It was probably for the best that I was up north fishing at not actually able to watch the last game. I know two languages but would probably have needed to learn 3 more to have enough curse words at my disposal to endure that.
So coming off the bye week we sit at 1-3. Is it time to panic? Well this is Rider Nation… of course its time to panic!! Fire the coach, publicly flog the GM, fix our offense by bringing back Durant and Szarka, wonder out loud if any of the good teams will trade us their back up QBs for late round picks and players we don’t want. Also likely a good time to blame our failures on some complex conspiracy theory where the league wants us to fail.
This annual July crisis has been a habitual occurrence, which is why I’m not nearly as concerned as some. Quick history lesson:
2017 – Riders start 1 and 3. Mad panic ensues. We go 9-5 to end the year and end up one play away from the Grey Cup.
2018 – Start 1 and 2. Mad panic ensues. We go 11-4 to end the year and host a playoff game.
Face it. We suck at the start of seasons. Gotta go back to 2014 to find early season success and its not like we want to talk about how the rest of that year went down. Not saying I like it, just saying its been happening for a few years now. In football it’s not how you start it’s how you finish… unlike the bedroom where its more about where you finish and how quickly (but I digress).
So these early season struggles are not new to us. We know we have the ability to overcome them. So let’s take a look at what our issues are and how we actually go about the overcoming part.
While you could certainly put a lot of the blame for the last game on missing 7 starters… 3 of which are on the O-line. We are not a good enough team to withstand that kind of roster depletion. But I think we likely would have lost to Calgary even with our starters because something bigger has plagued us all season… inconsistency.
Over the first 4 games our offense has played well in 2 of them, our defense has played well in 2 of them and our special teams has played well in 1 or them. Even if you discount what we did against Toronto (because its the equivalent of Madden on rookie mode at this point), we have seen our defense play well and we have seen our offense play well. Its just that its rarely at the same time and you are pretty much rolling the dice on whether the good version shows up in any given game. If we play defense like we did in Hamilton or offense like we did in Ottawa then we can hang with any team in the league. If we continue our pattern of choosing which one phase we will play well in this week (save for last week when they all decided to start the bye week early) then we may finish with less wins then a team that fired its coach after the preseason ended and its GM after its first winning streak in years… and replaced him with Joe Mack.
It starts with coaching. We have the talent but if they are not executing then we need to find a way to better prepare and get the most out of the talent when it matters. Offensively I think we also need to check our expectations. The only games where our offense produced over 17 points were against the 2 worst defenses in the CFL. I believe we are better than what they showed against Calgary but maybe we just look really good offensively against bad defenses and what we can really expect is a more average offense (i.e. slightly above what we had had last year). I’m not saying give up on Fajardo, he still has more upside than I’ve seen in a Rider QB in a while. I’m just saying let’s be more realistic about what we are… and that is not a top end O, at least not yet.
This upcoming back to back set against BC is massive. Win and life suddenly improves. Lose and life gets infinitely worse. Buckle up.