In June, our expert panel said the Riders would rule. Whoops.

RIDER FAN FORUM by Gregory Beatty

When we kicked off Rider Fan Forum on June 25 our panel was confident the Green & White would contend in 2015. But halfway through the season they sit last in the CFL at 0W-9L. Then on Aug. 31, the team dropped a bombshell by firing GM Brendan Taman and coach Corey Chamblin. So what do Ron Mexico, Cal Corduroy, Earl Camembert and John’s Chick have to say for themselves?

What do you think of the Riders’ axing the GM and coach?

Earl Camembert: Chamblin had to go. He was beginning to sound like Danny Barrett when answering questions, giving nonsensical BS replies. Clearly, game management completely escapes him. Pulling Brett Smith in Ottawa for Tino Sunseri after Smith busted his ass in the first half is typical of his arrogance. He did the same with Anthony Allen last year after he fumbled in a monsoon. I assume Taman went as well because he refused to can him. I suppose they could have waited until the end of the season to clean house, but the reaction from the fans would’ve been ugly. Really, it was the only move they could make.

Ron Mexico: The Chamblin firing had to happen, and I’m not a proponent of firing a coach mid-season. It seemed like all control had been lost. Benching the rookie quarterback. Apparently refusing to punt out of bounds in favour of taking singles. A continuing high penalty count. Blaming players. The bad coaching added up to a ridiculous level. The Taman firing was a little surprising. Perhaps he refused to fire Chamblin?

John’s Chick: I was defending Chamblin somewhat, especially because of all of the injuries, until the Ottawa game. There is no excuse for his terrible decision to pull Brett Smith and then keep him out for the rest of the game. They looked absolutely pathetic with Tino at the helm. There have been other questionable decisions in recent games (e.g. attempting the 65-yard field goal against Calgary). The undisciplined play, bad clock management, weak defense, and lack of running plays have all contributed to this horrible season. As for the Taman firing, I was surprised at first, but I think it had to be done too.

Cal Corduroy: A bit surprised by the Taman announcement initially, but in hindsight, understandable (perhaps Taman refused to fire Chamblin, but that’s merely speculation). But now? Another nine games of experimentation, guys “playing for their jobs next year” and a bunch of boring football. I’m curious to see what happens next. Paul LaPolice anyone? Mike Benevides?

Grey Cup hopes were dashed when Darian Durant suffered his season-ending Achilles injury. But are the Riders as bad as their record indicates?

EC: On Sunday, the Riders lost big to an Ottawa team that has Henry Burris as QB. After watching that game, I’d say the Riders are as bad as their record suggests. I wouldn’t have said that a few weeks ago. But how else to assess a season where every decent play they make is called back because of a never-ending string of penalties?

RM: In fairness, the Riders are nowhere near as bad as 0-9. They should probably have three wins. I don’t, however, subscribe to the notion the Riders are actually a good team with terrible luck.

JC: No, the players aren’t as bad as their record, but the coaching was! There’s definitely some talent on the team, and six of the nine losses were close. But in each case, you can point to a few crucial coaching decisions that cost us the game. 

CC: Clearly not. With the parity in the league, almost anyone can beat anyone on a given night. But if you have more breakdowns and mistakes than your opponent every game, that’s the difference maker.

The focus now obviously shifts to 2016. Any roster moves you’d like to see to start the re-build?

EC: I honestly don’t know what moves they can make because everyone of any note is injured, and the Riders have already been forced to make roster moves like crazy. Because of injuries they’re horrible in the secondary, at linebacker (where they took the best safety in the league and made him invisible), and receiver. You can’t bring in NFL cuts like you could in the old days because the rosters are so big now. Clearly, some of the recruits they brought in can’t do the job. So maybe that’s an indictment of the scouts? Canadian depth is a big problem.

RM: If you mean acquisitions and transactions, I don’t think any are realistic as a long-term fix. As far as our current lineup, there are moves I’d make. Once QB Kevin Glenn is healthy, I wouldn’t return him to the line-up. Instead, I’d stay with Brett Smith to see if he has a future. I wouldn’t put Chris Getzlaf back in either, and would consider his career over. I’d let O-lineman Xavier Fulton go and use a Canadian in his place. I’d cut DB Macho Harris too. Our biggest re-build has to be our Canadians. We’ve not drafted well lately, and have traded too many picks.

JC: They need to consider trading Getzlaf (getting older, too many injuries, not reliable), and maybe even Weston Dressler or Ryan Smith (love their heart, but we need taller receivers). Unless he has a miraculous recovery, we may even need to consider trading Durant. It pains me to say this, but we need to make some drastic changes and build for the future.

CC: It’s difficult to discuss a rebuild when numerous places where they’re weak are due to injuries. Obviously, the Riders better figure out a QB succession plan. This is the second year in a row a Durant injury has decimated them. A linebacking crew would be nice (although it’s hard to say how a healthy Shea Emry would’ve affected things). As for off-field moves, Craig Reynolds is a capable new president. However, the Riders marketing machine is starting to frustrate many community-minded organizations with their smugness.

What about the rest of the CFL? Do you think any team is capable of derailing a Calgary vs Hamilton Grey Cup rematch?

EC: I watch Calgary and keep thinking they’re a bunch of lucksacks. But they pull shit out of their rear ends all the time. No one touches them in the West. I think Toronto has a shot in the East. Somehow, they managed to find four rookie receivers who all are good, and Hamilton’s total lack of a running game may catch up with them.

RM: Nope, I think you can put your money on that. For those who lament our injuries, look at the O-line Calgary fields now. Four or five of them are not the guys who played for them last Grey Cup. Plus, they are without Jon Cornish.

JC: I think maybe Edmonton in the West and Toronto in the East may put up a fight, but all signs are pointing to a Calgary-Hamilton Grey Cup.

CC: Nope, with one caveat: Calgary gets its starters back, and Edmonton continues to be only mediocre on offence. Other than that, I don’t see it.

Any thoughts on how all the rule changes have worked out?

EC: I could talk about this for days, but it would just aggravate me. For some reason, the CFL seems to think that giving boob referees more potential penalties to call is a good thing. Having a team march down the field on penalties is hardly exciting. The contact rules on receivers are a joke. The pass interference review (okay, that was last year) is an even bigger joke. In summary, the changes have been terrible.

RM: There are several parts of the Canadian game which simply lead to more penalties. The no-yards rule is asinine. People defend it by saying the fair catch in American football is boring. The punts which lead to a fair catch in the U.S. are the same punts which lead to no-yards penalties here. The yard off the line of scrimmage is good for two or three penalties a game when the defence cheats to stop short yardage plays. The no-contact rule on receivers has been a disaster.

JC: I’m okay with the change to the point-after/two-point conversion, but am not a fan of the illegal contact/pass interference rules. There are still way too many flags, making some of the games almost unwatchable!

CC: The league argues penalties are only up by two per game (which I find difficult to believe, but….). The 32-yard convert is great. Delaying the departure of linemen on punt coverage is okay. The interference rules (including the challenge rule) are pathetic.