Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Let’s Talk Quarterbacks

The QB landscape in the CFL has potential to be shook up this offseason to an extent not seen in many years. Free agents like Franklin, Masoli, Harris, Lulay and Bridge; potential retirements like Ray; potential cuts like Collaros and Durant; not to mention potential new entrants like Johnny Manziel. Change is coming and the first dominoes have already fallen with Harris re-signing and Franklin being traded to Toronto. So let’s take a look at where things are at today and what that is likely to mean for the Riders.

The Franklin trade is the biggest domino as he was the biggest fish this offseason. While there is still no guarantees as he is still potentially a free agent come February, let me break it down like this: Franklin knows he’s getting paid this offseason, it’s just a matter of who is signing the cheque. So he will only sign in Toronto if he gets starter’s money (otherwise he will just wait until someone else gives it to him). Money is more important than playing time so in theory if Toronto could pay him starters $ and retain Ray it would be workable. The only way I can see that working cap-wise is if both Franklin and Ray take a low base pay with heavy incentive based on playing time but I can’t see Franklin agreeing to that. So this is where my logic kicks in (scary territory I know). Toronto would not have given up a highly rated young Canadian OL unless they were very sure they could sign Franklin. That means they are willing to pay him the big $. That means they do not expect Ray back. No guarantees but as a betting man, my money is on Ray retiring and Franklin leading the Argos in ’18. Sorry to break your hearts Rider fans.

So given that the long assumed saviour of the franchise is off the market where does that leave the Riders? I see essentially 2 options: stand pat or add one more to the mix.

Stand Pat
Glenn, Adams and Williams remain under contract and the odds of Bridge returning are highly probable. Montreal is likely his only other option and there may be just a bit of ill-will there (plus the whole Kavis Reed dumpster fire thing). So option A is bring everyone back and have an open competition. The only way I see this scenario working is if one of the young guys wins the starting job. Glenn had an admirable year but at some point I think we need to admit that the odds of him leading a team to a championship are pretty slim. I’d take him as an insurance policy/back-up… though if history has taught us if he’s the back-up, misfortune is guaranteed to befall the starter. Bridge showed a ton of potential but still has some big flaws in his game. Adams is a highly thought of player but all we really know at this point is that he can execute poorly designed and blatantly obvious QB runs.

The biggest advantage of this approach is salary. Not having to shell out big bucks on QB allows us to build strength in other arears of the roster. We managed the second most offensive TDs with this combo last season so while its not the flashiest approach, it is workable.

Add one more
Assuming we are not satisfied with our current group (and I don’t think Jones is ever fully satisfied) there are some options to explore. I list them in order of both likely and value to the team:

1 – Zach Collaros
He’s currently under contract but given that he’s reportedly making over $500k and not the starter it’s only a matter of time before he’s cut or traded. Any trade would need to be contingent on renegotiating his salary. In 2015 he was hands down the best player in the CFL. While he’s certainly not looked anywhere close to that form since returning from injury, I’m convinced that a fresh start with a good support cast will revitalize his career. You could likely land him at an affordable incentive laden deal (essentially swap him for Glenn). There’s risk but the upside is higher than anyone else available. We apparently made inquiries about a trade mid-season so we are at least somewhat interested.

2 - Jeremiah Masoli
I can't see him leaving Hamilton after how well things went went June Jones took over. But he is technically a pending FA and he has all the tools (strong arm, great runner, that "it" factor at times). He's still very inconsistent but grew by leaps and bounds this season. Highly unlikely but you never know.

3 – Travis Lulay
He'll be coming off major injury and already has a ton of wear and tear on him but he proved last season that he's not dead yet. I don't see him leaving BC and I don't us being super interested... but he's technically an option. Though one that certainly isn't a step in the right direction age-wise.

4 – Johnny Football
Please no!  If the football gods have any mercy they will spare us this carnival circus. Hamilton owns his neg rights and June Jones has been kissing his ass as much as one can without physical contact so hopefully there's nothing to worry about here. But we totally didn't secretly work him out and only met with his publicist so sadly there is some interest there.

5 -  The rest: Durant, Willy, LeFevour
Hahaha, nope.

So assessing everything I think the most likely scenario is either Collaros or our current guys with an edge to the current guys. Jones has brought stability and long term viability to almost very aspect of this team... except QB, so this is a big decision. Personally I want Collaros but Jones tends not to ask my opinion in these matters.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Round-Up: Busy Week

Typically you can count on a couple lulls in the CFL year. One is the March-April period and one is in the post Grey Cup until the New Year period. Well apparently 2017 did not get that memo. This past week was a whirlwind of activity on all fronts. From team sales, to big trades, to coaching searches, to the schedule coming out, this week had pretty much everything under the sun except somebody facing criminal charges (man I hope I didn’t just jinx things). So let me try my best to get you caught up:

Chris Jones Extends
Given how the season played out it was little surprise to anyone that the Riders and Jones agreed on a one year extension that runs through 2019. The same fans that not that long ago were calling for his head are now rejoicing at this news (typical day in Riderville). While he had a pretty rocky and at times borderline crazy start, our patience with Jones had been rewarded as he has taken a last place team, blow it up and rebuilt them to contender status in 2 years. More importantly he has built a strong core of this team that should keep us contending going forward. This bigger news for me was that Jeremy O’Day, John Murphy and Mike Davis (who in the spirit of full disclosure I had to google who he is and what he does) also signed extensions keeping them with the Riders through 2019. Murphy had been speculated as a potential GM candidate in Montreal. This gives us much needed stability at a time when our recruiting efforts are finally starting to bear fruit. At this point last year I was gravely concerned as we had essentially Holley and Eguavoen to show despite scouting half of continental the US in means both legal and not so legal. Now guys like Jones, Butler, Moncrief, Antigha and James are playing prominent roles. The future looks bright… well technically it’s a whole lot of black on a count of Jones but you get my point.

Jackson Departs
We are now in search of a new QB coach as Jarious Jackson is moving to BC to be their OC. It’s certainly a loss for us particularly at a time when we will hopefully be moving forward with a young QB. It’s also the first big departure from Jones’ core coaching group which has been together since Edmonton.

NFL Interest
I have a full list of NFL workouts below but a few have some Rider implications. Duron, Kacy Rogers and Jeff Knox drawing interest is not a huge surprise. AC Leonard and Nic Demski are a bit more of a surprise (by the way despite a decent year I’m still not completely letting go of my Leonard hatred). The name that did surprise me was Brandon Bridge. At this point I’m not putting too much stock in it because its with the Giants who historically invite half the CFL draft class to minicamp but sign next to no one (Brett Jones is the only exception I can think of and he’s an exception to a lot of things)

Two plus years of anticipation came to halt this week as James Franklin was traded to Toronto… not here has had been assumed since Jones took over. It was the first major domino in a complicated QB web this offseason. I’ll have a full breakdown of the implications of this on Monday but to those of you still clinging vainly to the hope that Franklin doesn’t sign in Toronto, let me just say this for now. Toronto doesn’t give up a Canadian OL they just spent the #10 pick on if they aren’t damn sure they can secure Franklin. I honestly did not think we would be getting Franklin anyway. I bet we were interested but we didn’t seem to be in a “get him at all costs” mode where other teams are.

Coaching Carousel
The Alouettes coaching search is all kinds of fantastic (at least for non-Alouette fans). The 2 leading candidates (DeVone Claybrooks and Mark Washington) have both withdrawn from consideration (in other they wisely surmised they want no part of the Kavis Reed dumpster fire). That leaves such quality candidates as Gary Crowrton (to which Bomber fans in particular respond with a HAHAHAHAHA), Marcel Bellefeuille (to which I respond HAHAHAHA) and Kerwin Bell (and if that name doesn’t immediately make you laugh please search him on Youtube… go on, I’ll wait. Now its your turn to go HAHAHA). By virtue of the 2 greatest words in the English language: de fault, someone will get this job. Its not looking for the Als though.

June Jones returns the Ti-Cats. He also made some great comments about the potential of Johnny Manziel in the CFL… and by great I mean somewhere between outright lies and drug induced nonsense.

Esks DL Coach Casey Creehan left to become the new coach at Lyon College

BC let go OC Khari Jones, STC Marcello Simmons, DL coach Robin Ross, WR coach Marcel Bellefeuille (I’d forgot Bellefeuille was in BC but I assure you their offensive sucktitude and his presence can’t be a complete coincidence). Khari Jones is an intriguing name for a team suddenly in need of a QB coach.

NFL Watch:
Brandon Zylstra (Edm) – Works out for NY Jets, Minnesota, Detroit, Indy, Arizona
Roy Finch (Cal) – works out for Buffalo and NY Jets
Stefan Charles (Edm – draft pick) – works out for Green Bay
Craig Roh (BC) – works out for Minnesota, Chicago
Kacy Rodgers (Ssk) – works out for Minnesota, NY Jets
Jonathan Mincy (Mtl) – works out for Minnesota, Cincinnati, NY Jets (expected to work out for 12 teams)
Derel Walker (Edm) – works out for Minnesota
Nic Demski (Ssk) – works out for NY Giants
Louchiez Purifoy (BC) – works out for Cincinnati
Ronnie Yell (BC) – works out for Chicago
Brandon Bridge (Ssk) – works out for NY Giants
Duron Carter (Ssk) – works out for Arizona
Chris Ackie (Mtl) – works out for NY Jets
Gary Peters (Edm) – works out for NY Jets
Kenny Ladler (Edm) – works out for NY Jets, Cincinnati
AC Leonard (Ssk) – works out for Cincinnati
Diontae Spencer (Ott) - works out for Cincinnati
Jonathan Rose (Ott) – works out for NY Jets
DaVaris Daniels (Cal) – works out for NY Jets
Jeff Knox (Ssk) – works out for NY Jets
Tevaughn Smith (Edm draft pick) – works out for NY Jets
Shaq Richardson (Cal) – works out for NY Jets

CFL Ins and Outs

Out: LB Beau Landry, DL Zach Minter, LB Cameron Ontko (released)
Landry and Ontko were midseason injury replacements only. Minter had his season cut short but was very underwhelming in the time he did play.

In: DL Derek Wiggan, FB William Langlais (contract extension)

In: DL Gabe Knapton (trade with Montreal)
Out: WR Chris Williams (trade with BC)

In: K Sean Whyte, RB CJ Gable, OL Colin Kelly (contract extension), OL Mason Woods (trade with Toronto), QB Eli Jenkins (free agent signing)
Out: QB James Franklin (trade with Toronto)

In: OL Stanley Bryant (contract extension), OL Cody Speller, DB Abu Conteh, WR Brendon Thera-Plamondon (free agent signings)

In: OL Everton Williams, OL Braden Schram, OL Kay Okafor, WR Jacob Scarfone, DL Jake McEwen, DL Ryan Muller, QB Dane Evans, RB Storm Johnson, RB Rajion Neal, LB Lucas Wacha, LB DJ May (free agent signings)

In: QB Trevor Harris, FB Brandon Gillanders, LB Jean-Phillipe Bolduc (contract extension)

In: QB James Franklin (trade with Edmonton)
Out: OL Mason Woods (trade with Edmonton)

In: WR Chris Williams (trade with BC), DB Mikael Charland (contract extension)
Out: DL Gabe Knapton (trade with BC)

Monday, December 11, 2017

10th Annual-ish Rider Prophet Awards

So these awards have reached an amazing milestone as this is the tenth time I am handing them out. I use the term "annual-ish" though because apparently I didn’t bother doing these last year… not really sure why but the official story is that I was preoccupied tending to orphans and volunteering for the underprivileged. But enough outright lies from me… let’s get to the awards.

In honour of our tenth anniversary award recipients will get the biggest prize package in the history of the awards. The bar for that is of course set extremely low as there has never been an actual prize handed out (my original plan to call them the golden rod’s hit a legal snafu with an adult film company). This year’s prize is the winner’s choice of either 2016 or 2017 Calgary Stampeder Grey Cup Champion hats… for some reason they were looking is dispose of a ton of both of them.

Best Player Name
It was really a lacklustre year for quality player names. I mean previous winners like Willy, SirVincent and Lirim Hulahoops are still around but we were lacking in new entrants into the category. So with limited options I had to go with a predictable but still always popular around these parts option…
Rakeem Cox

I like Cox, what can I say?

Previous Winners: Akawasi Owusu-Ansah, Lirim Hajrullahu, SirVincent Rogers, Drew Willy, Bear Woods, Solomon Elimimian, Craphonso Thorpe, Charleston Hughes, Chijioke Onyenegecha

Quote of the Year
Honourable mention to the Rider defense following the Duron Carter Pick 6… “Hey Bo, he’s still your best receiver.” But this year’s winner gets the nod not for comedic merit (as usually occurs) but pure ineptitude. The co-winners for 2017 are Kavis Reed and Jacques Chapdelaine for their explanation of the Bear Woods release.

Kavis: This was a football decision
Chapdelaine: This was not a football decision

Way to get your stories straight guys. Unsurprisingly this was the tip of the iceberg of a leadership situation in Montreal doomed for failure.

Previous Winners: Greg Quick, Solomon Elimimian, Ed Hervey, Joe Mack, Henry Burris, Eddie Johnson, Jason Clermont, Mike Abou-Mechrek x2

Play of the Year
Many plays this year entertained me. Such as Crezdon Butler bouncing off the uprights (though it wasn’t so funny at the time) or Duron Carter making a first down and then cheap shotting the defender. The runner up was for Rider Tevaughn Campbell giving up a safety on an interception and in most other years it would have won. But while my Play of the Year for 2017 happened on the football field it was not a football play.

In the video below you will see Simoni Lawrence steal Antonio Pipkin’s towel and it devolve into a game of keep away where Pipkin looked as helpless as a nerdy grade schooler. Hilarious!

Botched Call of the Year
This tends to be the most difficult award to hand out as there are literally dozens of potential winners each week. But while botched calls are nothing new to the CFL (particularly the Command Centre it seems), few have ever had such large and public consequences as what happened on July 13.

Ryan Lankford had already scored a kick return TD and in the second quarter Martese Jackson also broke free. CFL fans far and wide know what 2 kick return TDs mean… $1 million dollars in Safeway touchdown to win! What a glorious moment! Karen had won $1 million and the CFL world was full of excitement. But wait… the was a flag on the play. Sure a great PR story for the league was about to occur but who has time for that when minimal contact has occurred on an opposing player that in no way affected the play?

To their credit, the CFL and its sponsors were quick to give poor Karen a lot of consolations prizes but it was no million dollars and it was only after the damage of a bogus call had already been done.


The Commercial I Didn’t Get Sick of Seeing Even Though TSN Made Me Watch It 54,297 Times Award
In a first for this award we have a repeat winner. This is not really a reflection of how good the commercial is but rather a reflection on just how little effort advertisers put into in game commercials. The Buck Pierce BelAirDirect insurance commercial where Craig Butler destroys him wins again. 

I can't actually track down a video of the commercial anymore as it seems that like most of Buck Pierce's memories predating that hit, it has vanished.

Most Insulted Sports Figure
This should come as no surprise to anyone to regularly reads the space. My hate list is decidedly lean of late (generally a good sign for the team’s performance). While I wish Bakari Grant would not wear sleeves and I make not attempt to hide my lack of Dan Clark love, one person stands above all others in terms of those I’ve insulted this year. Offensive Coordinator Steve McAdoo. From his seemingly religious based aversion to running, to his insistence on randomly inserting the 3rd string QB at the most inopportune times, to his inability to adjust his play calling when adversity hits, I had many choice words about Mr. McAdoo (many of which were curse words). I guess the good news for us is that he wasn’t the least successful McAdoo in the football coaching world this year. 

Previous Winners: The Riders Secondary, Any Rider QB not named Durant, Pat Neufeld, Chris Getzlaf, Ryan Dinwiddie, Jim Daley, Michael Bishop x 2, Marcel Bellefeuille

Fans’ Choice Douche-Bag of the Year
You the fans have spoken yet again… and resoundingly so. In the largest majority in this history of this award (shattering the previous mark of 66%), you the fans have decided that with 78% (93 out of a possible 119 votes) Jason Maas is your Douche Bag of the Year.

It should really come as no surprise. Maas has a face only a mother could love and an attitude that only the blind and deaf could love. He throws more temper tantrums than a toddler. He breaks equipment. He berates his own staff. He rolls his eyes. He has unwavering belief in the power of the field goal. By the end of the season it got so bad that TSN essentially had a camera devoted to him looking to catch his tirades.

So congratulations to the most unanimous douche bag in the illustrious history of this award.

Previous Winners: Cory Chamblin, Chris Jones, Jon Cornish x2, Henry Burris, Dwight Anderson, Mike Kelly, Jason Jimenez, Rob Murphy

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Welcome to the Offseason

While the calendar won't officially switch to 2018 for another months. The 2018 CFL offseason is now upon us. The real work of GM's across the league now begins as they have scouting to do, contracts to rework and pending free agents to tamper with (oh don't act like it doesn't happen).

As with every offseason I will do my best to keep you informed on all the new that is news across the CFL. Though for newer readers be warned, my timeliness and punctuality tend to take a slide in the offseason. So feel free to add that to the list of things I don't do well (like grammar, coherent thoughts and personal hygiene... though at least you don't know about that part). 

Before we get to it, just a reminder to get your vote in for the Fans' Choice Douchebag of the Year Award. Currently an overwhelming majority of you are going in the same direction with your votes (not that I'm overly surprised). Vote on the poll on this site or an Twitter. Votes by carrier pigeon and signing telegram are also accepted and count for triple value.

On to the news:
- Biggest speculation with a Rider slant is the ongoing search for a  head coach in Montreal. According to a report, one scenario could see Kavis Reed move to Vice President (yet another promotion for reasons I can't comprehend) and bring in John Murphy as GM with DeVone Claybrooks as coach. Certainly worth keeping an eye on as Murphy would be a loss to a scouting system that is finally starting to show results.

- Other names on the Alouettes radar for head coach beyond Claybrooks include Tommy Condell, Corey Chamblin and Mike Benevides. I'm still waiting for Jim Popp to somehow end up coaching them again.

- On the other side of the country, Ed Hervey was hired as BC's GM and Buono will be back for one more year of coaching (he retires about as well as the Rolling Stones).

- There have been a few re-signings so far and generally that means the team has extra salary cap space (Winnipeg and Ottawa seem to). While the Riders have deals in place for a few guys (most notably Willie Jefferson) they aren't making the deals official meaning that we are likely fairly close to the cap. 

- Of course there is a ton of speculation on what could be a busy offseason for QB shuffles and the Riders figure to be actively involved. I will devote a future post to that entire topic (veteran move by me not blowing all my material at once).

Coaching Carousel
- Ottawa fired a number of assistants including Tavis Moore, Bryan Chiu and Ike Charlton
- Calgary fired DB coach Kahlil Carter (well technically his contract wasn't renewed)

NFL Watch:
Bo Lokombo – signed to practice roster of San Fransisco
Eric Rogers – workouts with NY Jets and Detroit
Stefan Charles (Edm) – Workout with Tennessee
Tevaughn Smith (Edm) – signed to practice roster of Oakland
Roy Finch, DaVaris Daniels, Shaq Richardson, Jonathan Mincy and James Franklin – NFL teams have requested workouts with them.

CFL Ins and Outs

In: RB Timothy Flanders, K Justin Medlock (contract extension)

In: WR Brad Sinopoli (contract extension)

Out: DB Jonathan Mincy, DB Tyree Hollins, DB Taylor Russolino, DB Travis Hawkins and DB KJ Morton (released)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cast Your Vote

On December 11th I will be handing out the Annual Rider Prophet Awards. That means its time to vote for one of the most dubious distinctions there is... the Fans' Choice Douchebag of the Year. 

This year we have a number of people who have excelled in the field of douchebaggery. Be sure to cast your vote for your favourite. (Note for those viewing the mobile version of the blog, you will need to view the full version of the site to vote. There will also be a poll on Twitter if that's more your thing).

With out further adieu, here are this year's nominees:

Micah Awe - Nominated for his repeated headshots (not that the League seemed to mind too much)

The Hamilton Ti-Cats – Nominated for their epically misguided attempt to hire Art Briles… well technically they did hire him and then had to quickly un-hire him.

Henry Burris – Nominated because his GMC Playbook Segments were generally utter garbage. Plus the whole “Ottawa is missing leadership”… “Oh I’m not talking about me”… showing up at RedBlack practice the next day drama.

Jason Maas – Screamer, Tantrum thrower, Headset abuser, Field Goal enthusiast…. Did I miss anything?

Jon Cornish – Did absolutely nothing of note but it was requested by you the fans that he be nominated every year no matter what. (Predicting he finishes no lower than 3rd in voting because people are that spiteful)

Let your voice be heard. Vote now!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Grey Cup Thoughts

The 2017 CFL season came to a close last night and it left everyone felling very happy... well everyone except of course Calgary fans who are crushed and Toronto residents who probably aren't even aware. The Grey Cup delivered excitement in spades: big plays, lead changes, a blizzard, shovels, snowplows a dog sled. We were essentially a rouge and flipping snowmobile away from Canadiana bingo.

The game went exactly as scripted with Calgary outplaying the Argos for the majority of the game. Yet in the process they made just enough mistakes to let the Argos stick around and deliver a dramatic come from behind victory. Campbell was just off on that 100 TD pass to Posey. Calgary was on the doorstep of scoring the points that would have been the nail in the Argos' coffin before fumbling. They were once again on the doorstep in game tying FG range before forcing a pass into double coverage. You take away those 3 plays and the Argos likely get pummeled in this one. But instead of getting redemption for last year's choke job, the Stampeders further cemented their reputation as regular season all-stars and post season choke artists. I know it's petty to take pleasure in the pain of others but a) as a Rider fan many people have taken much pleasure in my pain over the years and b) its the Stamps and they are dicks so its kinda like a victimless crime.

While I would have liked a better finish for the Riders, the 2017 overall was a great one for the CFL. Great games, great plays, great championship, ample rack on the halftime act. Great season.

Don't go anywhere though. With the 2017 season ending , the 2018 season is just beginning and you can bet there is a ton of news that has been kept quiet until after the Grey Cup. Lots moving parts this offseason and your friendly neighbourhood Prophet will be here to get your through it with insights and irreverent commentary.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Grey Cup 105: Stampeders vs. Argonauts

Sunday the 2017 CFL season comes to close as the Grey Cup (or at least the pieces of it that remain intact following someone inevitable breaking it) will be handed out to either the Stampeders or the Argonauts. Clearly I would have much preferred writing this post if the Riders were in the game but then again I would probably also be in full party mode and even less coherent than normal so there’s that. Either way I always enjoy the Grey Cup game regardless of who is playing. So let me regale you with my thoughts on the game.

On one side you have the CFL’s best team in the regular season. They’ve had 10 or more wins in every season since 2008. They have the League’s best defense and well, we all pretty much hate their guts outside of residents of Calgary (and even a lot of them hate them too). On the other side you have the best team in the CFL “My mom says I’m cool” division. They haven’t been to the Cup since they won in 2012 and Ricky was old even then. We are all pretty much ambivalent to the Argos outside of residents of Toronto who likely aren’t aware the Argos exist but could name you the starting line-up for every Maple Leaf team that failed in win a Cup in the preceding 50 years.

This is a battle of 2 heavyweight defenses and arguably the best two front 4’s in the CFL.  Going to be a tough night for the O-lines and QBs. As good as Toronto’s D is overall, when they decide to try there is no better defensive group then the Stamps. I expect a low scoring affair. Not great news for a guy who got stuck with both teams needing to score over 48 in the office charity Grey Cup pool. The big challenge for Calgary’s D will be shutting down James Wilder. If they can make him a non-factor then Toronto is in big trouble. Without the balance he brings (both as a runner and pass catcher) the Calgary D-line will start teeing off on Ricky Ray. Given that it would probably take until Grey Cup 106 for Ray to run way from pressure, keeping that from happening is Trestman’s #1 priority. Also need to find a way to get SJ Green involved. HE was very quiet in the East Final but in championship games your studs need to be your studs. I expect Calgary will lock Tommie Campbell on him.

For Calgary their offense revolves around 2 guys. They need Messam to pound along the ground and McDaniel to be Bo’s security blanket. Certainly guys like Finch, Jorden and Daniels have big play ability but in a game they will likely be a defensive battle the reliable chain movers like Messam and McDaniel will be the keys to victory. I give the edge to the Calgary O-line here as no QB faced less pressure than Mitchell.

If we are being honest with ourselves, we want to see two things on Sunday. #1  Calgary lose. #2 – Dancing Sharks and backflipping snowmobiles…. Or… or…. Dancing shark doing back flips on a snowmobile. Give the people what they want! It’s actually for this reason my attempts to launch a career as a halftime show planner failed.

Them - Umm… Mr Prophet do you have any ideas that don’t involve mascots or snowmobiles?
Me – First off I don’t see the need for any other ideas. Second, of course I have other ideas.
Them – That we can show on television?
Me – I’ll just show myself out.

I will be cheering for the Argos on Sunday but if I was a better man (something you all know is true), I would unfortunately be betting on the Stamps. I think the Stamps D grinds out a close victory. Say 20 – 15. But it would sure be nice if old man Ray had some magic left in him.

Enjoy the game.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The End Of The Line

Riders 21 - Argos 25

Months and years from now when we look back on the 2017 season it will be viewed as a successful year. We went from a train wreck in 2016, overcame a 2-6 start and came within 1 score of a Grey Cup appearance. We went from basement dweller to legitimate contender. But for now in the days following the East Final we can only feel great disappointment and a as if a big opportunity was missed. 

Let me get a couple things out of the way before proceeding:
1 - If you think our defense cost us the game, you're an idiot
2 - If you think the refs cost us the the game, you're an idiot
3 - If you actually think there is some kind of anti-Rider conspiracy  you're... you guessed it, an idiot.

With that out of the way, onto the game...

That game was 3 quarters of misery followed by a 4th quarter than was a roller coaster of emotion from the highest of highs, to pretty low (given our history of heartbreak you can't even put that game among the top 10 in disappointments).  I went from cheering so enthusiastically that animals and small children got scared to cursing so prufusely that said small children learned some new new words (It's ok, they weren't my kids). On one side of the ball we were playing some of the best football you will see. On the other, I'm not even sure what we were doing could be considered football... until the 4th quarter.

I can't say enough about the job the defense did. We should have been pummeled by the Argos but the D somehow kept us in the game. They forced 3 turnovers, they kept Wilder largely in check, they kept SJ Green a non-factor. They did all this while receiving not only zero support from their O but having their O actively working against them. Yeah they couldn't get the stop they needed on that final drive but there is no way you can fault them. They played their asses off and were the only reason we had a chance.

Offense started great with a nice drive for a FG. Then there was about 40 minutes where it was like watching flashbacks of Michael Bishop's '08 playoff game or Kerry Joseph's '14 playoff game. Kevin Glenn decided to be the crappy, playoff choking version of Glenn, and was intent on ensuring every Argo defender had a reception. It was weird because when we pulled him the first time I was pissed because I didn't think he was doing that bad yet. Bridge came in and was equally terrible (though in a less "here Toronto, take the ball" kind of way). Glenn came back in and well I'm actively trying to repress that part of the game with rye. Something clicked in the 4th and Bridge finally put a drive together but it was a matter of too little too late. For me, the creativity of last week's O was gone. No sweep to Owens, no screens against pressure, lackluster run game, forgetting Duron Carter existed for the 2nd and 3rd. We knew coming in that the Argos would get pressure and still seemed powerless to do anything about it until too late in the game.  You can't win a playoff game when you don't play offense for 3 quarters. Feels an appropriate time to break out this timeless Mo Lloyd quote from 2008: "You can play against the deaf, blind and the homeless and you will never win a game with (seven) turnovers''

Man is Christion Jones electric! As much as I knew there was a ton of time left on the clock, I so thought he'd stolen the game for us.

As I said, we will eventually look be back and be proud of the steps we took in 2017. But it's a bitter pill to swallow knowing that even 1 more quarter of quasi-respectable offense and we are likely still playing football. Oh well. We walk off with our heads help high, knowing that even though it wasn't our best game, we still fought tooth and nail until the final whistle. I bet bosses across the prairies are happy, productivity just avoided a cataclysmic drop.

Thanks to all for another great season. I love the interaction on Twitter and in the comments (even those idiots who say I have green tinted glasses when I predict the Riders to lose, entertain me). Stick with me through the offseason as I'll have coverage of the Grey Cup and all the offseason goings on. Not to mention a ton of filler posts to keep you entertained over the dreary winter break.

Other random thoughts on the game:
- Chris Jones is the model of consistency. +30 or -20... same outfit. I wonder if he only has one shirt or a closet with like 20 of the same shirt?

- When I lamented Bradbury being named our ref, I got a ton of "at least its not Proulx" from folks on the interwebs. I realize I'm in the minority but I think Proulx is a damn good ref. I'll be starting a fan club complete with T-shirts next season.  I fully realize no one will by the shirts since its essentially like wearing a kick me sign but its the thought that counts.

- I get that it wasn't blatant but I still don't understand how that wasn't roughing the passer on the pick 6. I've seen less contact on a QBs head get called. By the way I get the irony of being mad at Bradbury for not throwing a flag. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Riders vs. Argos: East Final

Well here you have it Rider Nation, after spending much of the season lamenting that we did not play in the much weaker East division, we now have an opportunity to represent the East in the Grey Cup. I doubt many thought we would find ourselves one game away from the Grey Cup after our offseason/rocky start. Turns out there may be method to Jones’ madness (though I will say that at time he is a bit heavy on the madness even for my liking). At a combined age of 243, Glenn and Ray may be the oldest combined starting QB age in playoff history (at least if you exclude games where Damon Allen played).

That East-Semi win was sweet but we have to put that behind us as Toronto represents a very different type of challenge. Unlike Ottawa I don’t expect Trestman to not try and pressure Glenn and forget he has a good running back at his disposal. Jones and his staff we need to come up with new game plans on both sides of the ball.

Offensively the key will be dealing with pressure. I don’t know what game film Rick Campbell watched but let’s assume Cory Chamblin (Chamberlin as he’s still often referred to around these parts) watched the vast amounts of footage showing Kevin Glenn/our line struggling when pressure is sent. Toronto has a very talented front 4 and thus the ability to get pressure without relying on blitzing (though you can bet those will come too). Our O-line will need to step up and play their best. McAdoo can also help by keeping Thigpen heavily involved. Toronto is #1 against the run so it may be slow going at times but we need to stay committed to keep the offense balanced and the D-ends from teeing off on Glenn (not to mention that Thigpen is a threat to break one on any play). Keep the Owens sweep going, toss in some swings/screens. Hopefully Glenn is as dialed in as he was last week because he’ll need to make quick decisions. Get Carter involved early again, lean on Roosevelt when in doubt and look for Owens. With all the focus on our big 3 and Thigpen I think Owens could have himself a big game. First and foremost, we need to control the ball. The stakes will be high and turnovers can be killers… just ask the RedBlacks.

Defensively, for all the hype that Ricky Ray and that passing game will get (deservedly so), the #1 thing we need to concern ourselves with is shutting down Wilder (easier said than done). In just 10 games Wilder put up 1400 yards. Trestman loves to use his RB both as a runner and a receiver and Wilder has been deadly at both. Pressure and sound tackling from the front 7 will be key. Even if we do manage to contain Wilder, Ricky Ray is still a pretty good QB and has some quality weapons in Green, Posey and Edwards (that Dyakowski/Edwards trade was one of those that works out great for both sides). Our DBs need to bring their A game (I’m looking at you Kacy Rodgers). Toronto chews up a ton of yards (#2 in offensive yards) but doesn’t score a ton of points (lowest scoring offense of any of the playoff teams) thought they were better down the stretch. In their last 7 games their failed to crack 29 points only once… and it just so happens that was against the Riders. Toronto can beat you in a lot of ways so we need be disciplined on D. We also need to make every play that presents itself as I don’t see Ray making as many mistakes as Harris did so we need to seize the few opportunities there may be.

For the second week in a row we get a match-up of marquee returners. Both Jones and Martese Jackson have multiple kick return TDs to their name. The team that best manages to corral the opposing returner will have a big advantage in this game and I really like how our special teams have played all season on both sides.

There’s no denying that Toronto became a stronger team down the stretch and they pose a far more formidable opponent than the RedBlacks mainly because they have a veteran QB and more playmakers on defense. While prepping to write my pre game preview I always pour over the stats and pull out interesting ones. I also make up stats when I can’t find any good ones. Just kidding… or am I? Most of you are too lazy to prove me wrong even if you wanted to (insulting your readers is always good practice right?). Anyway, the stat that is the most telling for me headed into this game is this: Toronto is 3 and 7 versus the West (and 1 of those wins was a victory over BC in a game that was meaningless to the already eliminated Lions). Toronto is no pushover but I think they are beatable. The Rider have the ability to make big time plays in all 3 phases of the game. Between that and Toronto’s struggles against Western opponents, I like the Riders to prevail in what will essentially be a home game for them.

Riders by a Duron TD.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Gettin' Thiggy With It

Riders 31 - RedBlacks 20

One down, two to go

Sunday the Riders rolled into Ottawa and handed the defending Grey Cup champs a convincing defeat. Early on it looked like we were in store for a classic CFL shootout but as the game wore on the Riders took more and more control of the game. The end result actually could have been even more lopsided as the Riders missed opportunities for plays on both sides of the ball.

For me, the big story was the offense. They looked awesome. Kevin Glenn was dialed in and played his best game since before he injured his hand. He was calm in the pocket and pin point on his passes. He was aided by an O-line that gave him enough time to do his taxes before having to throw. For whatever reason, the RedBlacks chose to not send pressure (something Glenn has struggled mightily with of late) and instead sit back in a zone (something Glenn picked apart). Curious game planning but Glenn took full advantage. Even when the plays didn't go as planned, luck was on Glenn's side. There was that play where he was running/stumbling for his life and stumbled at the exact right moment to slip harmlessly to the turf as two RedBlacks KOed one another. It also helps when your RB absolutely lights it up. Thigpen was unreal in that game. Even if you exclude that 75 yard run he still damn near cracked 100 and was over 6 yards per carry. His speed and elusiveness were deadly. I'm a big Marshall fan but you can't take Thigpen off the roster at this point. I also thought McAdoo had a good game plan (something I don't say too often). Sweeps, swing passes, runs, getting Carter involved early. The game did not devolve into the shootout it looked like it might but the way the offense was humming I think we could have won even if it did.

The defense started out bad. Our corners both got beat routinely and should have been beat for more yards than they were if Harris was able to connect. That was the worst game I've seen Kacy Rodgers have. But despite the poor start the D turned it around and after that Spencer TD in the first quarter, only allowed 2 FGs until garbage time. A key play was that Eguavoen pick. Not only was that a textbook interception, that was the play that ended the brewing shootout. Jones noticeably dialed up the pressure throughout the game and while it did lead to some long completions, it also lead to sacks and errant throws by Harris. We also managed to take the run game completely out of it (Powell just 8 times, only 2 times in the second half). You'd almost think Steve McAdoo snuck into the RedBlack booth for how much they ignored the run. 

Even on special teams we were pulling out all the stops with the sneaky Owens to Jones reverse. 

I said before the game that turnovers would be the key and the Riders won that battle 4-1. And on the lone giveaway the D forced a FG and Thigpen went for 75 yards on the next play. 

The next game will be a far greater challenge but the way were are playing in all 3 phases I have no reason to doubt this team. God I've missed playoff wins!

Other random thoughts:
- That limbo celebration was pretty outstanding but I have to wonder if it contributed in anyway to Ellingson tweaking his knee later.

- I don't get the "Kevin Glenn gets revenge" narrative. First off that was like 4 years ago. Second, every single non-Edmonton game is a Kevin Glenn revenge game. 

- Crezdon Butler is a hell of a player

- For the fake FG to work we actually have to kick an actual FG with Vernon Adams as the holder. The second anyone sees anyone but Bartel set to hold for the FG its a dead giveaway that kicking is not in our plans.

- Still can't get over Rob Black calling Keelan Johnson "the stripper" 

- That onside kick was more of a gently pass the ball to Hecht than a legitimate attempt.