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.