I had planned to spend this morning discussing the Riders' Season Preview conference call from last week. There were a few significant nuggets of information on the likely make-up of our roster (some of which I like, some of which I don't) that I wanted to break down. But that will have to wait until later in the week as Friday something occurred that trumps that in terms of importance. Darian Durant retired... and he went out guns a blazing.
Before I comment on his storied career, I guess I should probably talk about the way he retired, which has been the talk of the CFL world over the last 3 days. I bet no one expected Durant to be the top topic of conversation. Many (mostly concentrated in our inbred neighbours to the east) are pissed that Durant retired on social media without first informing the team (though he disputes that version of events) and more so that he will pocket a $70,000 signing bonus without ever setting foot on the field for the Bombers. Durant subsequently said he "deserved" the money and over the weekend took to Twitter to trade insults with people with a vigour not seen since he infamously called someone a Dumb F*#*# while still a Rider (which was pretty awesome for the record).
Here's my take on it. Football is a brutal business. Contracts aren't guaranteed and players can be cut at any time regardless of the financial impact on them. So when the roles are reversed and the player does something in their interest that hurts the team, it's hard to fault them. Sure I was not impressed with Mo Price when he did it to us but that was more to do with me not liking Mo Price than me not thinking he should be allowed to do that. Most times the teams are the windshield and the players the bug, this is just one of the rare occasions where the roles were reversed.
Now while I have no issue with what Durant did, I would have preferred if he didn't say he deserved the money (then again I would prefer sleeping on piles of money with many beautiful women but no one seems to care much about my wants). While I think Durant is fully entitled to the cash (I don't buy the conspiracy theories, things can change over a few months and I believe he intended to play when he signed and changed his mind), "deserve" is probably not the right word. While I may not agree with his methods, the fact that he pretty much pissed off the entire province of Manitoba on his way out the door is pretty awesome. Was it the classiest way to retire? Lord no but to each his own.
Regardless of how he retired, Durant will go down as one of the greatest players in this franchise's history. He's #2 or 3 in pretty much every statistical passing category and most importantly did something that only the great Ron Lancaster can top: led the team to 3 Grey Cups in a 5 year span. I don't know how you can call yourself a Rider fan and not find that amazing. For goodness sake there were decades where we didn't even come close to the Cup! What more do you want?
As amazing a Rider career as Durant had, I am constantly left wondering what if? Think about it. If the Riders could have counted in 2009, he would have won 2 cups (something no Rider QB has ever done). Also had "that play that never happened" not occurred in Banjo Bowl 2014 (you know the one where his elbow was destroyed, because the play way blown dead but no one heard and also Dan Clark whiffed epically on his block), I am convinced that he was headed for another one (the team was playing that good up to that point). I realize that couldas and wouldas are as valuable as Stampeder Grey Cup Champion merch (from either 2016 or 2017, take your pick) but I can't help but think about it.
He wasn't a Ray or a Calvillo, but in his own way he was a winner and we were damn lucky to have him play for this team and represent this province. All the best in retirement Double D. Based on the way his retirement went down I may need to pony up the cash to see his Plaza of Honour induction speech.