Riders 24 – Elks 26
The season officially ended on Friday. Sure we have 4 more games, sure we might win again, sure we might sneak into the playoffs. But the fact remains that Friday’s loss signifies that the season is over and the remaining 2 months will be nothing more than going through the motions. (Spoiler alert this post will be a lot more angry and depressing than normal… but I think you’ll forgive me under the circumstances).
What we saw Friday was complete systematic failure. Every aspect of the team bears responsibility for that utter garbage that fans we forced to endure.
It starts with the GM. O’Day has done a lot of great things. We are recruiting good talent (Milligan, Clark, Robertson, Hickson, Jones). We have a rock solid defense… or at least we did (more on that later). We have a roster than can compete with anyone… except at the O-line. O’Day knew coming into the season that was our biggest weakness. Free agency came and he made one solitary move… he signed a tackle from the only O-line that was worse than ours in 2021. The draft came and he used our first pick on a receiver who, while talented, will not impact this season in a meaningful way. He did use our second pick on an OL… who returned to school. O’Day stubbornly refused to address our biggest weakness and its costing us dearly.
It then goes to Dickenson. My opinion of him is certainly changing. I used to think he was an excellent coach. Now its starting to look more and more like he is a decent coach that can lead a strong team but can’t coach through adversity. He inherited a very good team from Chris Jones and we’ve gotten worse in each successive season:
2019 - 13-5 (8-1 at home)
2021 - 9-5 (5-2 at home)
2022 - 6-8 (4-3 at home)
I like Dickenson but I’m no longer convinced he’s untouchable. We just lost to a 3 win team that took 158 yards in penalties, at home. Let than sink in.
It then goes to the Coordinators. Jason Maas is like a weather man. They both occupy positions where it seems to be perfectly acceptable to not get things right week in, week out. Our offense under his leadership has been about as potent as a non-alcoholic beer. 7th ranked O in 2021. 6th so far this season. I know he’s saddle with a peewee level O line but he does himself no favours with how he calls the game. He was thoroughly out-coached by Jones. If you have spent more than 5 minutes studying Jones you know to expect the 3 man rush drop 9. We appeared not to game plan for it. We had no ability to get the run going. To their credit Edmonton played solid run stop but instead of finding different ways to get Hickson going (option, pitches, screens) we just kept blindly running him up the middle. Play calling was horrid. Our best offensive play (the Shaq TD) was an idiotic call. I don’t care how it turned out, it was a bad call. As they broke huddle I joked that we would throw… then they did. If you listen closely on the replay you’ll hear my voice yell out from the second “What are you doing!?!?!?!” as the ball was thrown. Then on another 3rd and 1 we set up in shotgun and give the running back the ball 6 yards back… against a D we haven’t be able to run on. Genius! The purpose of Maas’ job is field an offense that scores. In 2 years he has consistently proven he can’t. We faced a team playing Duron Carter at CB and could not find a way to take advantage.
I love Jason Shivers and will say nothing but great things about what he has done as DC but the fact remains his defense shit the bed at the worst possible time. The performance on Friday was worse in my opinion than the Banjo Bowl beat down. No pressure, no contain, no tackling, bad coverage. It was a bad night. Defense is very different without Lanier and Marino in the middle. I think we can survive with one out but not both.
It then goes to the OL. I realize that we were without our 3 best OL (Ferland, Clark and Vaughn)… but even when those guys were in, the line was garbage. Coming into this game the Elks had the least sacks in the CFL. They have just 28 total sacks but 15 of those have come against us. There are 5 guys on the offensive line and we consistently get beat by 3 man pressure. Teams could rush 1 and I’m convinced our line couldn’t block it. Its embarrassing. The most effective blocker I have seen for the Riders was that ref that got in the way on a rollout.
It then goes to the QB. If you looked only at Cody’s stats you’d think he played well 74% completion, 2 TDs, no INTs, 230 yards. But that masks a brutal performance. I know our line is crap but to be fair to them, at least half of the sacks were 100% Cody’s fault for not knowing how to move in the pocket. He never steps up. He only steps back or tries to loop left. I know it’s a vicious cycle… he’s crappy because we let him get hit so much and he gets hit so much because he's crappy. We did this to him but he’s not playing at a pro-level. On the drive that ended in the Lenius TD, when it was first and goal from the 7, I turned to my buddy in the stands and said “I guarantee the play call is Cody rolls out left and tries to run to the far pylon." Now remember that I am just a jackass in the stands. Chris Jones (who works at football 29 hours a day) also predicted that and you could see extra defenders on that side of the field. Sure enough, he almost gets sacks, rolls left… only to realize that there was nothing but a wall of defenders. He’s so broken mentally (again it’s the team’s fault for offering him zero protection for 2 years) that he is reverting to his most basic football instincts: spin left. I feel for the guy but he’s not helping us at this point.
And there you have it… failure at all level: the story of the 2022 Riders. It was on full display on Friday. No easy fix, and likely no fix coming even come December. In a year where we host the Grey Cup, the Riders have delivered the most depressing season I can remember.
Other random thoughts:
- What was up with Mike Edem? I have never seen him play that bad ever. He over-pursued and missed every tackle.
- I knew about the time that Lauther doinked that it wasn’t going to be our night. He also picked a bad time to suck. His 2 missed FGs could have salvaged that game for us... even though we did not deserve to win.
- Another omen was late in the game when they did the usual thing where there have fans pass a giant Rider flag around the lower bowl. The flag was backwards and one side was half folded back on itself. Pretty much summed up the night.
I see where Rod Pedersen in a recent column mentioned CFL insiders called Maas' playcalling atrocious. The good news - it was also predicted from the group that Maas will join his buddy, Dannyl as HC in Montreal next year. I should add that the Riders sometimes kept in 6 or 7 to block. Elks mostly sent 3, I don't think they ever sent more than 4. You SHOULD be able to run the ball, even up the middle, shouldn't you.
I don't know how you can be given 158 yds of offence, good to great field position, & fail so miserably to score. I haven't been sold on Fajardo for a long time. Cody is ineffective IMO when he's not running & unreliable throwing deep balls. You've pointed out the flaws very well.
Same goes for O'Day & Dickenson. I like Dickenson a lot but is he too nice to deal with the penalty issues? Can he not sit Maas down & get him to try something different? Aren't those issues so blatantly obvious that they need to be addressed by the HC?
The Riders SHOULD be home free for a crossover BUT with games IN Winnipeg, IN Hamilton & a doubleheader with the Stamps, could they lose all 4? Sure. Hamilton has FIVE games including the Rider contest & 2 with Ottawa to close the season. Als have SIX games including 2 with Ottawa & a date with Edmonton. Winnipeg is going to be nasty after a loss & the Hamilton game will be a must win game for the crossover IMO. I keep hearing that the Riders will be the crossover team. Those objects in your mirror are closer than you think.
The TD pass to Evans was under thrown and nearly gave the defender time to catch up. I like Dickenson but he believes too much in empowering his players and coaches. He expected tge players to take responsibility for themselves and take less penalties and he expects Maas to call the offensive game better. Empowerment works with great employees but if the employees don’t step up then he has to take more control over things like play calling. Running the ball helps the o-line and planned roll outs would also give Fajardo more time to pass however Fajardo needs to make better decisions and stop panicking in the pocket and running into tge defensive linemen.
Instead of Emilius who should they have drafted? 2 OL went in between that pick and the next Rider pick, which one of those would have been better?
Great analysis Prophet! Total nailed it.
I think it’s time to take down the ad for your store on your home page - I’ve got a Fajardon has turn into limp d*&k Riders. On a serious note, I can’t see Cody with the team next year. No idea on an alternative but it’s time to move on. Change out QB, beef up online and ditch Maas and this team could compete. Easy to say.
Crossover looks bleak. If Hamilton beats Mtl then 5 wins a piece. Mtl likely beats Elks so if Riders lose in Winnipeg, all 3 with 6 wins with a Rider loss to Hamilton. Then Hamilton game a must win for Riders. Lose that & crossover very likely gone.Gotta hope the Als beat Hamilton this week.
My thoughts on Fajardo. Lot of late drives to salvage games. This punctuated with long stretches of inept offence. What - 6 yds of offence in 3rd Qtr last game? No consistency. Nice to be in position to win game on final drive. But what are we doing the rest of the game? Teams probably playing off a bit at the end until they get close. Can't count on that.
Anon 1 - Game in Hamilton may decide the crossover but nothing is guaranteed at this point
Anon 2 - I really wonder about the leadership on the team. Who is it? I don't get the sense its Fajardo. Clark has been hurt but like who else is a leader in that locker room?
Anon 3 - Both Zerr and Hogan-Saindon are at least on the roster dressing for games.
Dan - Yeah the Fajardon shirt may have run its course haha. I really think he can be a could QB but it will likely take a change of scenery for that to occur. You are right though, if not him then who? The QB market is thin.
Anon 4 - Lack of consistency has been the theme with the Maas/Fajardo combo. You see greatness in flashes but as you say, they disappear for huge stretches... usually in the 3rd quarter.
I agree with your comment on Dickenson. Using a non-football term his crisis management has been horrid.
This team is so sloppy...if Dickenson doesn't change his ways and decide in the off-season to focus on things like technique, details, reduce penalties things won't get better. I feel O'Day needs to tell him in the exit interview he needs to do that. One of those corporate "things I can do better" things. God I hate those evaluations.
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