Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Morning Sentimonies: In Point Form

It’s been quieter than a phone call with Helen Keller lately so you’ll have to make due with another round of Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts.  

- Though it is a widely known fact that Richie Hall will become our Defensive Coordinator, it can’t be made official until he sorts out some contractual things with Edmonton. I have no idea why this is taking so long as they have been working on this for the better part of January. At this rate, Richie will have to wear a black bag on his head and call himself Mr. X for the first few games of the season.

- It’s been confirmed that Bill McDermott will be joining our coaching staff as our RB coach. McDermott will help will the “old guy” quota which took a hit when Ken Miller stepped down. He has been OL Coach for a variety of CFL teams as well as at various other levels.

- McDermott was named RB coach as opposed to OL coach because the Riders were trying to convince Bob Wylie to come back here to his old job. That appears to not be in the cards as Wylie is set to become the OL coach for the Oakland Raiders. 

- A lot of people are excited about how “experienced” our coaching staff is going to be. Why? Experience is about as a predictor of success as potato chip preference. For example: the most experienced Special Teams coach last year was Jim Daley. The least experienced… Mike O’Shea. All that “experience” sure did a lot of good for our team. Experience is only useful when its successful experience not just many many years of failure.

- Andy Fantuz has refuted reports that he has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Reading between the lines, they have made him an offer but he just hasn’t signed on the dotted line yet. He has until Feb 15th to make a decision. So all we have to do his hire someone to pull up in a van, knock him out with chloroform, carry him off in a burlap sack, chain him up in an unspecified basement and hold him there for the next 16 days. It may seem a bit extreme but it’s for his own good and someday he may even come to appreciate the move… you know, once the legal proceedings have ran their course.

- At this point I doubt money is the issue with Fantuz. He made good money here plus supplemented that with cereal and insurance ad money. This will likely be his last shot at the NFL so I could see him signing for little or no signing bonus. He just wants a shot. What is a hang-up though is the threat of a lockout. If he signs and there is an NFL lockout, Fantuz won’t be able to play football anywhere but his PS3. It’s easy to sign for nothing when you know that if it doesn’t work out the Riders will be waiting with open arms. It’s a lot tougher when there is a very real possibility you’ll end up with nothing but a lot of time to grow your ridiculous fro back. 

- Chad Owens has an offer on the table from the NY Jets and Phillip Hunt is receiving serious attention from the Vikings. They too have yet to sign, likely wrestling with the same concerns as Fantuz.

- Ken Miller has been nominated for Coach of the Year for the 3rd year in a row. He has now been nominated in every year he has been a Head Coach in the CFL, a testament to his abilities and the results he has achieved. Unfortunately he will likely lose for the 3rd time in a row. If Miller had coached a few more years there was a very real possibility that he would have lost the award to every coach in the CFL.

- All signs point to Jim Barker winning the award for his remarkable work turning around the woeful Argonauts. I’m fairly torn on this. On one hand, the fact that he was able to coach a team without a passing attack to a winning record and a playoff victory is an absolutely amazing feat. On the other hand it should be against the selections rules for a coach who was unable to organize an even remotely competent passing attack in an aerial based league to even be considered for the award.  

- Anthony Calvillo says his medical procedures went well and he’s signed a 2 year extension with the Als and is ready to begin getting ready for his 62nd season in the CFL. Nothing can stop this guy. His wife getting didn’t stop him. Now him getting cancer doesn’t stop him. Hell not even having to overcome starting his football career as a member of the Las Vegas Posse stopped him. I’m convinced that if he shattered his femur they’d just cast him up and have the O-line carry him out there and operate exclusively out of the shotgun formation. 

- Assuming he continues on his current pace Calvillo has a shot at breaking Damon Allen’s record for passing yards this season. And if reaching that milestone doesn’t convince him to finally call it a career, we can safely assume that he is immortal and will still be playing football when our grandchildren start receiving their pensions. 

- Adrian McPherson must be the most frustrated guy in the league. “Come to Canada” they say. “Our starter is getting on in years” they say. “Spend a couple years as a backup and you be starting before you know it” They say.
- It’s extremely sad to think that there is only one more football game left until mid-June.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: Keron Williams (contract extension)
Out: OL Sherko Haji-Rasouli, DL Steve Williams (cut)
I wonder if the CFL will edit out that part in their “This is OUR League” commercial that mentions “a league of Haji-Rasoulis” if Sherko doesn’t catch on with another team. Maybe they’ll replace it with “a league of Elimimians”.

In: LB Markeith Knowlton (contract extension)

In: DB Joel Lipinksi (free agent signing)
Just the next chapter in Eric Tillman bringing in whatever recruits of his he can track down that are currently unemployed. Good for Lipinski though he’s a nice guy and I’m sure his experience as a team-mate of the Rider Prophet in the Regina touch league will serve him well as he pursues his pro career. 

In: K Justin Palardy, OL Chris Greaves (contract extension)
Palardy certainly had a rollercoaster year. He went from getting cut as Hamilton’s punter and finished the year by winning a placekicking job in Winnipeg created by the continued sucking of Alexis Serna and phantom injuries of Louis Sakoda. 

Out: WR Ryan Thelwell (retired)

In: WR Danny Desriveaux (contract extension)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Stadium Saga Continues

While I realize that the decision to spend hundreds of million dollars on the construction of a new stadium is not something that lends itself to a quick decision, I think we are getting to the point where it’s starting to get ridiculous and its time to shit or get off the pot. Each week/month seems to bring another twist and usually another delay in a final decision. Fortunately this week’s news is a positive twist.

This whole stadium thing has really been an amazing storyline to follow. I mean if we rewind just 15 years ago, our province was poorer than a hobo and even if we had the money people would likely have voted strongly against a new facility for the team to embarrass themselves at… would have likely gotten more support for a bulk purchase of paper bags to cover our faces. 

Then 2007 rolls along… the province suddenly has more money than they know what to do with thanks to the potash boom and a Grey Cup victory boosts support for the Riders to unprecedented levels.  What better way to use up some of the money that is overflowing the provincial coffers than to build a new state of the art facility for everyone’s favourite team.

But even though Brad Wall could have likely paid straight cash for the stadium at the time this is government and there is process to follow. First we had to conduct a study to see if a new stadium was even the best option. Then once we determined that a new domed stadium was indeed the best option, we had to conduct a feasibility study to see if said stadium made financial sense. Which it did. That was followed by a viability study, a possibility study and disability study just to be safe.

Then excitement was at a fever pitch. We had a location, we had blueprints, we had buy in from the province and the city, we had… an untimely global economic meltdown that abruptly put the stadium plans on hold. Thank you very much unregulated American banking industry.
But all hope was not lost. The government remained committed to pursuing the project. The problem was how to pay for it. Or rather how to come up with an explanation of how it would be funded that would appease the public. 

Then out of nowhere along come the Seminoles with their wacky $1.2 billion dollar stadium/casino plan that was announced, immediately denied by the Seminoles who subsequently remembered that “oh yeah, we did have that billion dollar plan in the works. Must have slipped my mind when you first asked.” That provided some entertainment but ultimately went nowhere (which was likely for the best).  

 Then there was more nothingness.

Then in September news comes out that the Provincial Government had reached a deal to conditionally purchase the CP rail yards where the proposed stadium would be built, “just in case”. Riiiggghhht “just in case” wink, wink. You see unlike those idiots in Hamilton who had the federal government going out of their way to give them money to build a new stadium if they could just pick a place for it, we had a place that everyone agreed on but no federal money.
Then there was more nothingness. Until the Federal Government came out and made it clear they wouldn’t be giving any public $ to sports stadiums which included us and Quebec who wants a new hockey rink for an NHL team they don’t yet have. I guess they are going on the “If you build it they will come” philosophy. 

However this week optimism over a new stadium here was given a massive boost when the Feds indicated that they might be willing to bend the rules somewhat and fund stadiums through the P3 fund using Regina as the guinea pig. Basically the Feds had set aside a billion dollars in this fund a couple years ago to spend on big projects that were done with private-public partnerships. 

Now this development is somewhat of a head scratcher for me. We have been practically begging the Feds for money for close to 2 years now and they have repeatedly said they don’t have any. Then Brad Wall asks “well what about that unspent billion dollars you have sitting over there?” and the Feds are all of the sudden like “Oh that? Must have slipped my mind when you first asked.” First the Seminoles now the Feds, why do we keep running into people who “forget” about a billion dollars?

Now as much as it looks like the feds are doing something nice for Saskatchewan, this really has nothing to do with us. You see Saskatchewan is small and has so few voters there is little for a political party to gain by doing us favours. Quebec by contrast is full of people and full of potential seats for the Conservatives to gain in the next election. A new hockey arena for French people to go watch imagination NHL games might be a good way to gain some support. Problem for the Feds is they can’t say no to us and our real sports team and then turn around and say yes to Quebec and their imaginary one. So by default (the 2 sweetest words in the English language) the feds need to help us out too. This may be the first documented case of the French coming to someone else’s aid. Though admittedly in this case it was more by coincidence than concerted effort.

Regardless of how it came about, it’s fantastic news! Odds look good that the Feds will be giving us $100 million towards the project. When you toss in the money that the private sector is willing to pony up along with the city and the Riders all that is left is for the province to announce that the project is going ahead and concoct a way to make it appear that no tax payers $ are going to the project even though they clearly will be. 

We are told a decision on the matter will be made by the end of February but then again I’ve heard this before so who knows when they will get around to it. For now I will sit her full of optimism and wait for the next group to come along who explicably “forgets” about a billion dollars.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts

After the weekend failed to produce a CFL story that I could do a whole post on… or half a post on… or even a paltry attempt at a post, I was left with no choice but to break out Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts for the first time in 2011. This may actually mark a new record on the blog on the longest I’ve gone into a new year before having to break them out.

- It’s been quieter than debate contest for the deaf across Riderville of late. Hopefully we will start hearing something in the near future about our coaching staff or free agents.

- Ricky Ray has finally agreed on a new contract with Eric Tillman and the Eskimos. Put differently, they finally agreed on how much of a pay cut Ray would take to remain with the Esks.

- Emanuel Arceneaux turned down a $120,000 per season offer from BC to sign with my Vikings for three years and a reported $1.8 million including a $75K signing bonus. I’ve always thought of Arceneaux as a talented receiver but I didn’t think he was worth the kind of money being offered to him on both sides of the border.

- Now if only the Vikes had someone talented to throw him the ball. The names Tarvaris Jackson and Joe Webb don’t really instil fear in opposing teams. Then again neither does Jay Cutler but they somehow ended up in the conference championships.

- I’m finding the CFL offseason going extremely slow already. I am definitely not looking forward to a couple weeks from now when the NFL warps up its season and there is no football whatsoever.

- Maybe if he gets a 3rd Super Bowl rings Ben Rothlisberger will be able to pick up chicks without having to resort to sexually assaulting them.

- Then again if flashing one Super Bowl ring isn’t enough pick up a throng of beautiful women there has got to be something very wrong with you.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: DL Anwar Stewart, DB Jerald Brown (contract extension)
I always thought there would be a mass exodus of old guys from Montreal at some point but the Als have miraculously managed to space things out. Bryan Chui went last year, Cahoon is apparently going this year, Calvillo and Stewart are still hanging on, even though they are all old enough to transition seamlessly from the Als payroll to the Canadian Pension Plan.

In: RB Jamal Robertson (contract extension)
Out: WR Emanuel Arceneaux (signed with Minnesota)
It seems the well may have finally run dry for Wally Buono’s string of amazing RBs. After bringing in Joe Smith, Stephan Logan and Martell Malllett, Buono is stuck with old man Robertson for 2 years in a row. Not that Robertson is bad or anything he’s decent… its just stark contrast to the usual BC parade of young hot shots.

In: LB Greg Blue (re-signed), WR Eric McCain (free agent signing)
I tried coming up with something to say here other than “You’re my boy Blue” but came up with nothing.

In: QB Ricky Ray (contract extension)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Update: Things Starting To Happen

After an extended post-Christmas lull, things are finally starting to get rolling across the league. Here’s some quasi-coherent thoughts on what’s been going on. 

- Word is Andy Fantuz has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, though and official announcement won’t come until the Steelers season is over. Though I’m happy for Andy as a person, all I have to say is that if turns out to be true BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOURNS!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Gene Makowksy has signed on for his 17th season with the Roughriders. Assuming he can last 5 games (i.e. not pull a Wayne Smith) he will surpass Roger Aldag’s record for games played as a Rider which is an amazing feat. It’s crazy to think that since he was drafted by the Riders the man has blocked for the likes of Steve Sarkisian, Reggie Slack, Nealon Green, Kevin Glenn, Rocky Butler, Henry Burris, Marcus Crandell, Kerry Joseph, Michael Bishop, Steven Jyles and Darian Durant.

- DB Chris McKenzie has also re-signed with the team. I’m very happy about this. Though, McKenzie had a decent season last year (nothing spectacular) he’s young and loaded with potential. It’s hard to look good when you have to replace Eddie Davis. HB is a tough spot to play in the CFL and McKenzie held his own in his first full season as a starter and should get better and better with experience. Look no further than James Patrick as a first year starting DB in 2009 vs. Patrick with a year’s experience in 2010 for how much difference experience can make in the secondary.

- Ben Cahoon is expected to retire. We were all wondering how long Cahoon would keep playing… turns out he was just hanging on until he had a Grey Cup ring for each of his wives.

- Calgary didn’t want Mike Labinjo so they traded him to Montreal. After failing his physical (surprise, surprise) Montreal determined that they didn’t want him either and shipped him back to Calgary. While Hufnagel has stated that they will have to see what they do with Labinjo now, that’s pretty much just a polite way of saying “Though I haven’t cut him today, I will be in the near future.”

- Tim Burke was announced as the new DC in Winnipeg after declining to re-sign with Montreal. I can only assume that Burke was on drugs when he made this decision or LaPolice held a gun to his head because no one willingly chooses Winnipeg for anything when alternative options  (now matter how unappealing) are available… just ask the NHL.

- The CFL unveiled its Expansion Draft format for when Ottawa joins the league in 2013. The biggest difference from the last expansion draft is that teams can only protect one QB not 2. While most fans are lamenting the fact that this could lead to their team losing a quality QB, I am overjoyed since any draft format that could lead to the departure of Ryan Dinwiddie is A OK in my books.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: WR Adarius Bowman (free agent signing)
Out: LB Mark Restelli (signed with Miami Dolphins)
First Kerry Joseph and Jason Armstead, now Bowman. Since becoming Edmonton’s GM, it’s certainly been interesting to watch Tillman bring back guys he got rid of while he was our GM.

In: WR SJ Green (contract extension)
Out: OL Paul Lambert (released)
Green apparently turned down some NFL offers and signing bonuses to lock in for 3 years with Montreal similar to what Jamel Richardson did 2 years ago. Good move by the Als… though the downside will be Duane Forde continuing to try and force bad nicknames for Green on us during broadcasts.

In: FB Rob Cote (contract extension)
Out: DB Brandon Browner (signed with Seattle Seahawks), DL Tom Johnson (signed with New Orleans Saints)
Johnson reportedly signed a 3 year deal worth $1.8 million which is pretty telling about how serious the Saints are about Johnson. As for Browner, as much as I hate him and think he’s an overrated DB, I always thought that given his size, speed and solid play on special teams at some point he would get a shot in the NFL. Personally I’m just glad that we will get a reprieve from Browner though I do feel for avid Seahawks fan and regular reader Gov… sorry about that. Also, sorry about that whole “being a Seahawks fan” thing as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Morning Sentimonies: It’s Official!!!

There has been rampant speculation regarding the future of Daley since the season ended. There was probably also a lot of praying, hoping, wishing and bartering with God, the devil, Jebus, the Easter Bunny, Jiminy Cricket and pretty much anyone else we thought could help us on the matter. But we can all rest easy as it has now been officially confirmed that Jim Daley will not be returning in 2011.

Sing with me people!!!

This mercifully brings to an end one of the most embarrassing tenures by a coach in Rider history… and that history isn’t exactly overflowing with success stories. 
While the general feeling across Riderville is absolute jubilation, there are those who for some reason (likely mental illness) do not agree with the move (thankfully they are in the minority). I have heard some pretty ridiculous statements, so allow me to address some of these with the latest instalment of Everyone is Stupid but Me (aka Addressing Uninformed Opinions)

Uninformed Opinion #1: The fans forced the team into this move
False: At least I sincerely hope it’s false. The team is making this move because Jim Daley was absolutely brutal at his job. Name me one redeeming thing about our special teams form 2010 that doesn’t involve Eddie Johnson… go on I’ll wait… that’s what I thought.  I give our management enough credit that they are making this move for more than just to appease the fans.

Uninformed Opinion #2: It’s not Jim Daley’s fault. At some point the players need to be accountable.
False: When there is the odd screw-up here and there (as there will undoubtedly be) it is indeed the players’ responsibility. But when there is a repeated pattern of absolute ineptness over an entire season, the man responsible for that facet of the game must take the blame. 

Uninformed Opinion #3: Jim Daley tried his hardest.
Technically this one is true… and therein lies the problem. Daley did try his hardest and that was the best he could muster. Bottom line is that no matter how hard he tries he is just a bad coach and this past season is just the latest entry on a resume littered with failure.

I have never developed such low expectations of one phase of our game as I did with our special teams in 2010. It got so bad that I held my breath nervously anytime we lined up for a kick or to receive one. You just never knew what was going to happen but you were pretty sure it wasn’t going to be good…kinda like Man in the Bush’s love life. Actually when you consider the number of times that it resulted in the mishandling of balls…. Umm, never mind.

The season started with the opening kickoff of our season opener being kicked out of bounds, incurring a penalty.  That ended up being a very prophetic start to our season because what followed was a string of gaffes that if bundles together into a highlight package with that circus music playing in the background, would probably get rave reviews on the Comedy Network.

Thankfully we can officially close that sad chapter of Rider history.  Unfortunately I don’t hold out much higher expectations for the Steve Buratto chapter. Oh well, if he can at least muster a returner who catches the ball as opposed to letting it bounce off his face, he’ll be miles ahead of Daley.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Update

We are in the midst of the dreaded January lull in the CFL. February brings us free agency, March brings us Evaluation Camp, May brings us the Draft, June begins training camp. But January seems to offer us nothing but snow, cold weather, disappointing international hockey performances and a tiring media infatuation with Tom Brady (look we all know that his unequalled football accomplishments, dashing good looks, boat loads of money and super model wife make him better than pretty much every man on earth… there’s no need to continually cram it down our throats).

But as always I will do my best to spin the few shreds of CFL news that surface into something that loosely resembles a coherent post. Unfortunately for you my “best” isn’t all that good.

Hopefully by next week we will get some official word on Greg Marshall’s coaching staff. It’s essentially a done deal that Richie Hall will resume his old post as Defensive Coordinator (position he’s held for most of the past decade).  All signs point to Doug Berry staying on as Offensive Coordinator, (which likely means the rest of the offensive assistants such as Dyce are safe). 

The most exciting news is that all signs point to Jim Daley not returning. As nice as a guy as Jim Daley may, he compensates by being a terrible, terrible, terrible coach. Short of a Ken Miller spending too much time with a bottle of scotch, I can think of no reason why he was hired in the first place so it’s good to see us willing to quickly close that sad chapter of Rider history.

As good of news as that is, I’m not exactly enamoured with his rumoured replacement.  It would be nearly impossible to find a coach as terrible as Daley but it seems we aren’t setting our sights too much higher. The heir apparent is rumoured to be Steve Buratto. Like Daley he was a Rider coach back in the day. Like Daley has been in the league for many years in various capacities. Like Daley he hasn’t exactly excelled at any of them. And like Daley he has been repeatedly fired/demoted for poor performance. The only difference is that Buratto has actually enjoyed some success in his career (even though it was relatively brief). I’m not sure if the Riders have recently adopted a new quota requiring our special teams coach to have at least a decade worth of poor performance in the CFL but I see Buratto as nothing more than a very tiny step up from Daley.  

While other teams are bringing in bright, young, new coaches to run their special teams, we seem to be content with resurrecting loser coaches of years gone by. I wonder if it has something to do with Ken Miller’s network of contacts being limited to those people who still use a rolodex (which pretty much eliminates anyone under the age of 55 from contention). 

I’m sure Gary Etcheverry can see the writing on the wall and will likely be moving on. No word yet on whether Nelson Martin or Mike Schepper will be retained. Though there is word that the Riders are interested in Bomber DL coach Richard Harris so odds aren’t good for the current defensive assistants.

Here are a few other things going on around the CFL
- Corey Chamblain has been hired as Hamilton’s new DC. I was actually hoping we would sign Chamblain so I’ll be interested to see how he fares in his new role.

- Joe Womack has also joined the Ti-Cats as an Assistant GM.Writing was on the wall for this as he and Miller never really saw eye to eye.

- Jonathan Hefney’s negotiations with the Bombers don’t seem to be going well. He recently made comments on twitter about their offer being a slap in the face and that he would never play for that kind of money. That likely means he’ll be testing the free agency waters. Though if a big pay day is what he’s after it pretty much rules out the Tillman-ran Esks as an option.

- Chad Owens is in contract negotiations with the NY Jets. Only thing holding negotiations up seems to be Owens needing to get his cursing/trash talk levels up to team standards before they will commit to him.

- It’s pretty much a guarantee that Emmanuel Acreneaux will be headed for the NFL, he just needs to decide what team he wants to sign with. 

CFL Ins and Outs

In: DL John Bowman, LS Martin Bedard (contract extension), DL Mike Labinjo (trade with Stamps)
Out: WR Andrew Hawkins (signed with St. Louis Rams), OL Skip Seagraves (retired)
Hawkins continues the baffling trend of players who accomplished relatively little in the CFL managing to catch on in the NFL.

In: DB Brandon Stewart (contact extension)
Good for him.

In: K Noel Prefontaine, WR Jermaine Copeland (contract extension)
Copeland is getting up there in years so many wondered if retirement was coming but given that his offense doesn’t really pass the ball, Copeland could likely play until he’s 50 under these conditions. 

In: P Chris Bodnar
Eric Tillman continues his epic task of rebuilding the Esks non-existent Canadian content.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Marshall’s To Do List

Now that Greg Marshall has officially been installed as the head coach of the Riders, its time for him to get down to work. You would think that taking over a team that has been second best in the league for the past 2 seasons would be easier than seducing Tiger Woods but despite the successful and prosperous times being enjoyed by the team, there is still an extensive list of concerns that Marshall will need to address if he hopes to have a successful debut as a head coach. In no particular order (other than the order in which they popped into my head as I was typing) here is a list of the things Marshall will need to address before July.

Coordinators – The first thing Marshall will need to decide on is who he wants heading up our offense, defense and special teams. On O the logical thing to do would be to retain Berry to offer some continuity but then again Berry’s offense was not without its criticisms last season so it’s not exactly a lock. On defense the job will be going to either Richie Hall or Corey Chamblain (tough choice between a proven vet and a promsing up and comer). There’s also the matter of what to do about Etch. Marshall and Etch have pretty much polar opposite philosophies on D so I can’t see Etch staying on as DC but maybe there’s room for him as an assistant (doubtful but you never know). On special teams the decision is far easier since appointing a retarded, 3 legged, blind antelope would be an improvement over the status quo (though I have no idea how we’d go about finding one, let alone getting it to sign a contract).

Special Teams – On the topic of special teams, Marshall has his work cut out for him with this phase of the game. With the exception of the phenomenal punting (and moustache) of Eddie Johnson, our special teams unit was an embarrassment and a laughing stock. No return game (not just gaining yards but even just catching the ball proved a difficult task for us); no ability to run a fake or defend one (even though said retarded, 3 legged, blind antelope saw it coming a mile away); repeatedly allowing kicks to be blocked and even trouble covering kicks at times.

Kicking – Thanks to the ineptness of the above mentioned special teams unit, we have an issue at kicker. Luca Congi is doing his darndest at rehab but there are serious doubts that he will be ready to get back on the field until well into the season and even then we don’t know if his injury will affect his abilities on the field. So for the short (and possibly long) term we need to find a kicker… preferably Canadian kicker. Warren Keane did alright but his range seems to max out if you get too far beyond where you line up for a convert.  So we either need to find another reliable Canadian placekicker (which is extremely hard) or fill the spot with an import (which creates a ton of ratio issues)… or get the CFL to amend their rules to allow FG kicking horses.

Run D – We found out the hard way what happens when you get too small and fast on defense… big backs run over you, repeatedly. Our run D tightened up near the end of the season but still finished dead last in yards allowed, that simply won’t do.

Cornerbacks – Simply put, last year we had the worst set of corners in the league and it cost us big time. Morgan is a shadow of his old self, Leron Mitchell (even when his leg isn’t grotesquely dangly to a fro) is a fast guy with absolutely no football sense, Donovan Alexander is falling off the face of planet. The only CB I liked last year was when Tad Kornegay manned a corner during his “rotate through every position on defense” phase. We have a very talented interior in our secondary but their talent will go to waste if QBs can continue to pick on our sad sack CBs in 2011.

O-line – If you exclude Joel Bell and Chris Best, the average age of our starting O-linemen would rival the average age of the Matlock demographic. Replacing 1 lineman is tough enough but replacing the majority of your line all at once is scary… just ask any Rider QB brave enough to line up behind our line in the late 70s/early 80s. Problem is our depth is pretty thin on the OL (well except for the 1 or quarters we can squeeze out of Wayne Smith). Lack of depth hurt us last year and has a large chunk of our starters near retirement the problem will only get worse. It will be up to Marshall to ensure that we have a strong crop of OLs ready to go when we lose starters (whether it be to injury or to retirement).

That’s a pretty big to-do list for a rookie head coach. But when you consider that we were damn close to winning a Grey Cup despite these shortcomings, imagine what improvement in just a couple of these areas would do for this team.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Update

Other than the hiring of Greg Marshall... and the return of the moustache to prominence at the top of our team (prominence not seen since the days of Barrett and Shiv)... and the passing of CFL legend Tony Proudfoot there was relatively little CFL news this week. So I'll leave you this week with a quick update on the NFL watch and some CFL Ins and Outs and try to toss some coherent thoughts/filler together for Monday.

NFL Watch
Andy Fantuz – Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago
Brendan Labatte – Kansas City, Pittsburg, Indy, Carolina, Jacksonville
Phillip Hunt – Philadelphia, Browns, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles & Texans
Emmanuel Arceneaux – Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Minnesota, Washington, Cincinnati
Garrett McIntyre – Jacksonville, Miami, NY Jets

CFL Ins and Outs

In: LB Mike McCullough (contract extension), OL Dan Clark (practice roster player picked up for 2011), OL Patrick Neufield (2010 Draft Pick signing), OL Justin Glover, OL, Michel Bouldreaux, KR Ronnie Drummer (free agent signing)
If you look at McCullough's stats from last year where he was a rotational player it's pretty darn good. McCullough is an asset to this team both as a performer and a leader in the locker room. As for the influx of young Canadian OL I assume that we are preparing for the eventuality of O'Day and/or Geno retiring... or just succumbing to fossilization whichever comes first.


In: Ronald Flemons, Bryan Crawford (contract extension), DL Mathis Askew, LB Anthony Cannon (practice roster player picked up for 2011)
All people will likely remember about Flemons’ season is his infamous fumble of a sure TD but he actually had a great year. I still can’t believe that we couldn’t find a use for him here in ’08 and ended up trading him back to Toronto for TJ Acree. Sadly, despite doing absolutely nothing as a Rider, Flemons will go down as having a far more productive stint as a Rider than Acree who actually ended up being counter productive.

In: LB Chip Cox, DL JP Bekasiak (contract extension)
I'm sure the french will be happy that they will continue to see Cox on a regular basis.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Are Marshall

Welcome to the first Monday Morning Sentimonies of 2011. As you can see, my resolution this year clearly was not to be more punctual in my Monday morning posts. That said I am doing well so far in my resolution to limit the amount of racial slurs in this blog.

As we begin the new year, the top story is of course the new coach of the Riders. At some point this week we will officially name Greg Marshall as head coach. Over the holidays people were constantly asking me what I thought about Greg Marshall. Before Christmas I posted some brief (and less than flattering) comments about Marshall as a candidate, but now that its official, allow me to expand on my thoughts surrounding our new coach.

I'm so so on this hire. While he definitely wasn't my first choice or second, he isn't the worst person we could have hired... that honour would have gone to Richie Hall (or Jim Daley). Like most new coaching hires, Marshall comes in with a great deal of unknown about his abilities. the same unknown that Miller, and Austin had before him.

To be fair to Marshall, he is well respected across the league by players and coaches alike; he has been responsible for some great defensive units over the years; and he has a sweet dago moustache... oops well there goes that resolution.

The thing gives me a great deal and worry around Marshall is the number of times he has been rejected for similar positions elsewhere. Everyone seems to speak highly of the guy but virtually every team has interviewed him and proceeded to pass on him. And given that awesome guys like Mike Kelly and Bart Andrus ended up getting hired instead of him has got to give you cause for concern. Its like a really hot chick that all your friends rave about but nobody has or wants to sleep with her. That just doesn't make sense unless she has STDs or a tendency for stabbing people or something serious like that that you don't know about.

Though I'm leery about the hiring of Marshall, like all Rider coaches I will give him a chance to prove himself in the upcoming season. Let's not forget that prior to becoming beloved/iconic coaches: Kent Austin was a recently fired, snap case and Ken Miller was some old dude nobody really knew existed and possibly assumed to be dead (ala Weekend at Bernie's).

So welcome to the Riders Greg Marshall. May you prove all my worries wrong and continue the prosperous times in Riderville. Hell, if he wants to immediately get a tonne of support from fans (myself included) all he has to do is announce the firing of Jim Daley and there will be much rejoicing. Though if Marshall chooses to retain him, I don't think he'll make his first training camp.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome to 2011

If you are like most people you are beginning the new year nursing a hangover... though if you are like Man in the Bush you are beginning the new year having a tea party with a set of dolls and My Little Ponies you stole from the Santa’s Anonymous bin at work (what? it’s anonymous so it’s a victimless crime)... if you are like PR guy you are beginning the new year by making your annual resolution to limit yourself to reading one Harlequin romance novel per month (a resolution that traditionally only lasts a week tops)... if you are like Media Consultant you are starting the new year by pondering some sort of scheme that will allow you to quit your job and live out the rest of your life as a professional bingo player (this time without having to resort to performing sexual favours for food) And if you are like me you are beginning the new year by getting overly excited at the physical abilities of a bunch of teenage boys... aka the World Junior (seriously its sounds kinda messed up when you think about how excited the whole country gets over a bunch of boys).

For me this song sums up nicely how most people feel this time of year...

I’ll be back Monday with my sentimonies on the new head coach of the Riders (who will be Greg Marshall in case you hadn’t heard) but for now, as you nurse your hangover allow me to get you caught back up to speed on CFLers who are working out for NFL teams.

NFL Watch
Andy Fantuz – New England, Minnesota, Pittsburgh
Jerrell Freeman – Houston
Brent Hawkins – Philadelphia, Miami
Josh Bourke – Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Detroit
SJ Green – Philadelphia, Minnesota
Tom Johnson – Green Bay, Minnesota
Chad Owens – NY Jets
Mark Restilli – NY Jets
Emmanuel Arceneaux - Washington, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Seattle, Miami, NY Jets
Garrett McIntyre – NY Jets
Phillip Hunt –Houston, Cleveland, New England, Minnesota