Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 20-29

After a brief pause to talk about the draft, we return to our look at the best Roughriders by numbers. It’s certainly a more uplifting talk than the increasingly unlikely CFL season and the financial woes of the CFL (I keep telling you, run a telethon, they work).

The 20’s were a set of numbers that were very bipolar. It contained some of the easiest choices possible and some choices that made me die a little inside.

20 – Ken McEachern would be worthy candidate here but I’m going with a more recent player. If you look in the Rider rushing records you will find one name consistently after George Reed. RB Wes Cates. In 2007 we needed a replacement for Kenton Keith and Cates stepped in and solidified the spot. He was one of those prototypical 3 way players: solid runner, receiver and blocker. We shouldn’t also forget that in the 2007 Grey Cup he played on a broken foot that he had frozen.  

21 – There’s obviously some sentimental love for hometown product Paul Woldu. On a personal note I liked Rontarius Robinson, though it’s tough to classify him as a great. As much as I don’t want to do this this one does have to go to RB Al Ford. Say what you want about Al Ford the GM (and I’m sure many of us have) but as a player Ford was a swiss army knife. He could play multiple positions and fill multiple roles.

22 – This number was surprisingly depressing to look into. The first player that came to mind was Stu Foord but I was sure there would be someone better as I looked back further. After uncovering names like Bart Hull (as in the brother of Brett Hull), Dylan Ching and Sedrick Shaw, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that RB Stu Foord is the guy. I have nothing against Foord. His jump from the Thunder to the Riders is a great story. But for a guy with less than 500 career yards to be the best is a bit sad. My favourite Stu Foord story is how a big reason he made the team in 2008 was because Quentin Griffin pulled himself in the final preseason game and refused to play. Griffin was cut at the airport. Foord went on to evidently be the greatest 22 to date.

23 – Clearly the easiest decision on the list. I’m pretty sure that even suggesting anyone but the Little General is the best 23 is a capital offense in Saskatchewan punishable by revoking of your season tickets and a lifetime ban from Wisers, Watermelons and the Coop. QB Ron Lancaster is Rider royalty. He is the greatest QB in franchise history and along with George Reed, the best player in the history of the franchise and a huge reason that the Riders are the team they are today. His career stats are made even more amazing by the fact that he did them all in an era where smoking on the sidelines and in the locker room was common practice.

24 – Some good options here. Recent fans will remember Tad Kornegay throwing up the X as he ran out of the tunnel. Older fans may point to Ventson Donelson. I’m going with another memorable defender: LB Jackie Mitchell. Always like him as an LB and I think every Rider will remember that time he almost killed Dave Dickenson.

25 – This is a player before my time but I think it’s telling that he’s on my radar in spite of that. When you think of rushing in the 60s obviously you think of George Reed. But from 63-67 he shared the backfield with another talented back: RB Ed Buchanan. What sold me on this one was that I recently read George Reed’s autobiography and he spoke glowingly of Buchanan’s talent and impact on the Rider offense. When one of the greatest to ever do it gives praise that carries a lot of weight for me.

26 – This was another surprisingly depressing number to research. Scott Gordon was the first name that popped into my head but I was adamant that there had to be someone one better. I mean Gordon was an adequate at best safety who could deliver a big hit from time to time but there may not have been a less effective safety blitzer than him. So I scoured and I scoured but nothing better came up. That was until DB Larry Dumelie. Statistically he’s actually about on par with Gordon but I’m giving him the edge a) as a local product and b) as I refuse to give it to Scott Gordon.

27 – I can already hear you grumbling but there is no debate that this has to go to DB Glen Suitor. He’s the franchise leader in interceptions (and up there on the all-time CFL list). I know some people don’t care for him as a broadcaster but that doesn’t diminish his impact on the field. The only thing I find weird is that despite being one of the best DBs in franchise history there are only 2 things that people will remember of him off the top of their head. The fact that he held for “the kick”. And that one time he took a stupid penalty that cost us a game. Seriously, name another Suitor moment off the top of your head.

28 – I was tempted to give this Craig Butler purely for the time he almost decapitated Buck Pierce (between that and the Mitchell hit, I had a fun time researching this post). I know not everyone will agree with this but for me, the best 28 has to be RB Kenton Keith. I know he is a controversial figure (mainly for off field stuff) but on the field this franchise have not had many players with his ability to change a game on any given play. He was electric. Go back and watch any west-semi final during the Danny Barrett era if you to be reminded how good Keith was. Just don’t subject yourself to the West Finals that followed. Barret era playoff football was a maddening repetition of KK dominating the semi and then in the final teams would game plan around him and we had no ability to adjust and quite frankly always seemed shocked that they did.

29 – Ending the 20s with another super easy selection. Hands down the best halfback to suit up for the Riders was DB Eddie Davis. His job day in day out was to cover the best receiver on the field and he routinely did his job so well that his name was rarely mentioned in the game. His arrival from Calgary was integral in the development of the defense of the early 2000’s that became so dominant. What is most amazing about Davis was his longevity. DBs tend to have a very short lifespan. Davis played at the highest level in the most difficult position for 14 years. Bonus points for having spent one year as a Birmingham Barracuda. 

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