Friday, March 30, 2012

Congrats To Man In The Bush

A big congratulations to Man in the Bush who welcomed a son to the world this week. Jury is still out on whether we will refer to little guy as Man in the Bush Jr. (shortened to Manju), Boy in the Shrub or some other variation. I'm leaning towards Manju.

I think I speak for Man in the Bush when I say that fatherhood is one of the greatest experiences of life and I consider other members of the Rider Prophet staff who remain childless to be lesser people.

I would also like to remind Man in the Bush that Rider Prophet Media offers no paternity benefits so he had better get back to work. Also to help offset operating costs, I will need the baby to start making Rider Prophet T-shirts in my sweatshop fairly soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Where’s Our Canadians?

I alluded to this in my Friday post but I am beginning to get concerned about the state of the Canadian content of the Riders. It’s not any particular position or player that concerns me or even concern over starters but just the fact that we have so few of them.

Here’s some quick numbers for you. We need 20 Canadians on the game day roster. Currently we have a mere 24 Canadians signed. Meaning at this point all but 4 are guaranteed a job. It gets even more concerning when you look at who comprises our 24.

-       3 of them are juniors (Newman, Solomon and Clark)
-       1 is a CIS guy who has never taken a pro snap (Bodnar)
-       1 is a guy whose knee is in serious question (Bagg)
-       2 are tokens at best (Boulay and McHenry)
-       1 is Jordan Sisco (which I won’t bother getting into)
-       1 was drafted 3 years ago and has yet to really do anything so is a question mark (Hutchins)

So that leaves 15 guys that I would consider “roster worthy”: Shologan, Shomari, McCullough, Butler, Woldu, Huclack, Milo, Picard, Best, Labatte, Krausnick-Groh, Neufeld, Bell, Hughes and Getzlaf.

Even if you assume we get a sure thing with our 1st overall pick and assume that Bagg’s knee is healthy (which are both far from certain) that only gets us to 17 sure things meaning 3 Canadians will make our team by virtue of being mediocre simply because we won’t have a shred of competition for Canadians. Solid move Taman. And then what happens if someone gets hurt? We aren’t that far away from Matthieu Boulay having to be a starter because we don’t have the luxury of a back-up plan. Or from having to beg Gene Makowsky come out of retirement and play receiver. Or praying that the US officially annexes Canada and we become one big happy country.

Maybe Graig Newman is a Craig Butler clone and maybe whoever we draft will be a superstar and maybe Rob Bagg will be his old, awesome self but equally as possible is Newman being the next Sasha Glavic, our draft pick will ending up at an NFL tryout and Rob Bagg giving us Dominguez flashbacks… there are no guarantees either way. 

I’ve seen this script play out somewhere before too… Winnipeg… under Taman, where his absolute disregard for Canadians not named Doug Brown was laughable.

As I said before it’s not any particular position or player that concerns me but just that we have so few. And if we end up drafting Ben Heenan we are only making the problem worse… unless we plan on starting 4 offensive guards.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: K Luca Congi (free agent signing), DB Milt Collins, DB Dee Webb (contract extension)
I bet Luca was ecstatic to catch on with another team… at least until he realized that Jim Daley would be his Special Teams coach again when he likely started screaming uncontrollably.

In: QB Cam Sexton, LB Danny Lansanah (free agent signing)
Why can’t we sign the QB named Sexton? I want a Sexton jersey. I also plan on stealing the name Cam Sexton should I ever go into the adult film industry.  

In: Geroy Simon (contract extension)
I wonder how much Simon wished he could have caught just a few more balls last year. Having to come back for a full season after winning a Grey Cup just for 66 measly yards.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Round-Up: Taman’s Big Gamble

Why is it when I heard the words “draft picks” and “traded for an import” I immediately thought of the word “Taman”?

Yesterday the Riders traded a 2nd and 4th Round pick in 2012 (8th and 23rd overall respectively) as well as a conditional pick in 2013 to Winnipeg for DL Odell Willis and conditional 5th rounder in 2013.

Reaction to the trade on both sides has been decidedly mixed. On the Rider side some fans are ecstatic we finally got a bonafide pass rusher and other lament the fact that we overpaid. On the Winnipeg side some are ecstatic that in the famous words of Mike Kelly they “raided those toothless halfwits to the west” others can’t believe they traded away the Mayor of Swaggerville.

For me there are parts of this trade I like and parts I really don’t. I like the fact that we are finally addressing our woeful pass rush. Fun fact for you, last year our top D-lineman got 5 sacks (Te George). The year before that 4 (Mullinder/Kitwana). That is quite frankly embarrassing. By contrast Willis has never had less than 10 sacks over his 3 seasons in the CFL. He is instantly better than anything we’ve had since John Chick left. Another fact: outside of Jon Bomwan, nobody has more sacks over the past 3 seasons than Odell Willis. So it’s not like we could have done much better.

However, there are 2 things I don’t like about the trade. One is the price. I realize that you don’t acquire a player of Willis’ caliber for free but 2 Canadian draft picks (one of which is top 8) is steep when you don’t get any Canadians in return. Had they swapped us 2nd rounders or even swapped us their 16th or 21st pick in the 3rd round I would have been happy with the trade. But as is, it’s a steep price in terms of giving up Canadians for an import. Particularly when you look at the state of our Canadian talent (which I will be ranting about in Monday Morning Sentimonies next week).

The other thing I don’t like is the huge risk that comes with Odell Willis. I’m not even talking about his big mouth. Quite frankly as long as a player is backing it up on the field then let them yap. What worries me is whether we are getting the Odell Willis that was a force in 2009 and 2010 and put up 9 sacks in 8 games to start 2011… or the Odell Willis that disappeared in second half of last season with only 4 sacks over the final 12 games (including 0 in the playoffs when they needed him the most).

That is why Taman is taking a big risk with this trade. If he gets the good Odell Willis then he made a solid move. But if he gets the most recent Willis then this just becomes yet another trademark Taman trading high draft picks for overvalued Americans. But given that Taman is in the final year of his contract I can see why he would be willing to take the risk. I’m thinking someone who is set for a few years and focused on building a strong team long term might not make this move. Taman doesn’t have that kind of time so he prioritizes short term gain over long term.  I also bet that a GM who has any kind of faith in their recruiting ability doesn’t make this trade either… in this case though I don’t blame Taman for not trusting his recruiting ability since no one else in their right mind would either.

So long and short of it, my opinion is that picking up Willis was a good thing but we overpaid.

I just wonder if this means we now have to call ourselves Swaggerville? If so I volunteer to adapt the Swaggervile Anthem to the Riders…. Craig Butler got Swag on the field, Mike McCullough got swag on the field, etc…

Interesting history lesson for you, Odell Willis came to the CFL via AF2 where he played for the Green Bay Blizzard. His pass rushing counterpart at the time was one Joe Sykes. The Riders opted to bring in Sykes while the Stampeders went with Willis… and look how that all turned out.

Outside of Willis the Riders also added 4 more imports to the roster signing QB Levi Brown (well at least making it official since it was initially reported weeks ago), QB Matt Johnson, LB Darnell Bing and DE Chris Ellis.

Here’s my random, highly biased, mostly uninformed thoughts on the additions:

Matt Johnson – Press release listed him as weighing 168 lbs… 168! To put that in perspective, Dressler is listed at 179. Its like Juan Joseph version 2.0. I can only assume Johnson is a scrambler.

Levi Brown and Chris Ellis are both former Bills… we seem to be focusing a concerning amount of our recruiting effort on former Buffalo players. Brown, Ellis, Bowen and Booooooooo Robinson are former Bills while Drew Wily played at Buffalo University. I’d feel better about that if Buffalo had a reputation in football that wasn’t followed by roaring laughter.

Darnell Bing – the name Darnell just reminds me of Darnell Edwards. Remember him?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Damn You Wichita!

Well my strategy of basing my March Madness bracket selections around team names that I found amusing certainly didn’t pan out. Thanks to my staunch support of the Wichita St. Shockers I set a new personal record for March Madness futility by having my bracket ruined before the end of the first night.

Fortunately I am in the company of people who attempted to bet sanely and chose the likes of Duke and Missouri. I can live with the fact that my bracket was done in by ridiculous betting logic. Not sure I could live with being done in by one ridiculous upset let alone 2 in the same night.

The closest thing I can find to football related news is the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes which appears to have been won by the Denver Broncos… yes the Denver Broncos. 

Personally I think Manning made a mistake by not going to the 49ers but this is coming from a guy who bet on Wichita.

Lucky for John Elway that Manning became available. Elway clearly does not like Tim Tebow and last year figured that he would let Tebow embarrass himself so the fans would shut up and he could cut him. Well that backfired in dramatic fashion as Tebow kept winning games in dramatic fashion and the fans love of him kept growing exponentially.  Manning was about the only out Elway had that the fans wouldn’t kill him over.

But it did get me thinking (which is scary I know), this whole situation came about because of Indy’s draft position. If they didn’t have the top pick Manning might still be in Indy and John Elway would still be cursing Tebow’s name. It made me wonder if something similar would ever happen in the CFL… and the answer is not likely.

You see the draft is simply far more important in the NFL than in the CFL. In the NFL, top pick means you get instant access to a franchise QB like Manning, Matt Stafford or Cam Newton. In the CFL you get instant access to a rotational D-line guy (Williams), a special teams guy (Muamba), a useless receiver (Bauman),  a guy who will end up stuffing someone in his trunk (Braidwood) or in the best case scenario a starting guard (Rottier or likely Heenan).

I mean you don’t see us cutting Durant just because we have the chance to draft Kyle Quinlan.

Yes building a solid core of Canadian talent is essential in the CFL but your biggest impact players usually won’t come through the draft. They will come from your neg list. By contrast the NFL Draft is the pipeline for talent into the league. Hence high draft picks carry a far higher value.

It’s also probably why the NFL draft has morphed into a 3 day media event while the CFL Draft has only recently evolved into a couple hour TV special from the conference call where you could draft people while on the toilet that it used to be.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Follies Of Big Free Agent Acquisitions

As has been expected for quite some time now the Ti-Cats have released Stevie Baggs. It’s hardly a surprising move since Baggs’ production came nowhere close to justifying his ridiculously large contract. To put things in perspective, his five sacks put him on the same level as the pass rushing force that was Barrin Simpson last season. Ironically neither played in the conference semi-finals (though for drastically different reasons).  Word is Baggs was making $150K per season. I want to know who Baggs’ agent is because I would hire him on the spot. He is clearly a miracle worker since Baggs has never been worth anything close to that price. So it’s pretty much a no brainer: Big Salary + Limited Production = Cut. I’m really just surprised they waited this long to pull the trigger.

It got me thinking about the whole idea of the big free agent signing. Baggs now joins a growing list of former Riders who bolted during free agency for crazy money only to wind up unemployed a short time later. Omarr Morgan did it and missed out on a well deserved Grey Cup ring. Mo Lloyd did it and is now back here working for close to league minimum. Ever our own forays into big money FA acquisitions have failed (cough Dominique Dorsey cough).

Even looking at other teams, very few of the big money FA acquisitions tend to work out. The player rarely gets kept around for the full contract they signed and the team that signs them rarely if ever succeeds. The teams that seem to succeed are the ones that avoid big FA signings such as BC, Montreal and the Riders under Tillman.

Such of the more memorable signings whose massive hype were equaled only by the massive failure that ensued.

-       Edmonton made a habit of throwing huge money at defenders each offseason (Omarr Morgan, Stanford Samuels, Mo Lloyd). Not surprisingly it did not fix their defense and did not get them into the playoffs.
-       Edmonton also made a big deal out of the FA signing of Jesse Lumsden and the press conference lasted longer than Lumsden’s playing time.
-       Toronto has made their fair share of big money signings. They lured Ricky Foley away from BC, they made Rob Murphy the highest paid OL in the league and look how far that got them. They should maybe have invested some of that money in a QB or wide receiver.
-       Hamilton is by far the worst offender when it comes to blowing their wad in free agency. The list is almost embarrassing: the aforementioned Stevie Baggs, Avon Cobourne, Sandro DeAngelis, Kenton Keith and Casey Printers... all $500,000 of him.

The sad thing about Hamilton is that rather than learn from their mistakes they are continuing on as crazy as ever throwing big money at Andy Fantuz and Martell Mallett. I guess time will tell whether it will work this time around.

Of course the Riders would never throw huge money at an FA acquisition would they? :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Tuesday Afternoon Edition

You’ll note that it is neither Monday nor morning. Surprising as it may be this time it is note due to my general laziness. I had plans to write something yesterday but there was nothing to write about... somehow I couldn’t make a post about the retirements of Kelly Butler and Dan McCullough.  I mean I briefly considered making a post with the title “Veteran Snapper Retires” but I thought that might confuse readers into thinking they had stumbled onto a website about prostitutes. Today there were shreds of news, not much, but enough for me to make a half assed attempt.

The Riders signed 2 more today. WR Justin Harper and RB DeShawn Wynn. Applying my standard racial stereotyping DeShawn Wynn jumps to the top of the RB competition but I will put an asterix beside his name since he is 28 I quite frankly it would shock me to see him make our team. Harper interests me... in a purely football related sense of course... but based on his name, I will have to go ahead and write off his chances. If he has some De’s, apostrophes, dashes or dollar signs in his name then maybe we’d be in business. I still wonder if we will be releasing Yvenson Bernard before camp, we now have 4 other new imports plus West so I can’t see much room for him.

That brings our roster to a total of 68 meaning we have room for up to 7 more players for our training camp roster. 3-4 of those will come from the draft in May so we should expect 3 or 4 more free agent signings before June. Two names that have been on the radar to fill those few remaining spots:

The first is Odell Willis. Word is Winnipeg is listening to trade offers for the DE. Now it would likely be expensive to get him here and he is a bit of a head-case but the fact is, we need a DE desperately and he has 34 sacks in his 3 seasons here so he would definitely be a welcome addition. I doubt it’ll happen but we do have a first round pick and if there is one thing Taman loves more than acquiring former Bombers, its trading 1st round picks.

The other name is far less likely but I will mention it just because. RB Mike Sellers was released by the Washington Redskins. We Rider fans likely remember him running over us like a gopher on a prairie grid road when he was a Bomber. We likely also remember the playoff game where he ran his mouth big time and we shut him down and beat the Bombers. I doubt he will come back up north but I can bet Taman has at least given him a call.

Now if you will excuse me I have to go fill out my March Madness Bracket. In a move that will likely surprise none of you I am throwing my full support behind the Wichita State Shockers. Go Shockers!