A not-so-fond look back at the Roughriders’ bad, bad season
Sports | by Gregory Beatty
After going 1W-8L in the CFL’s first half, the Riders went 4W-5L in the second, giving fans some reason for hope heading into 2017, when the team moves to new Mosaic Stadium. To offer their thoughts on the season, and the playoffs to come, we’re joined by Ron Mexico, Cal Corduroy, Earl Camembert and John’s Chick.
In our kick-off edition, you predicted that with all the changes the Riders would start slow but gel as the season went on. How would you grade their performance?
RON MEXICO: Disappointing overall. I thought Chris Jones would have the Midas touch and have them in the hunt in his first year. I give the Riders a C-. It was nice to see an improved defence as the season went on.
CAL CORDUROY: I don’t know how you can give it anything better than 2/10. I perused the line-up for the B.C. debacle(s) and concluded that (at most) 10 players (five on offence, five on defence) should qualify for next year’s team. Pathetic… 105 players used throughout the season.
EARL CAMEMBERT: The Riders got derailed [somewhat] by injuries. I heard during the final game against B.C. that they’d used 100-plus players this year, a CFL record. There’s no way you can have any kind of success when you had such a turnover in personnel to begin the year, and then get blessed with all those guys going down. I think their defence is pretty good. The offence ended up being horrendous. No receivers, no linemen spells trouble.
JOHN’S CHICK: I’d grade them F. Looking back, we should’ve known it was going to be a re-building year. But I guess I was overly optimistic when I was thinking we might make the playoffs. The entire season seemed like one long training camp with 20 pre-season games. Jones did find some good players (WRs Caleb Holley and Ricky Collins Jr., and RB Joe McKnight on offence; and DBs Justin Cox and Ed Gainey, and LB Henoc Muamba on defence). But the revolving door on the depth chart made it hard to have any consistency on the field or fan investment.
What are off-season priorities for you?
RM: Upgrading the Canadian talent, especially at offensive line and receiver. It would be nice to see the team settle somewhat on a lineup as well.
CC: Where does one begin? Sign Darian Durant. Find a running back who can block and isn’t made of peanut brittle. An OL that isn’t always hurt (Chris Best, Brendon Labatte) and can protect the quarterback. An inside receiver who can (a) catch consistently and (b) isn’t made of balsa wood. Another outside receiver who doesn’t board one ball per game. Defensively, a line that can stop the run, two or three DBs to complement Gainey, Cox and Otha Foster. Muamba was a good find (see, not EVERYTHING is negative).
EC: The Riders need to keep building up the Canadian talent, especially on the OL. Chris Best must be done given he’s played almost nothing in the last three years. Who knows about Brendon Labatte? If he’s got concussion issues then it’s no given he’ll be back and effective. The Riders also need to sign Durant and not let him go like John Chick and Weston Dressler last year. It would be bad for the fan support to pull that two years in a row.
JC: First priority is signing Durant. I thought it would be a sure thing since it seems like it would be best for both parties. But now it’s sounding a bit uncertain. After that, focus on signing Canadians and looking to the 2017 draft. At least we get the first pick again!
Calgary finished with a CFL best 15W-2L-1T record. Do you see anyone touching them in the playoffs?
RM: I was surprised Calgary didn’t play QB Bo Levi Mitchell in their final game against Montreal to try to get to 16-1-1. The only thing that can stop them is the layoff, and the fact they are a longtime playoff choker. As well, epic regular season juggernauts have had trouble in the playoffs in past years. A B.C. vs. Calgary West final might be interesting.
CC: B.C. has a shot at beating Calgary. But the Stamps (I hate the Stamps) seem to be able to win the close ones… something the Riders didn’t manage to do. Oh wait, there WERE no close Rider games this year. Hamilton and Calgary in the Grey Cup.
EC: Calgary always seems to shit themselves in the playoffs. They’ve been so dominant though that surely they won’t this year, will they? By the time they play in the West final Bo Levi Mitchell won’t have played for a month. If they’re not ready to go and turn the ball over, B.C. might beat them. Winnipeg’s defence is nowhere near good enough. Edmonton won’t make it out of the East. Ottawa will beat them in the East final.
JC: I can’t see anyone beating Calgary. They’re just too good. I’d like to see Winnipeg make it to the Grey Cup for sentimental reasons for their fans, but I just can’t see them beating both B.C. and Calgary at home. In the East, I think Edmonton has a reasonable chance at beating both Hamilton and Ottawa to make it an all West Grey Cup for the first time.
Postmedia columnist Rob Vanstone, among others, has proposed the CFL switch to one nine-team division. Is that something you’d favour?
RM: I still like the East-West breakdown. I think the crossover is usually adequate to correct any competitive imbalance. What the league really needs is a tenth team in Quebec City. The league is too small. Thank God Ottawa is back and strong. In the days of the eight-team league, 25 per cent of the teams played in the championship.
CC: Yup. The league was terrible this year (led by the Riders). Incidentally, how many good games were the Riders in? I want my money back.
EC: No. I think the East vs. West thing is a big part of the CFL’s fabric. The Player Awards, Grey Cup and so on would get lost if they went to one division.
JC: I always liked the two divisions, but when a team with a losing record finishes first in the East, and there’s a real possibility of an all West Grey Cup, I think it makes it difficult for even the staunchest CFL traditionalists to defend the two division format.
Any parting thoughts about Mosaic Stadium @ Taylor Field now that it’s toast?
RM: Good riddance. I felt very little nostalgia. To me, very few of the memories were tied significantly to the building. They were tied more to the team, the league and the people.
CC: I’ll miss the old doll… many a good memory came from that place from the Rider Rookie section in the 1960s through to the 2013 Grey Cup game and everything in between. Legends made in a legendary stadium. But, time to move on. (Cubs win! Cubs win!)
EC: Aside from the fact that my seats in the old stadium were fantastic because I could hop over the railing in front of me to get to the main walkway, that place was a complete dive. Good riddance.
JC: Parting thoughts or parting shots? Let’s be honest, the place was a dump! But I did get a bit sentimental at the last home game because of all the family and football memories I have from Taylor Field. But, onwards and upwards! Time to make new memories at the beautiful new stadium. I can’t wait for next season! Is it June yet?