Tuesday we finally found out who would take the fall for the debacle that was 2022. Normally that would have been the biggest news story of the week. But the CFL did the Riders a solid and just kept doing things so dumb that come Friday, firing a couple coaches seemed down right boring by comparison. There was the all-star fiasco. Schaefer-Baker will always have those 2 hours where he was an all-star. Even the revised all-star list is somewhat suspect as Mario Alford has good odds of being named the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in the entire CFL yet somehow is not an all-star.
Then there was the long, long, long awaited half time show announcement. You knew it had to be good because all the really good news is announced Friday at the end of the day. My honest reaction was… who? And like not even sarcastically, actually had no clue who these people were. Once it was explained to me, its not awful (not great, but not awful). But having to take time to explain who they are kinda takes some of the excitement out of the announcement much like having to explain a punchline does to a joke.
But I’m sure you all want to know my thoughts on our firings… and if you don’t then I question what exactly brought you to read this. Looking for some culinary tips perhaps?
I was not at all surprised that O’Day stayed. We can’t afford to fire him and generally a GM gets two head coaches before they become the fall guy. Also, if you exclude the O-Line one could argue O’Day has done well. Back to back West final appearances. Good recruiting (Hickson, Milligan, Lanier, Robertson, Clark). Brought in guys like Sankey, Moncrief and Duke (which failed miserably in retrospect but was a big move at the time). He has built a solid team… that happens to be shackled with the worst O-line in football. Now I will give him a partial pass for the OL sucking in 2021. We unexpectedly lost LaBatte and Cofield and Vaughn blew his shoulder all right before the season. He had a decent OL in 2019 and had bad luck. But the 2022 mess is all on him. Rogers was a trainwreck, Evan Johnson can’t pass block, he paid close to $150K for Jamal Campbell to be not good enough to start on the worst OL in the document history of the CFL and we recruited exactly zero competent OL prospects.
I was a bit surprised Dickenson stayed. I have no knowledge of the goings on inside that locker room but it just seemed like he lost the group. Couldn’t control Marino, couldn’t control Duke, insisted on playing a crippled QB and then gave him a “vet day” when he did finally bench him. Weird stuff for the supposed leader of the team. Also, he fired McAdoo and brought in Maas. Year 1 of that gave us a QB and OC who were clearly not on the same page and the 7th best offense. So we gave him a two year extension! This year the offense and lack of being on the same page didn’t magically fix itself (which seems to have been our plan), they got worse. So we are going to let Dickeson hire a 3rd OC in his 4th season and assume this time he knows what he’s doing this time? Also, as others have pointed out, both Dickenson and O’Day are precariously in the final year of their contract. Is a competent OC candidate really going to come here knowing that the whole regime might be blown up by Labour Day? Can we give an OC a 2 year contract with a HC on a year 1 deal? Very problematic situation. If Mark Mueller is as smart as we give him credit for is he really going to just happily leave Calgary for this shit show?
Maas was a massive failure. I thought he could be a good OC when we hired him. He has never produced more than the 7th best offense while here. Admittedly its not his fault his OL had all the blocking skills of cattle who are missing 3 of their 4 legs but his coaching did not improve anything. I think Steven Sorrells should be ecstatic that someone actually paid him to coach an OL that set a record for being the worst ever. A ham sandwich would have been just as effective.
One last thing I want to comment on was something Craig Reynolds said. He was asked about a perceived disconnect with the fans. He downplayed it but I can tell you its very really. Obviously winning helps the connection but the word I would use for the Riders and have for a while now is arrogance. **Caveat here, the players still do tremendous work in the community. Darnell Sankey was a living saint for what he did here. Dan Clark is as committed to good work in this province as anyone. Morrow and Schaefer-Baker made a devoted for life out of my son just by simply taking a moment to connect with him while signing his jersey. I’m not talking about the player, I’m talking about the highest levels of the organization.**
Its not entirely their fault, this organization is a product of the 2004-2013 run where you could literally put a Rider logo on a dog turd and people would push their grandma out of the way to pay money for it. You simply didn't have to try to make money. You could do whatever you want and people would happily go along with it. But the times have changed and the Riders have not. Where you see teams like BC and Edmonton actively trying to engage fans and improve their product the Riders haven’t been trying for years.
Here a just a few visible symptoms of the arrogance I am talking about:
- Charging $5 per ticket to print paper copies of tickets. A move that disproportionately negatively impacts old people. Old people who have probably supported this organization through some pretty rough times spanning many decades. Thanks for your support gramps now pay up.
- Remember when one of the options for Season ticket holder refunds during Covid was “just give us your money”? Literally they just asked us to hand over money to them and thought that was normal.
- Their “new and innovative” theme nights this season were: country night, Canada Day and pink day… the same thing we have done every year for a decade.
- The magnets they gave away at one of the home games. Its insulting to me as a fan that someone who the Riders pay money to do marketing actually looked at those magnets and said this is something that will improve our fans’ experience.
- Roy Shivers is not in the Paza of Honour. Not because he is not deserving (he’s in the freakin’ Hall of Fame for pete sake) but because certain board members don’t like him and would be butt-hurt if he was recognized.
That’s the arrogance I see driving the disconnect. All the market research in world won't fix that.
One final note: Stay tuned as voting opens tomorrow for the Annual Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year Award. It might be the biggest foregone conclusion ever this year but it’s a fan voting award and dammit if we aren’t going to do it anyway.