Friday will make the final game (this time for real) in the Coach Miller era of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He announced this week that he would be retiring completely at the end of the season. Given how this season turned out, many will be glad to see him go but there is no denying that Miller has etched his place among the greats in Roughrider history.
I will always find Ken Miller’s story completely fascinating. His meteoric rise from complete unknown to legendary coach followed by a fall from grace with a brief revival thrown in there for good measure… all at an age where most others are planning winter trips to Arizona, yelling at cashiers who no longer accept cheques and having difficulty remembering even simple things. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Miller arrived here in 2007 as part of Kent Austin’s coaching staff. Though he was our OC, he was so anonymous and behind the scenes that most people just thought some old guy decided to move his mall walking to the football field. Despite playing a large role in a potent offense that led us to a Grey Cup victory, few people probably knew who he was at the time.
That all changed the day he was chosen to replace Austin as our head coach. Some thought we were crazy. Who appoints a 67 year man with no prior pro head coaching experience to lead the defending champions? Well Miller quickly proved them wrong and what ensued were some of the most memorable seasons I’ve had as a Rider fan.
Some of the games that will stick out from Miller’s time behind the bench include:
- The amazing 6-0 start in 2008 where despite a ridiculous string of broken legs.
- Finishing that year 12-6 despite being forced to play such renowned talents as Dek Bake, Henri Childs, Vincent Marshall and the trainwreck that is Michael Bishop.
- The 2009 game in Calgary where Getzlaf scored that long game winning TD
- The 2009 OT win over BC where James Patrick picked off BC in the endzone
- The final game of 2009 where we clinched first place for the first time since 1976
- The ’09 West Final
- The infamous Double OT Shootout with Montreal last year
- The WSF where Clermont sealed it in OT
- The West Final
Miller never had the best players but he consistently had the best team. He found a way to get the absolute most out of his players. When he retires Miller’s resume will include a winning regular season record, 3 consecutive playoff appearances, 2 consecutive Grey Cup appearances, a Grey Cup ring as an OC (as well as another one as an assistant with the Argos), 3 nominations for Coach of the Year. As I said accomplishing all of this while in his late 60s is truly spectacular.
His legacy will no doubt be tarnished by how miserably he performed as our VP of Football Operations. He was quite clearly not qualified for the position and our team has suffered as a result of his appointment to that position. That said while you can question his abilities as VP you certainly can’t question his commitment (just ask Rob Vanstone :) ). I truly believe that Miller poured his heart and soul into that position just as he did with coaching. He gave it his all every day and for that he will always have my respect.
So while I wholeheartedly agree that his departure is necessary, you certainly can’t discredit what Miller accomplished here over the past 5 years. He was a special coach and we were lucky to have him.
Enjoy your retirement Coach Miller. You have earned it.