Big news this week was the announcement that Brendan Taman's contract has been extended through the 2017. This really wasn't earth shattering news as it was pretty much a given that his deal would be extended to coincide with Corey Chamblin's deal. Coming off a Grey Cup season and experiencing big turnover on the player side, the team was anxious to ensure stability among its leadership.
Now a few of you have been asking me about my thoughts on Brendan Taman since he delivered a Grey Cup. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I was among his biggest detractors while he was in Winnipeg and was a fairly big critic of his early in his tenure with the Riders. I'm not going to try and re-write history here, flat out I didn't like the guy. And I stand by all my criticisms. That said there is no denying that since 2012 his track record has dramatically changed. He made the right moves and delivered a championship like GMs are supposed. So while his past track record is about as impressive as my abs, I will give him full credit for the past 2 years. GMs are measured by success and he had that in spades.
What changed you might ask? How did this perennial punch line of a GM in Winnipeg end up as one of the more respected GMs in the league? I think it's a mixture of better circumstances around him and learning and growth on his part.
In Winnipeg he was famous for trading almost every first round pick he ever had, having Canadian talent that consisted of purely of Doug Brown, relying on other teams' castoff vets and keeping a neg list of names so ridiculous it read like a comedy sketch (Brock Lesnar, Donovan Bailey, Deion Sanders, Ontario Smith and the Wendy's Kick for a Million guy). To be fair to Taman, in Winnipeg he had a high level of interference from the Board and a budget/scouting resources that would make the average rec league team look rich by comparison. Here he has full control over the team and an extensive scouting network and quality staff. So clearly he is benefiting from better cirsumstances.
Also though, he clearly has learned from his earlier foivals. He showed them early here. Remember the likes of Dominique Dorsey, Ryan Dinwiddie, Efrem Hill, Dan Badslow (which is the name I gave Dan Goodspeed for those of you who are new). The trading of Chris Williams' rights for Prechae Rodriguez. The drafting of Jordan Sisco over Shawn Gore, Cory Watson, Spencer Watt and a pylon (all of who were better receiving prospects).
But his recent history is way more good than bad. He still likes his castoff vets but now they are used to fill specific needs rather than as the primary focus of recruiting. He still trades draft picks more than I'd like but overall shows a far greater commitment to building Cdn depth. His recruiting speaks for itself: Terrell Maze, Tyron Brackenridge, Taj Smith, Kory Sheets, Chris Milo, Craig Butler, Jay Alford, Hilee Taylor, Ricky Schmitt, all 4 games of Macho Harris. He stole Xavier Fulton for a 6th Round Pick (not sure if he bought Edmonton supper after having his way with them on that or not.) His free agent effort have netted Brendan Labatte, Dominic Picard, Weldon Brown, Ricky Foley, Jermaine McElveen, Tearrius George. Even a bona fide Taman hater like me can't argue with results like that.
So while I won't renounce all the previous bad things I've said, I will give credit where credit is due. I'm curious to see just how well he navigates this team through the massive offseason departures we've had. I'm skeptical about his ability to fill all those holes but for now he's earned the benefit of the doubt. I just hope he learned from the last Grey Cup winning Rider GM and stays away from the Robaxacet lest he risk screwing this all up prematurely.