Our 2015 Fan Forum wraps up with bold Grey Cup predictions

RIDER FAN FORUM by Gregory Beatty

When we spoke before the Labour Day Classic, the Riders had just fired GM Brendan Taman and coach Corey Chamblin and were 0W-9L. At 3W-6L, their record in the season’s second half was marginally better — albeit with more blow-outs. How did our team of pundits — Ron Mexico, Cal Corduroy, Earl Camembert and John’s Chick — see part two of this write-off season?

Not so well!

RON MEXICO: It was one of the great playing-out-of-strings I can recall… and it was awful to watch. The sight of Junior Mertile stepping out of the way to avoid tackling Edmonton receiver Adarius Bowman in the last home game was a signature moment.

EARL CAMEMBERT: The first half of the year was tolerable because the Riders were in a lot of games and lost by small margins — plus Kevin Glenn was lighting it up. That changed in the second half, which coincided with the Riders realizing Darian Durant doesn’t play defence and they couldn’t blame his injury for that porous bunch of uninterested clowns.

JOHN’S CHICK: The second half was still rather pathetic. The offence struggled, and the defence was terrible, especially the DBs. I don’t think we can take any solace in beating Winnipeg at home on Labour Day, and two wins against Montreal.

CAL CORDUROY: The first half, there was hope. Darian was hurt, but we had a Grey Cup caliber team otherwise. Glenn was leading the league in passing, and running the best offence in the league. Then we got to view the real team. Lack of talent (particularly on defence), lack of interest (and execution), and the most exciting play(s) of the second half were the blasting of Chamblin and Taman. Notwithstanding three wins, a complete train wreck.

There’s been talk of making interim GM Jeremy O’Day the next GM. Would you favour that, or prefer another candidate?

RM: I’m very undecided about O’Day for two reasons: first, is it even possible his contacts could be better than Taman’s? Second, he either has some responsibility for this mess (in which case he’s not qualified), or he has no responsibility because all he did was pick guys up at the airport and make travel arrangements (in which case he’s not qualified). I lean toward not hiring him.

EC: I don’t think the Riders should anoint O’Day as GM. I’m no CFL insider to be able to say who other potential candidates might be, but you have to look. Plus, say what you want, O’Day was here for all of this. One argument against him is if you clean house, you clean house. That means everyone.

JC: I wouldn’t be opposed to O’Day. I liked some of the moves he made (trading Glenn and Jerome Messam, getting Canadian kicker Tyler Crapigna and de-activating Paul McCallum, etc.)  We don’t always have to think the best candidate is someone external. Maybe we can grow our own successful GM? I don’t know much about Calgary assistant GM John Murphy, but he may be a good candidate too.

CC: I would give him a shot. There are not a lot of candidates for the role (although I have heard Huf ’n’ Stuff is interested in Calgary, despite his denial) and I’m going to accept O’Day’s argument he was Taman’s puppet. I’m also going to assume he has gained enough contacts (Taman only had one REAL NFL contact anyway). Eric Tillman is around, but I’m guessing he likely won’t be considered.

Once the GM’s in place, are there any candidates you’d like to see considered for head coach and offensive and defensive coordinator?

RM: The head coach will pick his coordinators, and shouldn’t be restricted on that. I have no strong preferences, but don’t think it needs to be a recycled CFL coach (Paul LaPolice, Mike Benevides). Edmonton’s Chris Jones and Toronto’s Scott Milanovich are examples of guys who weren’t former head coaches.

EC: There’s no doubt the entire coaching staff has to go. I agree with Mexico that recycling an old coach isn’t what you want. Tom Higgins? Absolutely not. Mike Benevides, a Wally disciple. ’Nuff said. You might be able to convince me LaPolice deserves another shot since he got Winnipeg to the Grey Cup in 2011. After you hire, the new coach picks his guys. Oh, and for the love of God, no Ritchie Hall.

JC: My preferred candidate is LaPolice. I liked him when he was our OC, and I liked him in Winnipeg where he got himself in a tough situation with GM Joe Mack. I actually think Bob Dyce did a commendable job as interim coach and deserves consideration. As for OC and DC, that’s up to the new coach. I’d be okay with Jacques Chapdelaine staying, but we need an upgrade on defence.

CC: Paul LaPolice. No “also rans” (PLEASE!). On defence?  No Ritchie Hall (PLEASE!). Maybe Benevides for defence. 

Were there any new faces on the team that impressed you? Outside of the veterans who were shut down early, are there others you think should be released?

RM: I liked Ryan Smith and Naaman Roosevelt at receiver. Linebacker Jeff Knox is pretty good, but a lot of his tackles are six or seven yards downfield instead of at the line of scrimmage. With the veterans, Chris Getzlaf is done. Too highly paid and always injured. Brendon LaBatte had a tough year and is another big salary in relation to his performance. Ditto John Chick and Weston Dressler. Better off not hanging on to these guys too long (see: Riders of the late 1970s).

EC: Roosevelt played very well the last eight games — good thing Chamblin played Jamel Richardson instead of him. Knox got a lot of tackles. Yeah, many were well beyond the line of scrimmage, but at least he was around the ball. Getzlaf is done. I think Tyron Brackenridge is done too. He’s in his 30s and has a big salary. They need to free up some dough to sign Ben Heenan or Brett Jones for the O-line.

JC: Knox was the most impressive new face. I also liked Roosevelt, DL Andre Monroe and OT Jermarcus Hardrick. Keith Price and Brett Smith showed promise, so deserve a chance at back-up QB next year. I hate to say it, but it may be time to move veterans like Getzlaf, Brackenridge, Tristan Jackson and Tearrius George. They need to cut every DB except Terrell Maze and maybe Tyree Hollins.

CC: Thanks Chris Getzlaf, but you are past your “best before date.” Knox played well after the running back broke through the line (which happened all too frequently). Matt Webster was invisible at safety (au revoir), Junior Mertile doesn’t want to hit anyone (bon voyage), middle linebacker Shea Emry was fantastic (wait… forget that one), Ryan Smith was good, Roosevelt looked good (nice to know he was on the practice roster for eight games), and we better improve our O-line. By the way, we don’t have a backup QB.

The CFL semi-finals have B.C. at Calgary and Toronto at Hamilton, with the winners meeting Edmonton and Ottawa in the West and East finals. Who do you see playing in the Grey Cup in Winnipeg Nov. 29?

RM: I think Calgary is better than Edmonton and will prevail. I would’ve said Hamilton in the East and in the Grey Cup until seeing how bad their backup QB has played of late. Flip a coin between Ottawa and Toronto in the East, either of which lose to Calgary in the Grey Cup.

EC: I think both division finals will be interesting. Because of injuries, Hamilton doesn’t have the quarterbacking it did earlier, so they’ll get bounced by Toronto. If Toronto gets to the East final, they’ll beat Ottawa because Smilin’ Henry always fills his diaper at this time of year. Calgary will kill B.C., but Edmonton at home, late in the day on Nov. 22, is a challenge, especially since Edmonton’s defence is tops in the league. Edmonton beats Toronto in Le Coupe Gris.

JC: I don’t see the killer instinct in Calgary this year, so I’ll go with Edmonton in the West. In the East, I think it will be Ottawa. Burris is playing incredibly well, and he does fine in the playoffs when he doesn’t have to face the Riders!

CC: Calgary beats Toronto. The interesting game will be Edmonton vs. Calgary game in Edmonton. Smilin’ Hank will shit the bed as usual in tough situations for Ottawa.