and Hamilton). Now given that we are essentially starting from scratch in terms of viable Canadian QBs, this approach would take a number of years to yield any kind of tangible results… but it would at least be a start.

So does the Rider Prophet think the CFL should take action to encourage the development of Canadian QBs? Well let me put it too you this way… when homegrown QBs aren’t given a chance but the likes of Spergeon Wynn, Nealon Greene, Mike McMahon, Akili Smith, Michael Bishop and Tee Martin are, something is wrong.