Monday, December 20, 2021

13th Annual Rider Prophet Awards

After a one year hiatus we are back. That scheduling interruption now has this as the 13th Annual Awards… even though use of the term “annual” is used lightly since the first awards were in 2007. You do the math.

This year’s award winners get a gift basket containing a wide array of Hamilton Ti-Cat Grey Cup Champion merchandise. After losses in ’13, ’14, ’19 and ’21 we need to clear this stuff out somehow because even third world countries have too much of it and will no longer accept it.

Let’s get to the awards.

Best Player Name

I was really pulling for QB Luke Falk to make the Riders because I would have milked that for all it was worth. Sadly we were all denied that joy. So the winner goes to Stampeder receiver Luther Hakunavanhu. It’s actually not as hard to pronounce as it looks. But what makes it noteworthy is how professionally TSN handled pronouncing it. Now I, as an obscure blogger/dude who watches form my couch, have no issues pointing out that it sounds like Hakuna Matata. But the announcers paid to do this should probably attempt a shred of professionalism. Clearly they did not prep for Hakunavanhu to do anything relevant because when he made a big catch and it was time to say his name, they didn’t even really try and just went straight for Hukuna Matata. Not a good look when your level of professionalism is on the same level as a dude who recreationally wears a robe.

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

Quote of the Year

In a first for these awards, the Quote of the Year is not going to a player or a coach. It’s going to a referee. It was week 15 and the Elks were in town for a match-up with the Riders. In a shockingly rare occurrence, Craig Dickenson opted to use a timeout (in a not shocking turn of events it was a terrible time to use one, as it was on the first play of the second half.) Tom Vellesi alerted the world to this by announcing “Time out Saskatchewan…” but then, clearly forgetting his mic was still live he added “Fuck Them”.


Vellesi was indeed fined for this… something I think is ridiculous. I personally found it funny and welcome a world where refs openly curse at team. Lord knows the reverse has been happening since the beginning of time.


Previous Winners: Cody Fajardo, Dave Dickenson, Kavis Reed/Jacques Chapdelaine, Greg Quick, Solomon Elimimian, Ed Hervey, Joe Mack, Henry Burris, Eddie Johnson, Jason Clermont, Mike Abou-Mechrek x2


Play of the Year

October 30th was the date, it was late in the 4th quarter of a game between the Argos and Lions. The Argos were clinging to a 1 point lead. They blocked a potential game winning FG attempt taking over possession with 45 seconds left on the clock. Should have been an easy victory. What followed was one of the worst displays of coaching I have ever seen and I lived through the coaching careers of Mike Kelly, Kavis Reed and Danny Maccioccia.


Not realizing that BC still had both timeouts. The Argos go victory formation and kneel. BC calls a timeout with 38 seconds left. Now at this point you would think that Dinwiddie would have realized the error of his ways (things happen you forget about timeouts) but he calls a second kneel… knowing full well that it won’t end the game. Another timeout and suddenly the Argos have to punt from their own 9 yard line with 18 seconds left… without even attempting to run a real play.


To complete the stupidly cycle, BC got the ball back and marched to the 30 yard line… only to miss the FG forcing overtime with a single point. The Argos ended up winning in OT but I maintain that win should be revoked due to excess stupidity of coaching.


Botched Call of the Year

Let me preface this with saying that I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of the game. In the Banjo Bowl, a melee broke out after a Bomber TD. A lot of stuff was happening and 2 Riders ended up getting ejected (and deservedly so) but a ref had a front row seat to see Andrew Harris grab the facemask of a Rider defender and proceed to rip the helmet off him while tossing him to the ground. Not in the middle of a pile, not off to the side… directly in front of a referee. And yet, he did not get ejected. Apparently punching a guy in the helmet is a super dangerous play but forcibly removing someone’s protective gear while throwing them to the ground is super safe.  


The Commercial I Didn’t Get Sick of Seeing Even Though TSN Made Me Watch It 54,297 Times Award

Well I certainly did get sick of Steven Lee Olsen. I hope whatever TSN paid his was worth it because I think we’d all rather compliment Bo Levi Mitchell profusely than ever hear Olsen’s music played ever again.

It was a pretty lacklustre year for commercials, yet again but the one I did actually enjoy was the Tide commercial where Ice T and Stone Cold call Mark Mess-ey-eur. Its not a particularly great commercial other than the blatant mispronouncing of Messier but  I think it would be wild to time travel back to like 1998 and tell people that Ice T and Stone Cold Steve Austin would one day be promoting laundry detergent. You would have got stunnered/shanked for even suggesting it.


Most Insulted Sports Figure

I insulted a lot of people in the Rider organization this season. So competition for this award was fierce. Nick Marshall, Jason Maas, Fajardo, Dickenson, Blace Brown, Christian Campbell… there was plenty to critique.

But far and away a focus of pretty much every single post was how awful our O-line was… particularly our offensive tackles, who were quite frankly offensive. So I award this dubious honour to the trio of Offensive Tackles that did their best to pad the stats of opposing pass rushers. I have seen bad tackles in my time as a Rider fan, but I have never seen our entire line as awful as it was in 2021.


Previous Winners: John Ryan, Brandon Bridge, Steve McAdoo, 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 Douchebag of the Year

Rider fans love our villains. Henry Burris, Rob Murphy, John Cornish… hell we spent and inordinate amount of time yelling at Wally Buono to get off the field. Suffice to say our hatred list has a lifetime membership.

So it is with this year’s winner, who first appeared in the voting last season, and I see being a perennial nominee going forward. He beat out the obscenity yelling/fan fighting John Murphy and all around douchebag Brock Sunderland.

With 51% of the vote (20% more than the next closest) you the fans have overwhelmingly selected Andrew Harris as your Douche-Bag of the Year. It was ripping the helmet off our player that really secured it but I get the sense that we all feel his general levels of douchebaggery are naturally elevated… its about the only levels of his that are naturally elevated.


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

Monday, December 13, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Voting Time

On one hand I want to feel sorry for Hamilton. I mean they lost back to back Grey Cups in ’13 and ’14. And then again in ’19 and ’21 at home to boot. As a Rider fan I know a thing or two about pain and I don’t wish that upon anyone. On the other hand Hamilton is directly responsible for Winnipeg winning not one but two Grey Cups… so that level of pain may be warranted. Honestly to hell with you, I hope it another 10 years and 4 Grey Cup losses before you win again. Yes, I’m that petty.

If nothing else it was a great end to a somewhat lackluster season. But hey, we should just be glad we got football after 2020.

The offseason may be upon us but that doesn’t mean the fun stops here. I’ll have coverage throughout the offseason to help fill your football void.

It starts next week with the annual Rider Prophet Awards. The most notorious of those awards is the always anticipated Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year Award. You can cast your vote below and on twitter for the person you feel deserves recognition for outstanding achievement in the field of Douchebaggery. Winner will be announced next Monday.

Your 2021 nominees are:

Management of the Elks – Elizondo, Sunderland, Presson… there was more awfulness emanating out of that organization than I can list in this small space both on and off the field. Terrible play, questionable roster decisions, “medical” exceptions for Covid shots, allegedly banning Joey Moss from the locker room, getting Eddie Steele fired for speaking out about the problems, the list goes on and on.

John Murphy – For getting into a postgame fight with fans and uttering some obscenities

Andrew Harris – He may not have gotten punished for ripping a guy’s helmet off but we can still punish him in the court of public opinion.

Other – Write in your chosen Douchebag in the comments

Vote now:

Monday, December 6, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Fitting End

Riders 17 – Bombers 21

If nothing else you can say the Riders were consistent. Much like the rest of the season, Sunday saw us field a championship calibre defense and a rec league calibre offense. They made a hell of a game up it but ultimately were not going to beat a team as good as the Bombers with that many mistakes. You need to win at least 3 phases. One phase came to play, one phase was meh and at best a saw off with the Bombers and one phase... well if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Early on it seemed our best strategy was to let the Bomber get into the redzone and assume they would screw up. And the turnovers just kept coming. 6 of them against a team who turned the ball over less than anyone else this year. But with each successive turnover, one thing kept missing… points. Off those amazing 6 turnovers, we produced just 10 points. Put another way we average less than FG for each turnover. Can’t pass up that many opportunities against the top team in the West and expect to win. Defense did everything they could to keep us in.

Offense… well they were exactly what we’ve come to expect from the 2021 Riders… dysfunctional at all levels. O-line that can’t block… allowing 5 sacks. Play calling that boggles the mind. Some of our third and short plays included hand-off 5 yards deep when we needed 2 and bombing it deep (because you know the deep ball has really been our strength this year). Compound that with a QB who continues to make really bad reads. The one time we actually had the screen pass set up to work, he didn’t throw it. End of the half with zero seconds on the clock he throws a 12 yard pass (why?). And with all due respect to Mitch Picton (who I like), it is simply idiotic that with the game on the line he’s your primary/only read when he clearly was well covered. Literally any other receiver would have been a better look. Compound that with receivers making mistakes the few times Fajardo made a great play. Duke missed a guaranteed TD by mysteriously stopping running. Baker had a drop. The list goes on. You can’t point to any one person as the sole issue with our O. Everyone involved with that mess contributed and the result is a team that can’t score 20 points.

Not that I think it would have made a difference but good lord did Winnipeg get away with some blatant holds. I’m pretty sure even if they completely pulled off one of our defenders jerseys they still would have not thought it was holding. To be fair, I’m not convinced that Duke catch was actually a catch either. I will also once again call for college-style ejections for targeting. Somehow we still use video review to see if sneezing on a QB is roughing but can't use it to eject people for blatant head shots. 

Moral victories my ass. I’m proud of the effort the players and coaches put it because I do believe they poured their heart into it. And realistically within 32 yards of the Grey Cup is not bad for a team that had 5 blown achilles and half their Ol line leave weeks before the season. But in the words of Ricky Bobby, if you’re not first, you’re last. And losing because you simply aren’t good enough in one phase of your team does not make me feel any better.

Much like 2008 we squandered a great defense. O’Day has a year to get that utter lack of anything resembling an offense figured out if he wants to have a shot at the Cup here in 2022.   

Friday, December 3, 2021

Riders vs. Bombers: West Final 2021

It seems like we’ve been hearing for months how the Riders would have no chance of beating the Bombers if by some fluke we ever made it to the West Final. Certainly the results of our regular seasons meetings would support that theory. But here’s the thing… zero expectations means zero pressure. Last week all the pressure was on the Riders. Pressure to finally win a playoff game at new Mosaic, pressure on Fajardo and Dickenson to deliver their first playoff wins, pressure not disappoint the home town crowd. This week, all that pressure shifts off the Riders and onto the Bombers. They are expected to win (as they should be), so worst case scenario the Riders meet expectations and lose. Anything beyond a resounding defeat is just a bonus at this point. That lack of pressure on the Riders could be an important factor. But the Riders aren’t just coming for a participant ribbon. The CFL playoffs are littered with teams that were better on paper not being better in a playoff game. Remember that Marcus Crandell has as many Grey Cup wins as Ron Lancaster.

Look, the Bombers are damn good. There’s no arguing that point. Pick a stat: most wins, most points scored, least points allowed, most takeaways, least giveaways, least sacks allowed, lowest average fan IQ /teeth count, least penalized… the list goes on and on. So I agree that they come into this game the heavy favourite. But I stop short of buying the theory that the Riders have no chance. Yeah the final scores in our two previous games are not flattering but dig a bit deeper and you will find that in both games we kept it close in the first half. On Labour Day we were actually leading at half time (Micah Johnson did not play that game). At Banjo Bowl we were down just 3 points at half (in a game with no Leonard, Purifoy or Marshall and lost 4 more players to injury/ejection). So the issue is not ability, its longevity (I’m told that’s a perfectly normal issue that lots of people deal with).

So how do we go about engineering the massive upset? I was going to use an expression to describe looking for their weakness but I don’t think I can say the one about looking for that certain something in their armor and given how 2021 started, I don’t really want to say we need to find their Achilles heel.

Defensively, I think we have a few things going for us over the regular season. This will be the first time we face the Bombers with both Micah and Leonard in the line-up. Winnipeg has the best OL so we need all the firepower we can get up front. We also have much more stability in the secondary then the last time we met. LBs are a bit more interesting as Hendy went crying home, Dearborn is hurt and Tietz is nicked up. Key is obviously stopping the run first. Andrew Harris hasn’t played in close to 2 months and so you know he will be jacked up (probably on a supplement that some mystery assailant put in his water against his knowledge) to prove himself. Gotta limit that. D-line needs to at least make Collaros uncomfortable. Sacks will be hard to come by but if he has time and a clean pocket he’ll pick us apart. Bombers give up very few turnovers but I have a feeling we are going to need one or two of those if we want any chance in this one. Also, based on the fact that we know our offense won’t produce until the 4th quarter, we need to not let Winnipeg get up early. The longer we keep the game close, the more our odds of grinding one out go up. We are not built to come from behind and Winnipeg is very much built in all aspects to play with a lead.

Offensively, someone just tell Cody that it’s the fourth quarter all game. Fourth quarter Cody is deadly. First quarter Cody is responsible for my kids learning a lot of curse words. Let’s help him out though. Question, do we want Cody chucking it 40 times a game relying on Lauderdale and Boyko to stop Jefferson and Jeffcoat 40 times? Simplest way to avoid that is give another big workload to Powell. It will be tough slugging as Bighill is a formidable force but if we don’t run a lot, we’re in trouble. Also, the logic would say that Fajardo needs use his legs again but I’m guessing Richie Hall has heard of game film and will basically assign Bighill to scheme that away. There will be chances to run but there will be fewer than last week. May have success running Powell one way and Fajardo another and forcing Bighill to decide who has the ball. Maybe this is the week that we realize before the 3 minute warning that Duke is our best receiver and lean on him. Maybe. We are going to need to spread the ball around but if you have watched any film of our receivers since Duke arrived and come to the conclusion that other receivers deserve more targets then him well then you just might qualify for citizenship in Manitoba. Nothing good came of trying to get Evans going last game… but you gotta go back to him because we’re going to need all the help we can get for our lackluster offense to score points on the best defense in the league. I still believe Shaq has some big plays in him. Help our tackles anyway you can: run the ball, add extra blockers, dump offs to Dupuis, timing outs. Hell if they are going to be aggressive, why not throw a flea flicker at them? Who am I kidding, the 2021 Rider flea flicker would result in a swing pass somehow.

Lots of talk of the Bombers being rusty since they have been playing meaningless football since September. Probably some truth to that but I’m not counting on it too much. That said, we gotta hit ‘em in the mouth early. Not literally ala Shawn Lemon but we need to set the tone early that we can hang with them and not let the crowd to too riled up. An early score would be ideal but I will settle for the much more realistic trade early FGs and keep the score low.

Here’s how I see it. On paper our odds of victory are about on par with my chances of making through the game without rye. But pretty much every game this season we seem to end up in a situation where our odds of victory are slim. As despite all his faults this season, the one thing I will never do is doubt Fajardo’s ability to deliver a score when it matters most. So why not this Sunday?

Fully prepared to have my heart broken but against all logic…

Riders by a Lauther FG.