Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Macho!

Riders 33 - Alouettes 21

"We won! We won! Unfortunately, since I bet on the other team, we won't be going out for pizza"

I guess you can add Jonathan Crompton to the list of QBs that are so terrible they can't even look good against our porous secondary (its an exclusive club currently featuring Brian Brohm and now Crompton). Actually I do have to give credit to our defense, I mean, yes, Crompton is terrible but our defense certainly came to play. Most notable was the performance of Macho Harris... who did more in the first half on Sunday than he had done in the previous 12 games. The pick 6 in the second half was just the icing on the cake. Not sure where that Macho has been all season but seemed to be a step ahead of both Crompton and Cato when making his reads.

There were of course flashes of the old D that require about 8 attempts to tackle someone (there was a play where I swear all of our DBs and LBs were unable to get close enough to tackle a guy but Andre Munroe had to hustle downfield to finally make the tackle) but for once those plays were the minority. The line got pressure. Our coverage was for once within the same area code of the receiver. They held the Als to 5 points through all but the final 3 minutes. The final score actually greatly flatters the Als because they had nothing.

Offensively I love our philosophy of going deep early and often. Our first two passes were 38 and 49 yards respectively. They were explosive plays that have been lacking this season. It allowed us to take early control of the game from the Als and never let them back into it. Not bad for a team with nothing to play for. Man that Roosevelt just makes plays. Really looking forward to what his future has in store. I also love how we balanced the deep ball we a heavy dose of Allen and Messam. One of the greatest feelings in football is late in the fourth when they know you are going to run, still churning out big run after big run. Our O-line did pretty good against a strong Als defensive front and certainly made some holes for our RBs in the run game.

Full credit to the coaches and players for staying focused on winning. You can just sense that everyone still cares and wants badly to win. Not easy to stay that focused when your season is filled with so much crap you think someone mistook it for Paul McCallum's lawn. I love winning and I love when other teams have to share in our misery. Haha the Als suck worse than the Riders!

Other random thoughts:
- The Als slow walk out of the locker room to start the game was certainly weird. While coming down the ramps after the game I heard Als assistant Anwar Stewart telling people that they were previously fined $10K for coming out of the tunnel late after a communication malfunction. So now they do that as a pseudo FU response to the league. Either way it was the only visitor entrance so far that I've seen incite laughter... well except when that Hamilton guy slipped in the Grey Cup intros in 2013.

- Love Kevin Glenn but the guy has some weird compulsion for a terrible throw into double coverage per game that results in a pick.

- I've liked Munroe for a while but I really noticed today for the first time just how much he hustles all over the field.

- I probably wouldn't say this to his face but how in the hell does Rakeem Cato out-muscle John Chick for a ball? Cato is literally the size of one of Chick's arms.

- Not sure if its due to scheme or talent but Matt Webster generally comes nowhere near to the ball. I realize we are starting him out of ratio necessity only but he makes Scott Gordon look like a ball magnet.

- On that note, I come back to how brutal Keenan MacDougall must be to not even be getting any defensive snaps at this point?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Riders vs. Alouettes: You Can't Get Fooled Again

Sunday the 5-6 Alouettes (who have a serious shot at the first ever eastern crossover… more a product of the sad state of the bottom half of the West Division than of the Als merits) will be in town for an afternoon showdown with the Riders.

Offensively the Alouettes are actually awful… and coming from someone who has spent the season watching the Riders I feel well qualified to make that assessment. They have the 2nd least points scored (averaging just 19.2 pts per game), the least passing yards and the 3rd most turnovers. The thing is, having a proficient passing attack isn’t really that Als’ game plan. They have a strong running attack (#2 in the league) and play great in the other phases of the game (which I will touch on later). All their QB is expected to do is manage the game and not screw up too much. Sometimes it works… sometimes they start Tanner Marsh who attempted to break the single game record for turnovers in his only start. Not sure at this point if Crompton or Cato starts. Obviously I’d prefer Crompton as I don’t think he’s very good. Either way the passing attack is the secondary concern in this game. Priority 1 is stopping Sutton and the run game. We managed that last week against Jeremiah Johnson so this should be possible (especially if Doughty plays and Knox bumps back outside). But as much as the Als’ pass game is struggling, our pass defense has the ability to make pretty much everyone look like a superstar (Crompton included). SJ Green can make good secondaries look bad… that can’t bode well for us. Their O-line gives good protection so our D-line will have their work cut out for them is winning the battle in the trenches. I think we are all hoping for another Munroe belly rub or 2.

Much like a not so well endowed dude compensates by buying a fancy car , the Als compensate for a weak offense with a lock down D (my car is both economical and practical just for the record). They are second in points allowed giving up only 16.4 points per game to opposing offenses. The weakness I see in their D is right in the middle. The injury to MLB Kyle Elsworth means they will be starting their 3rd MLB of the season. Now Montreal has good LBs so it’s not a huge weakness but we will need to slow down that D-line (which is second in sacks) and what better way than by running down their throat and testing the MLB. Sounds like we may get Adcock back which will give a massive boost to that O-line. To call Hardrick a serviceable replacement would be embellishing his talent quite a bit. Look for Glenn and his receivers to be in better synch this week. I would be leaning heavy on slot backs like Dressler inside in the short to medium. That and the run should set up the deep shots like we saw to Roosevelt last week.

The last thing to mention when discussing the Als is how good their return game is… tops in the league in terms of average returns. Montreal’s success generally come when both the defense and special teams help take the pressure off the O. If we can take the big returns out of it (which we have been pretty good at this year) then it will put more pressure on their O to produce.

This is a very winnable game. We damn near beat the RedBlacks and they are a better team all around than the Als. The thing is, we have damn near beaten a lot of teams. In what is pretty much the polar opposite of my love life the Riders typically treat us to a really solid performance for an extended period only to fail to eventually finish and leave us in disappointment (okay, I guess the disappointment thing would apply to me too). I would love nothing more than to see a win… mainly because this is our second last home game and there may be 7 people at the final one in late October. Based on the match-ups I think we could win. But I have seen the same scenario week in and week out. In the infamous words of George W: “There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.”

Close game but Als by a Nik Lewis TD

Don’t forget that it’s Purolator Tackle Hunger Day so load up with food donations or cash before you come to the game. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Down, Down, Down

Riders 27 - RedBlacks 30

The return of Glenn to the line-up seemed to rejuvenate the team bit. They fought hard, they scored points, they made plays in all 3 phases... then just as Cinderella's carriage returns to a pumpkin at midnight, once the latter stages of the game set in, the Riders made their habitual return to a bottom feeding team. If you watched only the first half of our games this season you would be confused as to how we have only one win. If you watched only the 4th quarter you may wonder how we manage line up in the correct positions or tie our shoes. I think we should petition the league to award partial points for playing good for part of the game. For example leading at half would be 0.5. Leading after 3 would be 0.75 points. It's a slight step above participation awards but when you have just one win, you can't be too proud to accept charity.

Coming into the game there were 2 match-ups which concerned me greatly. The first was our porous O-line against the sack happy Ottawa D-line. I was actually pleasantly surprised on this one. Overall the O-line held up not bad (which by 2015 Rider standards is akin to a glowing compliment). Certainly a much better effort than last week. Unfortunately the other match-up concern: our patchwork secondary (that was terrible even before we started plugging in a ton of new guys) vs. their passing attack turned out to be a very legitimate concern. The only way Burris could have embarrassed our pass D anymore was if he passed for the close to 500 yards he amassed on Saturday while wearing his patented bra. To call our defense soft would be like calling Ebola a minor inconvenience. Can't say I expected much from a secondary featuring 4 players in their first or second year.

There were some good things (I totally sound like I'm giving my "look on the bright side" speech to the boy after his sports team gets worked over). We "exploded" for 10 first quarter points. We had just 20 total in the previous 11 first quarters. Naaman Roosevelt showed some nice hands and great wheels (you can't tell me opting for the older, more expensive and more legally challenged Taj Smith over Roosevelt to start the year was a good decision). Tristan Jackson had a huge night returning kicks. Defense continued producing turnovers. Also, the Munroe belly rub is always a crown pleaser.

But for all the "moral victories" there was also a parade of errors, stupidity and general failure that remind you that we are deserving of our record. There was Demski damn near giving up a safety because he evidently has not played enough Canadian football to know you can't leave the endzone and then come back into it. There was the pure idiocy that was the timeout we took in the dying seconds of the game on defense. Apparently instead of spending Ottawa's timeout figuring out our play, we spent it gazing at the stars because when it came time to snap the ball we were dumbfounded and had to burn a timeout to figure things out. That cost us 20 seconds of game time and removed the tiny glimmer of hope that still existed for our offense to tie the game. Messam's hands quit working. Then of course there is the aforementioned inability to stop the pass. Given that we probably won't stop the pass anyway I suggest moving Munroe back to safety... it would at least deter coming over the middle.

By far the highlight of the night for me (and this is pretty sad) was Milo bouncing a kick off the upright. I spent the whole night saying he owed us a kick of the post for old time sakes and he did not disappoint. Another miss for Milo!!!!

In the end we came closer than I expected but the end result was not surprising at all.

Other random thoughts:
- Anytime we tried to run a somewhat unconventional play on O it failed miserably.

- The Riders must be starting to get concerned about attendance for the last 2 games. While free ticket offers used to abound in Riderville, they have not been seen around here since 2007. Well there was an add on the Maxtron for by 3 get one free Rider tickets. If you want attendance I recommend changing the offer to buy 3 drinks get one free. Or rotten tomato night. I have a ton of these ideas, Riders feel free to contact me to discuss further.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Riders vs. RedBlacks: This Could Get Ugly

The Riders host the 6-4 RedBlacks in a Saturday night showdown. The last times these 2 teams faced we got embarrassed and a high profile questionable coaching decision led to certain people being axed. The good news is I’m fairly certain that Bob Dyce won’t do something so epically wrong that he jeopardizes his employment. The bad news is that I’m not all that hopeful the game itself will have much of a different ending.

Let me first address the QB situation. I support the decision to start Glenn… with one major caveat that I will get to. Dyce laid his case out pretty simply: the team wants to win and Glenn gives us the best chance. I agree. Go back and look at our offense under Glenn as compared to Smith. This isn’t just a slight upgrade. 29 points and 467 yards of offense per game under Glenn as compared to 20 points per game and 276 yards under Smith. I get the desire to get Smith more experience so he can develop but we want a winning culture and culture isn’t just something you turn on and off. I also think that Glenn will help with the develop of our younger receivers and O-line so there are always trade-offs. My caveat is: Smith needs to get back on the field later in the season. I also am adamant that if Keith Price doesn’t get at least a half of football at some point this season its idiocy.

Onto the game…
Defensively the big concern has to be stopping Jeremiah Johnson. If you had read my preseason fantasy analysis you would know that I was touting him as the best RB in Ottawa all along. Their run game has taken a huge step forward now that they have committed to him. He steam rolled us last time and now leads the CFL in rushing TDs. We need to stop him to have any chance in the game. Ottawa also has the #2 passing attack in the CFL, led oddly enough by Brad Sinopli (didn’t see that one coming). Last week our defense exploded in the first half before slowly regressing to their old selves (largely due to the lack of any kind of offensive support). If they can dial up that kind of performance early again we all know that Burris is prone to epic meltdowns (and fist pumping towards the sky when they happen). As much as I have no faith in our pass defense, our best chance of victory is Burris having to rely on his arm. I would love to see Chick and Hall all over him like they were last week on Nichols. Here’s hoping we didn’t use up our monthly quota of turnovers last week.

Offensively, Glenn obviously gives our pass game a boost. Unfortunately as he has not recently converted to O-line to my knowledge, he does not address the biggest match-up issue I see in this game. No team has allowed more sacks than the Riders. No team has more sacks than Ottawa and they just added Shawn Lemon. That points to a good night for Purolator Tackle Hunger but a bad night for the Riders (honestly surprised Glenn didn’t fake being still hurt for one more week). Glenn’s quick release should help alleviate some of that pressure (provided Chapdelaine manages to call an offense that doesn’t play into the defense’s strengths). But overall the RedBlack D is an underrated unit. They are #2 in net yards allowed and #2 against the run. They are also allowing a league low 59% completion rate to opposing QBs (pretty impressive).

Even if our O-line comes out with a better effort (which they damn well better), they will need some help. That means leaning heavy on the run game and letting Glenn get the ball out quickly when he passes (good news is that’s his calling card… you know that and eventually being turfed by every team in the league). Ottawa has a good secondary so I will look to get favourable match-ups on their LBs inside either with Messam or our slots. One thing we can’t do is keep on this torrid pace of offensive penalties. We have taken 72 of them this season… 12 more than the next closest team. We aren’t good enough to beat other teams let alone overcome our own screw-ups and beat a team on top of that.

The harsh reality is that we have a solitary win this season and only because Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea inexplicably feel Brian Brohm is employable. Ottawa is better on both sides of the ball than Winnipeg (to be fair most teams are), so I don’t really see much that gives me hope here. We have a home crowd and Glenn working in our favour but all that means to me is that while we will lose, it just won’t be as embarrassing as the trip to Ottawa was.

RedBlacks by 14

Side note: based on how uplifting and happy my writing has been of late, I’ve been thinking about getting into the motivational speaking business. Anyone interested in hearing my inspiring message of “this will suck but not as much as the last time” is encouraged to drop me a line.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: That Week Where We Had Hope

Riders 7 - Bombers 22

Well I hope you all enjoyed that brief reprieve from misery and losing because Sunday we came crashing back to the reality.

You would think that its almost impossible to lose a game where you get 5 first half turnovers, allow 3 first half points, see your opponents miss a FG inside the 30 and face Matt Nichols. I use the term "almost impossible" because if there is a way to lose a game, the 2015 Riders will find it.  I hear that following the game Matt Nichols was busy trying to convince the Bombers to trade him just so he can play the Riders a few more times this season. We are great for his career.

After a season where an inept defense had been holding back our offense, there was a role reversal on Sunday. The D played an outstanding first half! True they did slowly regress in the second half to the very soft, easy to beat D we have been used to but its hard to blame them when the offense turns in a performance so awful that it makes Brian Brohm seem like an offensive juggernaut by comparison. I counted exactly 4 plays the offense made all game: the Bagg TD (which was one of the most amazing displays of leg work you will ever see), the pass the Ryan Smith where he made a juke on the sidelines, the long Brett Smith run and the long Messam run. That was it. Short of the other team being forced to forfeit due to misplacing all their helmets simultaneously, you simply won't win a game with 4 offensive plays.

To be blunt, Smith was awful. I still believe in his potential but at this point he is a mediocre at best passer in terms of accuracy who compensates by being a fricken Houdini in the backfield and moving around until he can make a play. He is honestly a worse passer in a clean pocket than running for his life.  To be fair though, it was not all Smith's fault. His O-line was terrible. I've seen broken condoms that offer better protection. Even with all his Houdini ability, Smith could not reasonably be expected to avoid as many defenders as we routinely let through. Smith was also saddled with an OC who showed a complete inability/unwillingness to adjust his game plan to the pressure the Bombers were sending. Chapdelaine was content to watch his O-line and QB get assaulted rather than try making some adjustments like WR screens, swing passes, etc... to counter the pressure. The Bombers had our O figured out from the start and we didn't bother changing it, we just played right into their hands.

We also saw the return of our old friend piles of penalties. We have a hard enough time beating other teams on even terms let alone when we start handing yards over in the form of penalties. Ray Early had a pretty bad day of kicking... another factor working against us. Even our coaches made some pretty obvious mistakes. On that fake punt I was screaming at my TV from the second the Bombers took to the field that it was going to be a fake (I really need a Smart TV that will automatically connect me to the coach's headset). It was so obvious, yet we were completely caught off-guard by it. If a whiskey drinking guy who occasionally wears a beard a robe out in public can figure it out then maybe the people who actually get paid to do that kind of thing should be able to figure it out.

Based on how the first half went, if we had any semblance of an offense we likely would have won that game. But the reality is that we are 1 and 10 for a reason and that reason is that we aren't a very good football team. The only good thing to come out of that game is that maybe people will finally shut up about the playoff pipe dream. It was fun to pretend for a week that there was a team worse than us but Sunday's loss solidifies our spot at the bottom of the standings. Buckle up, the back-half of this season could get ugly.

Other random thoughts
- I like Macho as a person and thought highly of him last season but for the life of me I'm not sure why we still think he deserves to be a starting LB. He has been all kinds of awful this year.

- As crazy as that list of 8 different Bomber QBs in 8 years is, what's crazier is that of that list, the 3 QBs who have now beaten us in the Banjo Bowl are Jyles, Goltz and Nichols. That's pretty depressing.

- How much does the Rum Hut pay TSN for advertising to be promoted that much on air?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Riders vs. Bombers: Banjo Bowl 2015

My what a difference a week can make. Things suddenly got very quiet among our neighours to the East. The jokes and insults about the state of the Riders suddenly aren’t as funny when they can be countered with “yeah but you lost them. So what does that say about you?”. Things have also gotten quite loud here in Saskatchewan. For the most part its just happiness about finally winning and optimism. There is however a pocket of fans who have suddenly got very cocky and started beaking a fair bit. Look, be happy all you want that we won, feel free to liberally insult the Bombers (and their looks, intelligence and tendency to date within their own family tree/livestock herds) but always keep in mind that fans of teams with only 1 win should show at least a shred of humility especially when it took facing Brian Brohm for that win to actually become a reality. I actually find this whole thing kind of funny. The mood around the team this week is amazingly upbeat. There have been previous years where fans were more down on and more critical of the Riders despite far better records.

Matt Nichols gets the start for the Bombers…. The 8th straight different starting QB in a Banjo Bowl. Nichols is legitimately an upgrade at QB for the Bombers but this is more a reflection on the sad state of the Willy-less Bombers than it is of the abilities of Nichols. Bear in mind that a few weeks back this same Rider defense made Matt Nichols look like an all-star allowing him to pass for 300 yards and 2 TDs. That said in Edmonton, Nichols was blessed with a competent OC and a rock solid defense… he will have neither is his corner on Saturday.

Defensive game plan remains the same. Priority 1 is shutting down Marshall. Our odds of victory greatly improve the more the Bombers are forced to rely on Nichols’ arm. We also need to dial up the pressure in the trenches and make life miserable for Nichols in the pocket (as if being forced to move to Winnipeg isn’t miserable enough). I expect the Bombers to move the ball better this week but even at that I give the edge to our defense (likely the last time this season I will be able to write that).

Offensively the tried and true method of “feed the ball to Messam” needs to continue… minus the whole embarrassingly botched direct snap in our own end play (that one can go away). Chris Randle (one of Winnipeg’s top cover guys) is out long-term so that should make life easier on our slotbacks. Run lots, lean on Dressler for second down conversions over the middle, use Smith’s legs where possible. Long methodical drives will be our friend. Given the state of Winnipeg’s offense we are unlikely to need to get into a shootout so we need to focus on maintaining possession and chewing up yards.  

That said, I think we need to be riskier early. Fact is that in 6 of our 10 games, we have failed to score a solitary point in the first quarter (you may have heard me preach on this once or twice before). In the other four we have a combined 14 points. This week we won’t have the benefit of the home crowd and can’t count on a kick return to jump start us. A slow start will allow the Winnipeg crowd (who will be likely drunker than normal) to crank up the volume on us. I would push to get an early lead and quiet the crowd... or at least get them to focus their attention on making a beer snake.

With Mike O’Shea taking over special teams (and getting more desperate to find ways to get a victory) I am expecting one or 2 of the trick plays that made him famous in Toronto. Fake kick, on-side kick, throwback across the field on a return, something. They are desperate for a spark and O’Shea knows how to pull it off. Players need to be on the lookout for it.

The Riders have won 5 of the past 7 Banjo Bowls and I think that will continue. The Bombers will play us a lot harder than last week and I expect I much closer game. But provided we can limit big mistakes (turnovers, big special teams play, penalties) we should be able to emerge with another victory... and further plunge the Bombers into to misery. 

Riders by a Paul McCallum FG

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Won!!!!

Riders 37 - Bombers 19

There are 3 certainties in life: death, taxes and the Riders winning on Labour Day. You could probably also add Rider Prophet being hungover on Monday and the Riders having at least one TD called back due penalty to the list but in the interest of brevity we'll just stick with the first 3.

While I'm sure we were all mildly concerned around the time Jerome Messam was epically failing at any attempt to even get close to getting his hands on the ball in that embarrassing attempt at a direct snap, the Riders did eventually recover. The universe righted itself and proved that a Brian Brohm-led team is utterly awful. Honestly, its not like the Riders played dominant football but if Messam hadn't botched that play, the score would likely have been far more lopsided than it actually was. Winnipeg's only majors came as a result of that fumble and late in the game with under 2 minutes. In between there was a whole lot of nothing on Winnipeg's part.

The Demski punt return TD was the spark that finally got the Riders' heads in the game and playing some solid football. For the record Demski damn near DeSean Jacksoned that by throwing the ball away way too soon for my liking. After that play the offense really seemed to get in a rhythm. One thing that really helped was actually deciding to run the ball like we have been screaming for for weeks.  In stark contrast to the 3 touches we had been giving him, Messam saw the ball 21 freaking times plus 6 more for the recently freed Anthony Allen. Not surprisingly it really helped our offense chew up the yards. The more I watch Brett Smith the more I think that he is a better QB when he is running for his life then he is when he stands in a clean pocket. Seems when he doesn't have time to think and just reacts, better things happen. You do have to love his effort level. When he runs he's willing to sacrifice his body for yards. That's the kind of QB players will rally around (its in stark contrast to Sunseri who sacrificed his body but generally for sacks as opposed to positive yards). His passing yards are trending up and his mistakes are trending down. Both positive signs for the young QB.

Defense did a great job of keeping Cameron Marshall at bay. As expected, with him taken out of the equation and the Bombers forced to rely on Brohm's arm, the results were a whole lot of nothing. Our pass defense was still pretty soft but at least we were able to tighten up before they got into scoring range. Hell of a game by Andre Munroe! (Though for some reason T George was one of the opitons to vote for for player of the game). There are few things in life as good as a fat fan football celebration. We had good pressure overall for most of the game. Though to be fair Brohm could make me look like Derrell Revis (while wearing my flip flops and a robe).

It was nice to see another team collapse with penalties and poor decisions for once. I almost felt sorry for Bomber fans when penalties kept extending that one drive because I have lived that nightmare many times this season. The I remembered that its Labour Day and to hell with Bomber fans.

One thing I was happy with was the return of sanity and logic to our coaching decisions. We declined a penalty and took a sure FG rather than risking doing it over again from closer. We went for 2 when it made sense. We didn't challenge ridiculous plays just because we can. The only call I really didn't like was the sweep to Bagg on the goal line for the TD. That one worked out for us but I still hate the call. Run forward!

It was great to finally get a win and relieve some of the pressure on this team. I took great joy in celebrating this win like many did. That said, let's keep this in perspective: we are 1 and 9 and our only win came against the worst team not named the Riders. This means we won't go winless and will likely lead to a few more wins but those still talking about playoffs obviously indulged in more celebratory drinks than me (and that's quite a feat).

Other random thoughts:
- I was sceptical about how the card stunts would turn out (especially when there was 11 step instructions for how to hold a piece of paper over your head) but that looked awesome for both the Bring Em Out and the Canada flag.

- Bubble soccer is the second best half time show ever after mascot soccer!

- The fact that Matt Webster is starting at safety while Keenan MacDougall is relegated purely the special teams says to me that MacDougall may not be the calibre of player we thought he could be when we signed him. He's a good teams guy but I'm starting to doubt he will ever take the next step as a regular presence on the D.

- Alex Hall has like no personality. He was a step away from making Marshawn Lynch look talkative in that Kids Correspondent segment.

- I saw a Bomber fan wearing a Feoli-Guidino jersey... Seriously man? I realize that there hasn't been much to cheer for in Winnipeg for a while but there has to be better than Feoli-Gudino.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Labour Day Classic 2015: Riders vs. Bombers

In a normal year I would be relishing the chance to pen my annual Labour Day post (half of which is generally dedicated to insulting the Bombers and the inbred halfwits that populate their home province). The Bombers even took the courtesy of serving themselves up on a platter this year. They are a terrible team. Just 3 wins. No offense to speak of. A QB situation so desperate that they had to bring in Matt Nichols just to improve at the position and will likely be reduced to starting Brian Brohm. I mean this is a dream situation for a purveyor of irreverent commentary such as myself.

There’s just one problem… As bad as the Bombers are, the Riders are much worse. I mean pretty much anything I say can be countered with “0 and 9” or “have you seen your defense?… because we sure haven’t” and so forth. The Riders’ propensity for craptasticness (now there’s a combination of words I bet you won’t see anywhere else) is really putting a damper on my ability to insult the Bombers and their fans who are plagued by terrible hygiene and a 1st grade reading level.

But what would Labour Day be without trash talk? (even if both teams are so terrible that it essentially becomes an argument over which STD is the least bad) So let’s get to it!
Sunday we get the highly anticipated Brohm v Smith match-up that is sure to take the “Classic” to new heights. We also get to see what happens when an offense that couldn’t score even with assistance of Bill Cosby takes on a defense that couldn’t stop a team made up of amputees, the elderly and mannequins. I’m jacked up for this game as usual but if we are being honest with ourselves, there will likely be highly quality football being played in neighbourhood parks over the weekend.  The Bob Dyce era begins Sunday… though it would be more appropriate to call it the Bob Dyce period or occurrence as it will only last for the next 9 games. 

Offensively, Brett Smith has been given a vote of confidence by Dyce and O’day… and the entire province for that matter. I haven’t seen an issue unite a province quite like the benching of Smith did in a while. As much as I like Smith, he needs to play better for us to win. If we look at it objectively he is completing just over 60% of his passes, averaging under 175 passing yards throwing at least a pick a game. Now Smith is not in this alone. A competent OC would use his big RB who is averaging 7 yards per carry to take the pressure off the young QB. I have my doubts if that will ever happen under Chapdelaine but one can always hope (Allen is sneaking back on the roster so that’s a positive sign we might actually run more). Winnipeg has allowed the second most points and have the 2nd worst run defense. That said I have noticed a marked improvement in their play over the past few weeks, particularly in the front 4. After 6 games they had just 7 sacks but over the past 3 games they have added 11 more. Keeping that pass rush at bay will be key. If we let them run wild I expect they will force Smith into making mistakes. Run the ball (please, please, please) and use quick passes to get the ball out and slow down the pass rush.

Defensively, I will really be watching see if there is a noticeable change with Chamblin gone. I’m not expecting any earth shattering changes but it will be interesting to see if Quick runs things a bit different now that he has full autonomy (well any autonomy really). Our defense is an embarrassment so it’s not like he can do worse.  Consider that the Riders have allowed 190 point after halftime this season (average of 21 per game)… there are teams that haven’t allowed that much in total.

Brian Brohm is likely to start the game (though I highly doubt he goes the distance. Expect Nichols or Davis to make an appearance). Brohm has a QB rating of 32… 32 (the only thing that exceeds that is the average IQ of a Manitoban). Pairing a terrible QB with the Bellefool offense (if you can even call it an offense) predictably leads to an anaemic offense. What does worry me about that offense is Cameron Marshall. He is a big, hard running RB who is hard to bring down even for good defenses. I realize Bellefeuille is far from good offensive mind but I expect even he is capable of determining that running Marshall at us until we prove we can stop it is the best plan. What’s his alternative? Let Brohm throw? Hahahaha. Priority #1 is stop the run. Regardless of who is throwing, I think even our sad sack D can win out if it comes down to a stable of not very good QBs executing the Bellefeuille offense having to win the game through the air. Along with stopping the run our D-line needs to dominate the line of scrimmage. Winnipeg has allowed 31 sacks this year (I’d hate to imagine how much worse it would be if the team didn’t beef up their OL in the offseason). This turnover binge we have been on (6 in the last 2 games after 2 through the first) would be nice to keep rolling. Though if Brohm has any redeeming quality it’s that his passes are so awful to even defenders have trouble tracking them down.

I really find it tough to be this confident about a winless team but I think we should beat the Bombers provided we don’t do stupid things to give them life. Stupid things like penalties, turnovers, big special teams return, failing to defend a hail mary. Avoid the stupid things and we win.

Riders by 10.

I suggest you soak in this game… its might be our only chance to witness a victory in person this year. 

I’ll end with a few Labour Day jokes that I’ve pulled out of the vault:

What do you get when you put all the Bomber Cheerleaders in the same room?
A full set of teeth

Why did OJ Simpson want to move to Manitoba?
Everyone has the same DNA

Why is it so difficult to order two coffees in Winnipeg?

It takes them over 15 years to find another cup

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How Taman and Chamblin Dug Their Own Graves

The ravenous mob that Sunday’s game created in Rider Nation got the blood they were seeking as the Riders have fired both Corey Chamblin and Brendan Taman (and Tino Sunseri! Wooooooo!!!!). Though to be fair, many are probably still wondering when we are going to fire that Chamberlain fellow. It’s quite the rapid fall from grace from a duo that just 2 years ago engineered a Grey Cup Championship team on home turf (an iconic moment in franchise history).

Since I feel compelled to say something about such a huge occurrence with the team I follow... and since stats show a giant upswing in readership coinciding with bad occurrences in Riderville that I would love to capitalize on, I decided to discuss how each man managed to engineer his how demise.

I’ll start with Corey Chamblin… mainly because the reasons he’s current unemployed (very well paid but unemployed) are fairly obvious to even casual followers. While the story of his free fall really begin following the 2013 Grey Cup, there were aspects that were there all along. For one he always preferred playing vets to developing young players. That’s why 2013 suited him perfectly because he had a roster full of talented vets. As the core of that Cup team dwindled and got old, Corey’s aversion to young guys eventually started to bite him in the ass and led to us bringing in guys like Tisdale because he had failed to develop a competent alternative in house. He also went through assistant coaches like they were disposable plates. In his 3.5 years as coach, he changed offensive coordinator twice, defensive coordinator once and special teams coordinator once. Not one of these changes were because the coordinators left for better things… all were a Chamblin decision.

The steady decline of his coaching decisions starting 2014 was really what dug his grave (dig up stupid) . There was his refusal to employ a QB coach after Khari Jones; the “you fumble and you’re benched policy” for his running backs; the decision to take over as defensive coordinator (a move that highlighted the fact that he isn’t really a good DC and spread his focus too thin to be an effective HC); the poor clock management; the lack of preparedness; the lack of discipline; the benching of Anthony Allen again (Chamblin must really not like him); the inability to adapt or improve; most importantly the inability to win… 2 wins since last Labour Day just don’t cut it. The asinine handling of Brett Smith on Sunday was merely just the straw that broke the camel’s back. It made clear to the team that Chamblin was not going to turn things around… no matter how much time he was given. His ego will define his fall from most beloved man in the province to most hated.

As for Taman. Regular readers will know I never liked him from the beginning. In the press conference, Craig Reynolds alluded to a lack of leadership in the GM role as the main reason to fire Taman. Many are taking this to mean that Taman’s inability to reign in Chamblin and his opting to tacitly go along with his coach’s whims despite the downward trajectory of the team was why he was fired. This is certainly a major factor but it can’t be the only one. If it were purely because he couldn’t/wouldn’t control his coach then they would likely have just fired Chamblin and had Taman hire a new coach that he could actually control. Most GM’s do get at least a couple coaching decisions before they are turfed.

Clearly there was more than just coaching which led to Taman finally having an employment status that suits his looks (that’s a hobo joke people. It’s in poor taste but if you wanted good taste you wouldn’t be here). The issue is that Taman wasn’t managing the roster well. Our Canadian talent went from the envy of the league to barely being able to find enough to fill our roster. Our recruiting pipeline (particularly for receivers, linebackers and d ends) was far behind the top teams in the league (I will admit that Chamblin's aversion to young players had a role in this but still you can’t deny that other teams are recruiting more and better talent than we are). Taman does not have a forward thinking bone in his body. His strength is mortgaging the future to plug holes today. It worked perfectly in 2013 as he inherited a solid core roster and made some tweaks (mainly with veteran talent). But as the talent began to erode year over year and the pipeline was not there to replenish them what we are left with was a team whose best players are all over 30 and there is no shining stars ready to take their place.

He constantly traded away our draft picks, leaving us with one high pick and bunch of late round scraps. The result is a team with some solid special team players (Steinhauer, Moore, Regimbald, Webster) but very few starting calibre players. Making matters worse was our inability to retain the Canadian talent we had. In just 2 shorts years we lost Shologan, Evans, Butler, Newman, Heenan, Hurl, Pierzchalski (i.e. every top end Cdn player not named Watman or Ainsworth… neither of which are starters).

In all honesty we should have fired him immediately the second someone got wind that he made Chris Getzlaf the highest paid receiver in the league. That is gross incompetence at its finest. If you honestly believe that Getzlaf’s market value exceeds that of any receiver then not only should you not be in charge of player personnel for a pro franchise, you should also likely be committed to a mental institution.

I like many will be quick to acknowledge and thank both Taman and Chamblin for their role in bringing us the 2013 Cup. That said the only thing that makes me happier than seeing both of them leave the team at this point is Tino Sunseri being released. Woooooooooo!!!!!!!