Monday, December 18, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi-Coherent Christmas Thoughts

Just a week until Christmas. Or if airing your grievances is more your thing (and as Rider fans it should be) its just 5 days until Festivus.

I will leave you with a few random thoughts on the smattering of Rider news before the Christmas break.

-        We have made a couple re-signings with Lenius, Henderson and Brown all re-upping. Lenius can’t possibly have worse luck than 2023. A freak preseason injury derailed his season and he returned only to promptly get hurt again. Fully healthy he can be a difference maker.

-        I like Brown. I don’t think he’ll ever be an all-star be he’s a reliable guy at DT who can plug hole and cause some disruption. Perfect guy for a D-line rotation.

-        Henderson is a frustrating player. There are times he looks like a top end HB. And there are times he looks like a top end James Johnson impersonator. If he could ever play consistently, look out. He’s only 26 and essentially has 2 years experience as a starter at  a difficult position. I think he showed enough good things to earn a chance to re-earn his spot under Corey Mace.

-        The fact that we aren’t signing very many people tells me we have next to no cap money left and need to wait until the year rolls over to start spending again, (Hey inflation is making everything more expensive these days, even crappy football rosters).

-        Montreal appears to have the most left over cash to spend because they are busy extending a lot of big names (Fajardo, Sankey, Lemon).

-        Sam Emilus and TJ Brunson both worked out for the Arizona Cardinals. If you recognized that Brunson was a Roughrider then you must be a dedicated fan because I bet few would know his name offhand.  I’ll give my standard “Wish him all the best but selfishly hope he doesn’t get an NFL deal” in regards to Emilus.

-        I hope the fact that Micah Johnson is still doing PR appearances is a sign that we want him back. I mean, it would be weird for him to break his “only sign with the Riders in alternating years” streak but he’s a leader and still busts his ass at 35. I want him back.

-        The schedule came out and its not that great from a Rider perspective. Our home opener is Sunday night (yuck) and we follow it up with a bye followed by a Thursday home game. The home schedule does get better from there with the rest Friday or Saturday nights with the exception of one Saturday afternoon.

-        We play an amazing 4 Thursday games overall. My conspiracy theory is that CFL is trying to boost Thursday ratings in advance of renegotiating TV deals and the Riders tend give exactly that bump they are looking for.

-        At least we are back to the balanced schedule.

-        We should never play Winnipeg before Labour Day… it just takes a bit away from the September matchups. 

That’s it for now. Thanks for hanging with me through another down football year. Helps to ease the pain when you have people to share in your jokes and ranting.

Merry Christmas (to everyone except Micah Awe and Chris Edwards, screw those guys) and see you in 2024.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Coordination

You might be asking yourself, why are your sentimonies only coming on Tuesday and not Monday as usual? I understand that my sentimonies bring a bright spot to your otherwise bleak Monday existence and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. So much like the old choose your win adventure books, I am going to let you select which excuse makes feel the best about the situation.

- I was doing selfless charity work for orphans.

- I am a Vikings fan and that sad excuse for a game literally put me to sleep so early in the day that I did not have time to write a post.

- I got caught up tracking private plane flight plans across north America hoping it would give a clue to the Riders’ free agency plans and lost track of time.

- I have a medical condition that legally I don’t have to disclose to you but totally explains all my tardiness.

- I was celebrating the Feast of Maximum Occupancy.
Now that that’s been settled, onto the sentimonies…

The coaching staff of the Riders is starting to take shape. We already knew Mace would be his own DC. It was one of the worst kept secrets that Marc Mueller would be the OC. And Kent Maugeri was retained as the Special Teams Coordinator.

Let’s start with Mueller. He’s at an interest spot in life. At 34 he’s still very young by coaching standards but he already brings 10 years of CFL coaching experience all with Calgary. He’s been a defensive assistant, RB coach, and QB Coach. He also called plays for a portion of last year. I’m going to skip talking about who he is. Obviously he’s the grandson of one of the 2 greatest Roughriders ever (just so we are clear, not George Reed… the other one). Also he had a pretty notable university career here at the University of Regina. Those all make for a nice story but they aren’t (at least I hope) why he got the job or what will make him a good OC.

The pros he brings is that he is a young coach (not a retread) who brings new ideas. He also spent a decade working under one of the most respected offensive minds in the CFL in Dave Dickenson. The cons is that he is relatively unproven as a playcaller. Dickeson finally let go of the offense enough to let Mueller call plays last season and you might recall that Calgary was almost as awful as us and Dickenson took back play calling late in the season. Now, in fairness to Mueller. There was a lot more wrong in Calgary than his play calling. Something just didn’t seem right across the whole team and quite frankly they did not have enough talent last season (particularly at QB). There’s a saying that you can’t make chicken soup out of chicken crap. Also, if you actually think that was Mueller’s offense and not just him actioning Dickenson’s plans then your impeccable judgment may qualify you to run CFL discipline. Also, regardless of any perceived knocks against Mueller I think we can all agree he’s more qualified than his predecessor. This will be Mueller’s offense and I’m excited to see what he can bring to the table. I don’t think Mace would have hired him if he didn’t have full faith in his abilities.

Maugeri enters his third year as STC… but really that was in name only. For the past 2 season, he was the Assistant HTC to Craig Dickenson. I will be interesting to see how much changes now that he’s fully in charge. I think Maugeri earned an extension as some good things have been happening on special teams. We turned a rookie punter into an allstar calibre player (and sadly one of the few highlights of most Rider games). Good things happened pretty consistently on returns and for the most part coverage was pretty solid. What I will be most interested to see is whether Dickenson (my theory) or Maugeri were to blame for the annual special teams slump. Consistently every season there is a period where specials teams go to absolute hell, for seemingly no reason. Then inevitably they right the ship and get back to playing pretty solid. I’m hoping with Mace now in charge there will be enough accountability to prevent that trend from continuing.

While this is a young coaching core and most new to their current role, it’s a well experience group overall. It will be interesting to see what names make up the assistants to round out the staff. I am keeping an eye on names like Nik Lewis, and Drew Tate offensively as well as Joshua Bell, Juwan Simpson and maybe even Charleston Hughes defensively

Monday, December 4, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: In Mace We Trust

The Riders have settled on a new coach… and in a refreshing change from the past few years, it was an announcement that was actually good news and not just trying pass it off as good news when in reality anyone with any redeeming credentials had turned them down. I am also sure that sports reporters were happy to report on a guy named Corey and not have to talk about what he may or may not have done to someone’s mom.

While all have their pros and cons that have been debated ad nauseum, I don’t think there was a bad choice amongst Mace, Pierce and Milanovich. That said, I think Mace is my preferred option of the 3. 

Word is that O’Day and Reynolds were waffling back and forth on who to choose until a lightbulb moment suddenly struck O’Day. He stood up and said “Craig, I’ve got it! When was the last time this team won a Cup?” Reynolds responded “2013”. “Yes, but who was leading that team?” Reynolds “Chamblin”. “Exactly!” O’Day exclaimed “The last time we won a cup was with a black coach named Corey. That has to be a sign” 

***By the way I know that 98% of you understand that the preceding exchange is purely fictional and for satire purposes but just so there’s no confusion for the remaining 2%, this didn’t actually happen.***

I don’t know him personally but Mace exudes leadership even from my vantage point. He seems like a leader who will set a high standard and hold people to it. That is about as polar opposite as you can get from his predecessor. Mace is a well respected play caller and certainly knows the X’s and O’s of football but at this juncture I think his leadership is the biggest asset he can bring. Dickenson was a nice guy and he knew football but he did not command that locker room. I have no doubt that Mace will. 

The next step will be to see what kind of staff Mace can build around him. He’s already confirmed he will be our DC. While nothing is official, Justin Dunk has all but confirmed that Marc Mueller will be his OC (I'm already dreading the next 11 months of Muller/Lancaster talk, just let him be his own guy). Toronto extended pretty much all of their offensive coaches so it will be tough to poach from there. Defensively, DB coach Joshua Bell is a guy I can see coming over to be key part of Mace’s staff. Some other names to keep an eye on Drew Tate, Nik Lewis and Juwan Simpson. They have connections to Mace and could appear in his staff as well. I had held out vain hope Mace could coax DeVone Claybrooks back into action but with Mace being DC that goes from vain hope to pipe dream.  I hope we can retain our D-line. I would love to see what Mace can turn the combo of Lanier, Robertson and Micah into.

Mace’s tenure got off to a bit of a rocky start. He didn’t even making it out of his opening press conference before making his first mistake. When asked what kind of team he would field he answered “a blue collar team”. Sorry Coach Mace but you now head up a green collared team. Blue was your old team. I’ll forgive your error on your first day but I won’t be handing out second chances freely if this continues.

Mace gives us some hope that things might be different… and not just because the coach claims they are.

One last thing I want to address…

I’m likely in the minority here but I think all the talk about a coach “getting the community” and “committing to it” is stupid. I want a coach that will win, pure and simple. I mean, I want some semblance of ethics but as long as we are avoiding legal issues and public embarrassment, no one will care what the coach does off the field if we win. The only thing that being “invested in the community does” is buy you some good will if you don’t win. 

Danny Barrett was invested in this community like few others but did that help him win a cup or save his job when he couldn’t? No. Kent Austin isn't exactly known a warm and fuzzy community member. But did we care when he won us a Cup? No. People like to harp on Chris Jones, but if we don’t get Ricky Ray’ed in the dying seconds of the 2017 East Final, Jones likely wins a Grey Cup and becomes a celebrated hero forevermore in Riderville. We only talk about his lack of community stuff because he didn’t win a Cup.

So I think it’s a great bonus that Mace is a stand up guy who is committed to this community but the only reason he should have this job is because he is a good enough coach to win a Cup. Maybe if we focused more on building a “winning culture” and less on “getting the community”, we’d have more Cups in our history. Fans are simple, win and we will love. We cheered Dwight Anderson for pete sake. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

15th Annual Rider Prophet Awards

Before we officially turn the page on the 2023 season, its time for the annual event where we honour the best and worst (mostly worst) of the CFL season with the Rider Prophet Awards. What they lack in mainstream credibility they make up for in brutal honesty and TV air time on par with the actual CFL Awards.

This year’s award winners receive a case of blue and gold confetti which the CFL has been trying but just can’t find a use for.

Let’s get to the awards.

Best Player Name

I really wondered whether or not to make this player eligible for this award since he didn’t even make it through training camp… but then I remembered this is a made up award and its stupid to try and uphold the integrity of awards criteria I make up on the spot.

So La'Akea Kaho'ohanohano-Davis is the winner. By Hawaiian standards that’s a fairly normal name I’m sure. But by Canadian standards we would have had to put a nameplate extender on his jersey and take out a loan just to afford to stitch all the letters on there.

 Previous Winners: Diego Allatore-Montoya, Luther Hakunavanhu, 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

For the second year in a row the quote of the year goes to now ex-Rider Coach, Craig Dickenson. This time he wins for:

“It’s a different vibe this year, We may have the same record but I feel like we’ve got better dudes in that locker room.”

He said this as the Riders were 6-8… they proceeded to not win another game and finish 6-12. The exact same record as last year. All those “better dudes” did not lead to more wins. I don't know why but it reminded my of that famous George W Bush quote “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

Previous Winners: Craig Dickenson, Tom Velessi, 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

This play of the year actually lead to one of the Riders few victories in 2023. With 1 minute left in the game, the Riders had just tied the game 11-11 (yes the “good” games involved tying it at 11 late in the 4th… very sad). Lauther kicks off and CJ Sims inexplicably lets it go into the endzone and casually took a knee. He then trotted off the field blissfully unaware that he had just conceded a game losing kickoff single.  He damn near let the cover team recover it for a TD.

Botched Call of the Year

For the first time in the history of these awards, the botched call of the year did not happen on the field. It comes courtesy of the CFL’s ludicrous approach to player discipline.

Micah Awe was fined not once, not twice, but 3 times for illegal hits this season. He committed a 4th that was flagged in a game but apparently wasn’t worth supplemental discipline for a chronic offender. Add in that he was fined for another illegal hit in Week 18 of 2022 and in a span of less than 16 total games he was fined 4 times (and a fifth offense was ignored) and not once did suspension come into the conversation. If Awe, who averages an illegal hit every 3-4 games, is not dangerous enough to suspend then don’t ever try and claim you care about player safety. 

CFL cares about one thing, public blowback. And they will only suspend when that comes into play. Awe is the fullest disciplinary record I have ever seen and the botch of the year was not suspending him at any point.

Most Insulted Sports Figure

This will come as no surprise. In a landslide the most insulted sports figure this season was Craig Dickenson. His continued poor game management and even worse ability to motivate this team meant I (and most of the province) spent the past 5 months cursing his name. He was so bad it made Evan Johnson’s continued sucktitude not look that bad by comparison.

Previous Winners: Riders O-line, Riders Offensive Tackles, 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

I will forever advocate for and uphold the integrity of the fan voting process. This award will always be decided by you the fans. But in yet another sign that democracy doesn’t work, you the fans got it wrong.

With 39% of the voting, Craig Reynolds, Jeremy O’Day and Craig Dickenson are your joint Douchebag’s of the year. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I know why you voted for them. Hell hath no fury like a Rider fan scorned… in back to back seasons. I’m not saying you have to like those 3, but I would not call them douchebags. Failures maybe but not douches (except maybe Reynolds, he gives off douchy vibes). Micah Awe or Chris Edwards, now those are douches in every sense of the word. 

But you the fans have spoken and Reynolds/O’Day/Dickenson are your Douchebags of the Year. 

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: All’s Well That Ends Well

Apologies for the delay in posting my sentimonies. I’d like to say its because I partied too hard on Grey Cup Sunday but the truth is I’m just old and the desire to go to bed won out over the desire to pen a blog. What I lack in quality and punctuality I make up for in… err… redeeming qualities too numerous to enumerate right now.

Anyway, What. A. Game!

I was legit concerned I was about to watch Winnipeg just sack Fajardo for 3 hours but from start to finish that was a competitive, exciting game. Add in Green Day at half time (who were outstanding, though I am unabashedly biased in that assessment because I love Green Day) and the Bombers losing for a second year in a row in the dying minutes… well sir, that may just be the best Grey Cup I’ve watched in years. 

Here are my Random Quasi Coherent Grey Cup thoughts:

-        One could make the case that the Riders found a far more efficient way to not win back to back Grey Cups.

-        I kid. After 30 years of absolute misery I hope Bomber fans don’t take 4 straight appearances and 2 Cups for granted. That’s a damn good run.

-        But also, screw them and I was very, very happy they lost.

-        Watching Green Day really brings home how badly the half time show was mailed in Regina last year. Also, very happy Green Day didn’t censor their lyrics. Even better they didn’t get sucked into a stupid in game interview.

-        Lots of revisionist history in the wake of the Grey Cup. I know you are all shocked that its happening in Saskatchewan.

-        First of all, at the time we traded away Collaros it was widely believed he was done. Hell had we kept playing we would have been called inconsiderate monsters. We made a call based on what we knew at the time. Looks bad in retrospect but also, I doubt Collaros is still alive if he had to play behind our OL as opposed to the best OL in the CFL.

-        Same thing with Cody/Maas. Fans would have rioted if either were back. I like Cody and think the change of scenery was what he needed. Again, had we kept either of Maas or Cody I doubt our season would have ended any better.

-        Also (and I hate that I have to keep defending O’Day but the man has his faults but let’s at least be fair about we blame on him), yes other than the QBs, they Grey Cup featured many former Riders (Demksi, Hardrick, Neufeld, Lemon, Tuck and Harty) but the first 4 left prior to O’Day being GM and the last 2 are hardly key contributors. O’Day has his faults but not being able to preemptively stop GM Chris Jones’ errors isn’t one of them.

-        Now Willie Jefferson you can blame on O’Day. He didn’t think he was a priority signing in 2019 and Winnipeg reaped the benefits of that dumb call. Also, while we did try to retain Sankey, I’m sure we didn’t try our hardest because we knew we had Dean. No offense to Dean but Sankey is better.

-        Montreal’s punter was awful. Like so awful I’m surprised Maas didn’t hurl a Gatorade container at him.

-        For the degenerate gamblers out there (aka me and my buddies) the coin toss was chaos. We bet on head/tails but all we got was logo/cup. Had that occurred in the NFL the betting world would have exploded. In the future please just say “the logo is heads” to appease us degens.

-        Lastly anyone who is pretending to be offended by Dequoy’s French rant need to calm the hell down. First of all never discourage emotional rants in interviews. Way more interesting than regurgitated generalities that most interviews are full of. Second: he was right. The league screwed up an didn’t bother with any bilingual signage. A) the Grey Cup is a celebration of everything Canadian and we are bilingual country. B) When you are trying to attract more fans to the game doing something to piss off the core fans base of one of the teams in the game you are trying to promote is a big oopsie. Dequoy called them out and swore in French. I’m all for that.

 With the season over, the Rider coaching search now turns into high gear. Stay tuned for all the excitement.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Monday Morning Senitmonies: Random Division Finals Thoughts

Of the 4 possible Grey Cup matches that could have resulted from Saturday’s Divisional Finals games, the one we got was the 4th worst. Obviously I prefer any Grey Cup matchup without Winnipeg (damn you BC) and if I had to endure Winnipeg in another freakin’ Cup then I at least hoped they would play Toronto so we could get best on best. Seems Dinwiddie’s eyes not only suck the souls out of people but also manage to infuse that suck back in his team. So here I am reduced to cheering for a team led by Danny Maccioccia and Jason Maas. At least Hamilton is giving us a decent half time act. If I had to watch this matchup and listen to a halftime act featuring 3 random moderately notable country acts they threw together at the last minute… well I would just snap.

Random thoughts:

-        Toronto looked like a team that just assumed by showing up they would win the game. Montreal looked like a team that knew they had to put in effort.

-        I haven’t seen that many turnovers since that playoff game Michael Bishop started for the Riders.

-        I have no ill will towards Cody and would be perfectly fine with him winning a ring but I had to shake my head when he talked about playing well in all 3 phases to win. Dude, you played great in 2 phases and the offense was just along for the ride literally doing the bear minimum required not to screw things up.

-        I have this horrible feeling that the Grey Cup will just be Winnipeg sacking Fajardo over and over again until they institute a mercy rule. They massacred Vernon Adams and its not like Fajardo is famous for his efficient play in the pocket… or his postseason success against Winnipeg.

-        Please let Winnipeg lose a second Grey Cup to an inferior team. It’s the only thing that can help ease the pain of another failed Rider season.

-        Speaking of the Riders, Nick Marshall was arrested for gun possession. So I guess he may end up putting the lockdown in lockdown corner. He probably wasn’t going to be brought back anyway but this likely seals it.

I’ll be back Monday with Grey Cup thoughts and the world famous Rider Prophet Awards.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Playoff Thoughts and Douchebag of the Year Voting

For the second year in a row the CFL Playoffs are continuing on their merry without need of or care for the Riders. About the only aspect of the playoffs impacting the Riders is the more teams get eliminated, the more quickly we can get into our Head Coach search.

I will offer a few random thoughts on the playoffs so far and then we will get to everyone’s favourite year end activity… voting for the Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year.

Random thoughts:

-        Semi-Finals were really non-events. Both 3rd place teams did not deserve to be in the playoffs and only snuck in by virtue of having even crappier teams (ours included) below them in the standings and it showed.

-        I find Bo Levi Mitchell whining about how his season ended hilarious (yes I’m remain unabashedly petty when it comes to Bo). He was very distinct in his words. He was mad that they didn’t play their “highest paid player”. Not their “best” or “most impactful” or even “closest thing we have to mediocrity”. Matt Shiltz was not good and the fact that he played ahead of Bo should tell you everything you need to know about what Bo has left at this stage.

-        In retrospect, Calgary had a real Sophie’s choice when choosing whether to hitch their wagon to Maier or Mitchell.

-        3 of the 4 remaining starting QBs in the playoffs used to play for the Riders. 2 of them we traded away and 1 we unceremoniously cut ties with.

-        All I really care about in these playoffs is once again seeing Winnipeg lose. I remain unabashedly petty about them as well.

Now onto the Douchebags

Each we honour outstanding achievements in the field of douchebaggery and let you, the fans, vote on the winner. Based purely on the non-ridiculous nature of the voting process, its actually one of the more legitimate CFL awards out there.

This year’s nominees are:

Micah Awe – Fined for dangerous head shots more times that I can count and never had a reason to stop because the league just kept giving him slaps on the wrist. He is a dirty player but for whatever reason no-one seems to care. 

Dickenson/O’Day/Reynolds – The irony here is that they are like the nicest guys in the world (except maybe Reynolds) but its their fault we are in this mess for a second straight year so I’m giving you a chance to vent your frustrations through voting. 

CFL Command Centre – I have a ton of respect for onfield officials who have to make split second decisions in a fast paced game and generally do very well. But I loathe CFL Command Centre. There is no coherent logic to when they decide to act and how they decide to rule on a play.  Could probably save a lot of time and money and just replace them with a Magic 8 ball. Was that a fumble? “Outlook does not look good” 

Other – Feel free to write in votes by commenting here on the various social media platforms I’m on.


Voting ends Friday.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Next Year Territory

 I won’t lie, its really weird to have the Riders season over and the firings already starting while other teams are still playing meaningless regular season games. To be fair, the Riders were playing meaningless regular season football since Labour Day… but I digress. We are in next year country and with declining attendance and general interest in the team, this next few moves the Riders make are pretty important. They could start the process of righting the ship and restoring pride in this franchise or continue powering us towards reliving the 90s. Kids, if your only knowledge of Rider football is from the 2000s, ask your parents how bad the 90s were. Odds are at least the few of you are a result of them trying to numb the pain of a Rider loss with liquid pain reliever.

I want to start with O’Day. There is a lot of hate of out there for the guy and the decision to give him a 3 year extension. I have been vocal in my support of keeping him. He sucked in 2022 and I wouldn’t have been on board with firing him then but his job is to bring in talent and he did that in 2023. I’ve lived through years where our recruiting was hot garbage and we were finding about as much legit talent as a Regina strip club. This is not that. O’Day has his issues (mostly his complete inability or desire to draft OL) but overall the talent is there and our issues were injury (not O’Day’s fault) and bad coaching (something he can fix with this next hire. His first actual extensive head coach search as GM). As for those asking why we couldn’t just extend him 1 or 2 years? I get the thinking but you absolutely can’t do that. If we want a good head coach they will demand a 3 year deal. You can’t have a GM with less tenure than the coach he hires. Remember when we were forced by default to hire Kelly Jeffrey? That’s what happens when you don’t have long term stability at the top. You either had to fire O’Day or give him 3 more. There’s no in between.

As for the Head Coaching staff. There are 2 keys for me 1) finding a head coach who brings a winning culture and is willing to hold people to a high standard (i.e. not a softy like Dickenson) and 2) who can that person bring in as coordinators. The second point is almost as important as the first.

Here’s a list of names being thrown about and some random thoughts on them. I’m sure we will here more leading up to the end of the actual season.

Scott Milanovich – Lots of people’s #1 choice and it tough to argue that. He’s got multiple Grey Cup rings including one as a head coach. He’s got NFL pedigree. He’s the only undefeated head coach in Edmonton history. He does good work with QBs. I’m still not convinced the Ti-Cats just let him go (they brought him there for a reason). It would be interesting to see who he could bring as his coordinators.

Cory Mace – The top guy on the list who has never been a Head Coach before. He’s widely viewed as the next coordinator ready to make the jump. He comes from a winning culture in both Calgary and Toronto. He is a top tier D Coordinator. He is widely respected. Possibility he could bring Pete Costanza as his OC.

Pete Costanza – Basically the offensive version of Mace. He has multiple rings as an assistant. We tried wooing him to be the OC last season and he was smart enough to avoid this mess so he’s clearly smart. As an avid Seinfeld fan, I would love a Costanza as a coach. Possibilities are endless. 

Mark Kilam – Calgary being awful this season took a bit of the luster of his shine but Kilam has long been viewed as a future Head Coach. He’d bring solid special teams. He may even be able to bring Mark Mueller as his OC. Complete shot in the dark here but could he use his Calgary connections to get DeVone Claybrooks at DC? He’s been out of football just long enough to start looking for another coaching job.

Kent Austin – I like many, don’t just like recycling coaches but I think you need to at least consider Austin depending on what your options are. Yes he has a short shelf life before players grow tired of him and yes he’ll jump ship the second something better comes along but he produces winners in short time frames. A Grey Cup as OC with Toronto, a Grey Cup here, 2 Grey Cup appearances coaching Hamilton. He could maybe get LaPo as his OC (it was Austin who originally brought him here). 

Henry Burris – It’s almost pathetic how shamelessly Burris is trying to promote himself as a coach. I honestly would be ok with him as an assistant or even rolling the dice as a coordinator but the man has zero CFL coaching experience. His interview would just be him bragging about turning all those franchises around.

Rider Prophet – If smiling Hank won’t let a complete lack of qualifications stop him from throwing his hat in the ring, why can’t I do it too? So I’m officially letting everyone (including Jeremy O’Day) know that I’m interested. Looking at the history of coaches in this franchise, I can pretty much guarantee I wouldn’t crack the bottom 5 for worst ever despite having no qualifications whatsoever.

Jordan Maksymic – Has done great work with the BC offense with both Rourke and getting a career season out of Vernon Adams. He would be a fresh, new alternative. I’m somewhat leery of assuming that a good coordinator will automatically make a good HC. That kind of thinking got us into this mess.

Kelly Jeffrey – I kid. I kid. By can you imagine? The anarchist in me almost wants to see what would happen.

Khari Jones – Was part of the 2013 staff. Good offensive mind. Players love him. Was only mildly successful in Montreal though. To be fair, he was in some very trying circumstances but I’m still not convinced he’s the guy. If we could find a way to get him back as an assistant that would be nice.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Thursday Thoughts

Well I made it back from Vegas and I am neither sorry to have missed the last game, nor surprised by everything that I happened over the past week. We lost, the season is over, O’Day was retained and Dickenson was sent packing. Another year over and another disappointing ending. It’s a bit like Ground Hog’s day… except I guess this time we have the prospect of a new coach to instill some shred of hope that next year might not suck as much.

I’ll have fill thoughts on the coaching search coming up on Monday but for now here are a few random thoughts on what’s been going on.

-        The best comparison I have for Craig Dickenson is Richie Hall. High character guy, highly successful coordinator, completely unsuited for head coaching. Since his own failure as a head coach, Hall has settled nicely into being a top end coordinator and just keeps piling up rings. Dickenson may yet follow a similar path.

-        Has anyone within the organization admitted that in retrospect hiring a grossly underqualified OC who was the only candidate who didn’t turn us down was maybe a bigger issue than that should not have downplayed?

-        I really don’t get the hatred of O’Day. I was vocal in my criticism of his job last season but look at our roster and tell me he’s not bringing in talent. We needed a QB, he got Harris. Our OL sucked, he got Godber, Blake and Kelly. We needed leaders, he brought in Micah. Receivers he has Bane, Sterns, Emilus, Baker and Lenius. We have RBs. At DB, Milligan and Williams were brought in by O’Day. We keep finding DL. The Canadians he drafts are making an impact. The Globals he drafts are too. A GM’s job is to bring in talent. O’Day isn’t perfect but on the whole he’s doing his job.

-        His main issue was injuries and being too loyal to a bad head coach. If he screws up this next hire, then yes fire him.

-        Micah Johnson should have been our nominee for outstanding defensive player. With due respect to Larry Dean (who I do like as a player), his nomination is completely based on stats and many of his “stats” were tackles that came 7 yards down field.

-        Brady Olivera was the most outstanding player on the Bombers, period full stop. Anyone who think Collaros got jobbed or people just got tired of voting for him are just plain wrong. Collaros was once again very very good but Olivera was the Most Outstanding.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Vacation Time

 I'm leaving on vacation for a week. 

This was prearranged, so its only a pleasant coincidence that it will allow me to avoid the final Rider game. So there will be no pregame write up (I expect us to lose, no shock there) and no Sentimonies on Monday (they would probably be that we sucked).

I am going to drown my sorrows in punk rock, dice rolling and whatever the server is brining me while doing said dice rolling.

See you next week.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Please Make It Stop

Riders 19 – Stampeders 26

Calgary tried really hard in this one, but in the end they were just no match for the sucking powers of the Riders. I mean the Stamps did pretty much everything they could to not win that game. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more inept receiving effort. They spotted us a 13 point lead. They took a ton of penalties (in one drive they took 40 yards of penalties and we didn’t score). At family Christmas Craig will have bragging rights that definitively he sucked more this season.

It's sad because the defense actually showed up for once. They actually looked like they wanted to be there and play at a professional level (well I mean a key part of our defensive success was Calgary’s moral opposition to catching but we still shut them down). The defense was responsible for only 10 points allowed. The other 16 were not their fault. D-line looked fired up. Nick Marshall looked engaged. They were hitting hard. It wasn’t always pretty but for the first time in a long time the defense stepped up looked good. They did enough to win that game. 

Unfortunately for the defense, they not only had to overcome Calgary’s inept offense but their own inept offense. I have said many times that longterm Dolegala probably warrants keeping for further development. But right now, he is utter garbage. Road Jake is a thing and it’s a more awful form of garbage. He makes me miss Nealon Green. And I loathed Nealon Green (minus his stellar music career). His first 2 throws went straight into the tuft… when your launch point is 8 feet in the air I don’t know how you manage to throw so short. He is still fixated on short passes to outside, something that Cam Judge clearly also determined and exploited for an easy pick six. He does not seethe middle of the field. He was throwing to no one at times. He failed to throw the ball on the last play of the game. I guess he assumed getting hit for no gain was a good idea in that situation. He has not won on the road. He now has 2 passing TDs to 6 INTs on the road. Mason Fine ain’t saving our season but at this point how do you not give him some playing time? Hell I think Pipkin is a liability throwing the ball and at this point I say give him a shot. Jake don’t got it right now.

To be fair to Jake, not only does he not have it, he also doesn’t have a competent coaching staff backing him either. I don’t understand our play calling. You know its almost like our plays are being called by an unqualified shlub who only got the job by default because anyone good was qualified was smart enough to avoid stepping into this mess. Giving up a safety was a gutless call. Your defense was playing lights out at that point. Punt the ball and assume your D holds them to a FG or better. There were many times where the defense was clearly stacking the box and rather than reading that and looking for a hot route, we stubbornly opted to continue to run the run up the middle into a wall of defenders. If someone who has never played professional ball can see it while 3 ryes deep on his couch, how can the people who devote their entire careers to it not?

Alford had a rough game though in fairness to him, we block for him like he owes every other special teams player money and they are trying to teach him a lesson. Also, on the last Calgary punt I thought our coaches made a mistake (you’re shocked, I’m sure). We lined up in punt block. Nothing inherently wrong with that in that situation but ask yourself… what is more likely to lead to a TD? Attempting a block? Or setting up a return for one of the best returners in the game? We opted to fail on the block attempt and leave Alford with zero blockers. Good call. 

As many have mentioned (including some of you regular readers), Dickenson challenging pass interference on a play where his QB failed to actually pass is the epitome of his abilities as a head coach. He assured us this is a better team than last year. Well the 2023 Riders have scored less points, given up more yards and points, turned the ball over more, taken the ball away less and are on pace to not win in the second half of the season yet again. The fact that he thinks this is better, should tell you everything you need to know. 

Like most fans I just want this miserable season to be mercifully over. This has been the worst 2 consecutive years of football I can recall since the 90s. I’d willingly miss the playoff if it meant firing Dickenson 2 weeks earlier.   

Other random thoughts:

-        In 6 of our 9 road games we have failed to score 20 points.

-        Tevin Jones is a lazy player who I think should ride the pine and I’ll say it every week until it happens.

-        I want to know the story behind Meskell’s black eye.

-        Its clearly a scheme thing but routinely our safety is nowhere near the middle of the field. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue moving the safety around, but no one ever seems to fill that zone and the middle always seems wide open.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Riders vs. Stampeders: Dickenson Sucking Contest

My how this once great rivalry has changed. Back in the early 2000s Calgary/Saskatchewan was a heated affair. Tons of fans would travel. The atmosphere would be electric. Henry Burris was wearing a bra for reasons no one quite understood. It was awesome. Today the rivalry is still there but its now just fans arguing over who sucks more. “We suck more”, “No we suck more”.

Its quite the matchup. They are 2-5 at home; we are 2-6 on the road. They have the 7th ranked O; we have the 8th. They have the 6th ranked D; we don’t seem to have any interest in even fielding a D. Sadly one of these two terrible teams will make the playoffs and Friday’s game goes a long way to deciding who. Riders win and they are in. Stamps win and they are a win away from the playoffs. Personally if I’m either of these teams and I make the playoffs, I would just save the embarrassment and travel costs and forfeit.

Calgary/Jake Maier are a tough thing to figure out. The Stamps allow the 2nd least sacks. They allow the second least turnovers. Maier is 3rd in passing yards. There is no reason they should be as bad as they are. But they couldn’t find the endzone even if they were placed on the one yard line and pushed in the right direction. The only QBs who produce TDs less often than Maier are Fine, Cornelius and Dane Evans (i.e. guys not capable of holding a starting job). Maier has the lowest average depth of pass. He loves him some short stuff. He will be without he best receiver in Reggie Begelton. The good news for Maier is that the Riders D is the cure for a struggling. 

If we want a chance, we need pressure up front. Our coverage isn’t great at the best of times. Give a QB time to go through his reads and he will find the one of many open receivers. Cox is back from injury and Christmas is back on the roster. We have the depth for a strong rotation. Moncrief is sitting. While this would normally be big news, its probably for the best at this point. I feel like our D’s chances of getting out of this funk rely on Marshall picking off Maier to rejuvenate things. The way Maier plays, that’s very possible. 

Offensively the main key is to avoid Micah Awe’s blatant headshots that will once again go unsuspended by the league. Calgary has the #2 pass D but the 2nd worst run D. Let’s reward Jamal Morrow for being the only Rider that cared last game by feeding him once again. I will also repeat my calls for a couple runs by Hudon to set the physical tone. Lord knows our passing game isn’t going to help. Jake Dolegala has not been great in a while. Even worse, we get Road Jake. Road Jake is regular Jake's much crappier alter ego. On the road he has produced exactly 2 passing TDs and 5 INTs. I think his bread and butter should be crossers and seams. Our OC seems to be content with checkdowns to the outside and a deep ball that gets completed once in a blue moon. I think Baker and Bane should be the focal point of what we do. If we can get them going, we have a chance.

I expect special teams to play a role in this. Calgary has the second highest punt return average and we are about due for a breakdown in that department leading to a TD. Maybe Mario can offset it with one of his own.

Look, Calgary sucks. They have just 4 wins: Ottawa, Us, Toronto without Chad Kelly and Edmonton.  Despite our struggles this is a winnable game. But I damn sure don’t believe in us. Here’s the telling stat for me. In the last 10 games, we have held our opponents under 29 points once. Once! Over that same period we are averaging 22 points offensively. Until our defense proves they can keep us in a game, I don’t see us winning.

Stamps by a FG. Riders will make it close build up hope only to shatter it in the dying minutes of the game.


Monday, October 9, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Putting the /=S=/ in Embarrassing

Riders 13 – Ti-Cats 38

About the only thing Rider fans are thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend is that there are only 2 more regular season games left in this godawful season. On legends night, where the Riders were honouring George Reed and the 2013 team, the current Riders boldly chose to honour the Riders of the early 80s. The end result was a predictable and painful lopsided loss.

Since Labour Day of last year, Craig Dickenson’s record as a head coach is 6-17. And I don’t know if you recall some of those 6 but they weren’t exactly convincing victories. He’s in “prove it” mode in the final year of his contract and about the only thing he’s proving is that inanimate cardboard cutout of Gainer would do a better job of getting the team prepared to play. Offense couldn’t produce a point if their life depended on it. Defense looks completely and utterly lost. The players aren’t showing a shred of “give a damn” in their play. But don’t worry, I’m sure Craig will just tell us they need to try harder.

There was exactly one guy who seemed to care out there: Jamal Morrow. As a running back who attended the same college as George Reed he displayed some pride and put in a performance that I think Reed would have been proud of. He was the lone bright spot. It was a terrible play call on his TD run but he managed to make it work.

Dolegala is very much following the Dustin Crum career arc. Burst onto the scene and then quickly plateau as teams find out you’re a one trick pony. And Dolegala’s only trick is short passes to the outside. I actually think the reason our defense routinely leaves the middle of the field open is because they constantly practice against Dolegala and he wouldn’t look to the middle even if there was a giant bullseye in the middle of the field. He may yet still have long term prospects if we keep developing him but he ain’t got it right now. I know Fine may not be the answer either but at some point you gotta sit Jake back down for a bit.

I honestly don’t recall the last time our defense was this bad. Even in bad years we usually had competent D. We try running zone but it looks like no one on the team knows how to run zone or that they each running a different zone. Our coverage has more holes than a Regina road in springtime. I love Moncrief. One of my favourite players ever. I’m not sure if he’s hurt or just losing a step but we keep asking him to lock up in coverage and he can’t stay within 3 yards of his receiver. D-line couldn’t generate a push. Team struggled to tackle those rare times when they were actually in a position to do so.

This is one of the worst teams I’ve seen and sadly they still have a good shot at making the playoffs. Not because they deserve to, but because Edmonton dug a hole too deep to get out of and Dave Dickenson seems to be a competition with his brother to see who can suck the most. I hate hoping for loses and the idea that Trevor Harris could maybe deliver us an upset playoff win is enticing. But honestly, the best thing that could happen to us at this point is missing the playoffs. We have a week 21 bye and that would give us a head start on firing Dickenson and looking for his replacement.

If I was the Riders I would definitely hold off on sending out season ticket renewals until you fire the coach. At the jacked up prices I’m expecting, its going to be tough to convince even the most faithful of Rider fans to pay to endure another season of football that just isn’t enjoyable to watch.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Riders vs. Ti-Cats: Legends Night

It will be with heavy hearts that we head to Mosaic Stadium Saturday (and this time it won’t just be because of the on field play). Not having George Reed in house will be different. I won’t add to all the well deserved praises of Mr. Reed that have been written since he passed on Sunday but I will say this… it’s a testament to his greatness that he stopped playing years before I was born and I still feel very emotional about his passing. He was a great man in every aspect of his life.

But amid all the talk of Mr. Reed’s greatness and the greatness of the 2013 team that will be honoured, its unfortunately the not so great 2023 team that actually has to play this game. We are on a 4 game losing skid and if you exclude the final 2 minutes of games, have not played anything resembling competitive football since Labour Day. But thanks to the craptasticness of the Elks and Stamps we are still in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. Here’s the 3 ways playoffs can happen:

1 – Beat Hamilton and Toronto

2 – Beat only Calgary

3 – Lose everything but Calgary loses to BC and Winnipeg.

When we do eventually limp into the playoffs (as we likely will), I hope we do the ridiculous champagne celebration the Blue Jays did.

Defense needs to show up. They have looked downright awful of late. We do get Lanier and Williams back so that should help. To stop Hamilton you need to stop 2 people Tim White and James Butler. You do that and you have a chance. Hamilton is second last in points scored (even behind us) and they have the most turnovers. At QB it could be honestly any one of Bo, Schiltz or Powell. Of those 3 Powell scares me the most. I may eat this words later, but I would love to see them trot Bo out in Regina. He’s been awful this year. We need Lanier to lead pressure up front. With the emergence of Albright, I would love to see Micah/Lanier insider and Albright/Robertson outside. Pressure the QB (whoever it is) into mistakes. Don’t let Tim White run free in the secondary. Take turnovers when they are there and hit like you mean it. That’s our defensive recipe. 

Offensively for the love of god show up before the final minute of the game! This start with a nice drive and then take a 45 minute nap stuff is getting ridiculous. Hamilton is #6 against the run so dammit, let’s run! A lot. (Editor’s note: We won’t). Hamilton is 7th in yards allowed so we should be able to move the ball if Dolegala makes good decisions. I will reiterate my point from Monday that he needs to improve on his deep ball. He is completing just 27% of his passes over 20 yards. The only people worse than that are Fine and Bo Levi. For comparison, last year when we were all over Fajardo for the lack of success on the deep ball, he was completing 45% of those passes. I think short to medium seams and crossers are where we are most effective. Dolegala needs to stop focusing exclusively on what’s happening outside the hashmarks. Some of that is ok but too much of that will make for some easy pick 6s.

Many people are talking about an emotional boost for the team due to honouring Reed. I call BS. I think it’s definitely an emotional boost for the crowd (we better be loud as hell so Reed can hear us) but I don’t buy that the team gets a boost from this. As evidence I submit the game after Lancaster died and the final game at old Mosaic. Both highly emotional events. Both loses. Simply put if a team needs an outside emotional boost to win then they probably weren’t going to win anyway. 

I do think we play better and at least turn in a competitive performance. Hell these is even a chance we win (not just thanks to 18 simultaneous miracles) but after watching us play over the last 4 games and watching Hamilton (who by the way is still contending for a home playoff game), they are the better team at this point and until I see evidence to the contrary, we aren’t good.

Hamilton by a James Butler TD in the 4th.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: /=S=/ till /=S=/ uck

Riders 26 – Lions 33

The Riders are settling into a nice late season routine. Start slow but decent, go to complete hell with minutes remaining in the half, only start playing again when there is so little time on the clock that the comeback is nothing more than a pipe dream, score, onside kick, score, fail the second onside kick. They have now followed that script in back to back weeks. So while a cursory glance at the score might give illusion that we are a competitive team we are not. I think the most recent Grey Cup halftime announcement (which is freakin’ awesome by the way) is the perfect metaphor for the current Riders. We are living in a word of Hedley’s and half of Florida Georgia Line while the rest of the league is trotting out Green Day.

I actually thought the defense started the game pretty well. It was the first sign of life I’d seen from them in many weeks. They were holding the Lions to FGs and generally not getting stomped. Hell, they managed to stop the run. That lasted less than a half and then we were treated to a D that couldn’t cover a receiver if said receiver offered to give them a piggy back while running their route. We looked about 3 steps slower than the Lions on every play. I will say that Christian Albright looks like a keep and that at 35 years old, Micah Johnson in unquestionably our defensive MVP. Despite his age, he’s is about the only guy still giving top level effort on every play. The reality is, if you can’t keep a team under 30 points, winning is going to be tough. And we damn sure can't. 

Offensively, we were treated to road Jake. Stats will show that he threw for 400 yards but that masks a lackluster performance. Through 58 minutes of play he produced 11 points. Sure there were some good throws mixed in there and one nice drive. But on the road he displays no level of consistency. I lesser man would make a joke about his performance on the road and his DUI charge… but clearly I’m above such sophomoric, low brown attempts at humour. For all the talk of Jake’s big arm, the reality is he’s not that good at the long ball. His completion percentage on passes over 20 yards is the worst among pretty much all QBs in the league. He can launch it, but he ain’t completing it when he does. In fairness to him, one pick was completely on Tevin Jones being lazy. This is a recurring theme with Jones. He’ll make some damn impressive plays but has a tendency to check out mentally and hurt us. I’m not saying Wieneke is a saviour but if I were coaching, Jones and his inconsistency would sit and see if we can get someone who can give full effort every play in there. Speaking of full effort, Frankie Hickson runs angry and I love it. Unfortunately, Kelly Jeffery does not love it for some reason. Also love me some Bertrand-Hudon. Not saying he should be starting but I’d be trying to find a way to get him a handful of touches each game. I think I’m officially an old man now that I’m calling for a Canadian RB to get more carries. I’m this generation’s Szarka enthusiast. I’ve become everything I hate. 

The outcome surprised no one. We aren’t good enough to beat bad teams and suck on the road. There was no chance of us beating a good team on the road. Sadly, because Calgary is equally as awful and gave us a slight head start, we currently have an edge in the “try and out suck each other” contest we are in for the final playoff spot. An out-sucking competition sounds like a bad premise for a porno… its an even worse reality for a pro football team.  

At least next game, we are guaranteed to see a competent Rider football team on the field. Unfortunately it will be the 2013 team. 

Other random thoughts:

-        It made no difference in the grand scheme of things but why on earth did we not go for 2 after our first TD to tie? That seemed like just another entry in our growing encyclopedia of questionable coaching decisions.

-        That OPI on Baker was weird. Normally OPI means a push-off. KSB actually pulled the DB in closer. Regardless of the validity of the penalty, challenge with 13 seconds left in blowout is a douche bag move that should result in a kick to the nuts.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Riders vs. Lions: Road Kill

You may remember that prior to the last matchup against BC I titled my post "Beatdown Coming" and predicted we would get whooped. We of course played one of our better games of the season and snuck out a big win. So dare I risk making the same mistake twice?

You damn right I do! We suck on the road. So much so that our odds of victory are on par with the odds of Micah Awe getting suspended. I mean sure, its technically possible, but not very likely based on recent history. The only team with a worse road record than us is Ottawa (who we just go embarrassed by). We lose road game by an average score of 31 to 16. If you only count the most recent 5 road games (i.e. exclude anything that happened in Alberta) that jumps to 36 to 14.

BC is 5-1 at home and trying to clinch a home playoff game/chase down Winnipeg. They are also… what’s the word I’m looking for?... good. They are mostly healthy and getting Dominque “Busta” Rhymes back into the line-up. While we do get Dalke back, we are far from healthy. I wouldn’t recommend taking betting advice from an online blogger who dresses in a robe but betting on BC is probably a pretty safe one. I would also bet the over on BC's runningback's rush yards (don't even care what the line is, take the over).

Jake Dolegala needs to figure it out on the road. He seems to do okay at Mosaic but on the road he goes to hell. He has a decent 9 TD to 4 INT ratio overall but in his road games that ratio is just 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Frankie Hickson appears to be a guy who could really help him out but expect another great first quarter followed by the run game becoming an afterthought. Bane also appears to have become an afterthought. If we have any illusions of winning I think both Hickson and Bane need to be fed the ball. I know it makes me sound like the Szarka lovers I used to openly mock but dammit I think we should give Betrand-Hudon a few carries. If nothing else he will set a physical tone.

Defensively, I think we will all be happy with pretty much anything above laughable incompetence. I would like to see if Albright was a one hit wonder or if he’s yet another of O’Day long line of great D-line finds. Dalke back at safety should help with physicality. He can stop the run on his own or make other guys tackle any better but every little bit helps at this point. When flustered, Vernon Adams will hand out turnovers like he started a bakery and that’s our only chance of hanging in this one is a few takeaways. 

I’m not even going to pretend to be optimistic in this one. We are going to lose. Likely by multiple TDs. This team always looks about as excited for a road game as you would be for a colonoscopy. By the time the final whistle blows in BC some of you may be wishing you’d opted for a colonoscopy over watching the game. 

BC by 18.