As one wag on a website I consulted following the Riders’ latest dismal offensive showing observed, after scoring five, three and one points in their last three games, the Riders seem destined to score negative one points next Sunday against B.C.
In 1979, I remember the Riders enduring a three or four game touchdown drought that was finally broken on a long pass and run play from QB Craig Juntunen to journeyman wide receiver Willie Wilder. Unlike this edition of the Riders, though, I’m pretty sure that squad (which went 2-14 for the year) managed to tally more than nine points during the TD drought. In the CFL nine points in three games definitely sets a new standard in offensive ineptitude.
With regular QB Darian Durant hobbled by a sore ankle, the Riders started back-up QB Ryan Dinwiddie against the Eskimos. Dinwiddie enjoyed a brief moment of fame in 2007 when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost starting QB Kevin Glenn in the latter stages of the East Final against Toronto with a broken arm and Dinwiddie was forced to lead the team in the Grey Cup the next week against the Riders. In that game, Dinwiddie threw three picks and the Riders won 23-19.
Dinwiddie was a raw rookie then, of course. And he faced the ultimate trial by fire when he made his first CFL start in the Grey Cup. He’s seen little playing time in subsequent seasons, and in today’s game, with the Riders’ playoff hopes hanging by a thread, he showed virtually no improvement from 2007. In the first half he threw three interceptions, and was pulled at half-time in favour of Durant. I didn’t see the second half, but judging by the score, Durant didn’t do much better. Although being injured, he presumably wasn’t able to run at full speed and throw the ball with authority. He was also apparently hurt by some dropped passes.
With the loss the Riders are officially eliminated from the playoff race in the West. They remain mathematically alive for a cross-over berth in the East, but would have to win their four remaining games while the Hamilton Tiger Cats would have to lose all four of theirs.
While 2011 started with high hopes, outside of a brief burst around Labour Day, its been a dismal season. As others have suggested, the team needs to start preparing for next season now. Younger players need to be evaluated to see who can contribute to the team down the road and who can’t. Realistically, the Riders have enjoyed a decent run. They’ve made the playoffs every year since 2002, and have appeared in three out of the last four Grey Cups. What they need to do now is rebuild to ensure they don’t wander in the wilderness for years on end like they did following the team’s glory years from 1963-76.
Management and coaches will need to be evaluated in the off-season. But player assessments should start now. The Riders next game is Oct. 16 at home against the B.C. Lions. James Brotheridge will be in attendance, and will file pre- and post-game reports. And if you want to read more on today’s game, here’s a link to TSN.