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!