CFL BLITZ (and a few other things)
1 - GARBAGE REPORTING: The report by Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun that Paul Lapolice will be the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders by Labour Day is as infuriating as it is preposterous. Absolutely nonsensical. And Kirk should know better.
Penton - a Moosomim, SK product - writes a national column every week in which he quotes a collection of "insiders" across the CFL. He led off this week's edition with the speculation about Lapolice. Well, I spoke to someone "in the know", someone intimately involved in this particular situation, who referred to Penton's report as "brutal" and "bulls--t for Corey".
Who knows who Penton's "insider" is in this instance but the comment is garbage. The comment was meant to be a stinkbomb lobbed at Mosaic Stadium just to see what kind of furor is created.
The guy should be ashamed of himself more making such an outlandish comment and he knows he made it up (whomever he is because he wants to stay anonymous). A lot of courage there.
And this report is such a slap in the face to Chamblin, who deserves better.
If anything this incident - and the scandalous atmosphere around it - is serving to galvanize this football organization. The attempts by Winnipeg reporters to pick this franchise apart may backfire. The Monday report by TSN's Gary Lawless that Jeremy O'Day could soon replace Brendan Taman wasn't much better.
However can we stop with the #ChamblinStrong movement on Twitter and Facebook? It's about the Saskatchewan Roughriders and nothing else. But it's nice so many have come out in support of our head coach.
2 - THE CHAM GANG: On the same topic, I was very impressed with the vibe I got off Chamblin at Wednesday's open practice. He was calm, confident and focused. Don't ever forget that a team takes on the personality of its coach. That is always true. The 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders need to be calm, confident and focused if they plan to get this season going in the right direction.
3 - IT'S NOT TOO LATE AND HERE'S WHY: Got to thinking the other day who the Roughriders' MVP is so far this season and settled on either Jerome Messam or Weston Dressler. Then I slapped myself in the face and realized we're only four games into the season. A million-and-one things are going to happen between now and November to potentially change all that. So if that's the case, and it is, why would we close the book on the Roughriders as a team so early in the season?
4 - ONE MORE, BECAUSE IT'S TRUE: The Riders have a chance because they have the best offense in the league. Without at least a decent offense, you're sunk. If they could have made the right defensive play at the end of their last four games, they're possibly 4-0, perhaps 3-1, or at worst 2-2.
The players are right -- they're thisclose to finishing games even if we didn't want to believe it when they said it over the past month. Don't give up on these guys yet. And it doesn't sound like you will, because the club is tracking towards a sellout.
5 - SO LONG TAJ: It wasn't entirely surprising to see the Roughriders "shut down" Taj Smith for the season on Wednesday. Chamblin said it all when he said Taj "wasn't himself" this year. In fact he wasn't himself for much of the 2014 season either. It's a shame because right now that's a talent that's being wasted.
The famed Dewdney Incident may end up costing Smith his career but maybe not. A fresh start somewhere else is what Taj needs although Sportsnet's Arash Madani is reporting Smith is bound for the Riders' 6-game injured list due to an injured knee revealed by an MRI. He's been playing with it!
But the sooner Taj can suit up for another team, the better it might be for everybody. It's just unfortunate what went down in Regina but he's been an unforgettable Roughrider. Watching him play has been an absolute treat.
6 - THE CFL'S HAPPY: The CFL has had 16 games so far this year and nine of them have been decided by four points or less. That's 56%. The league couldn't be happier with that, and they continue to stand by their new rules. Meanwhile the average margin of victory so far this season is 8.7 points which is unprecedented in the modern era of the CFL. Everyone seems to maintain the game will indeed be better once the players and coaches become accustomed to the nine new rules.
AND the league stands by its call on Rider defensive back Michael Carter in the third quarter of Friday's game against BC. The Riders challenged it at the time, but the call was upheld. In meetings this week, the Riders admitted the right call was made but at the time they felt Carter was not guilty of inappropriate contact.
7 - GQ: Roughriders defensive coordinator Greg Quick is notable at practice each day with his Brad Pitt-style aviator sunglasses. Despite the fact the Roughriders have given up the most points and the most touchdowns in the CFL this year, Quick has dodged much of the heat because Corey Chamblin has admitted to making the defensive calls. Quick noted on Wednesday that, in fact, all the defensive coaches (including Mike Sinclair, Tyone Pettaway and Tony Missick) collaborate to make the game plan so they're all at fault.
Meanwhile I asked if the Riders took the wrong approach to the season with their approach to defense, and the new rules forced them to change on the fly. Quick said that wasn't the case - they haven't changed thier philosophy - but it's made the defensive backs adjust the way in which they cover receivers, which has taken some time. He said if any of the DBs have had NFL experience, then they'd have a bit of an idea what the CFL now wants. Plus the game is being called differently by the officials so 2015 has been a major adjustment.
Teams which lose early are forced to go back and tinker with personnel and mechanics to find the winning formula. The Riders are doing just that, and may come out with the winning formula.
Chamblin's existence depends on this, and that's fair.
8 - BOSS HOGG: New Riders offensive line coach Dan Dorazio was a fantastic guest on 620 CKRM's Coaches Show on Wednesday. He threw out such lines as "I'm happier than a pig in slop" and "You'd have to shoot him to kill him", (referring to Riders' centre Dan Clark). The Riders' offensive line is getting the thumbs-up as the most productive unit of the football team so far this season and Dorazio was willing to accept the praise. And why not? There may be days when they need wear the goat horns. Dorazio is a product of Pittsburgh, PA and is the proud owner of four Grey Cup rings. He's been a wonderful addition and has fit in like a glove with the offense of Jacques Chapdelaine. Clearly they're a package deal.
9 - CFL GAME NOTES: Some more interesting factoids from the CFL's weekly game notes package ... Only one other team in 100 years of CFL football has lost four games by a combined 12 points: the 2013 Edmonton Eskimos. The bad news there is they finished 4-14 ... The CFL is on pace for eight 1,000-yard rushers this year. There have been only seven in the last three years combined ... There have been two return touchdowns so far this season (both by Hamilton's Brandon Banks) but another four have been called back due to penalty ... There have been 17% more touchdowns scored this season ... Ottawa is the CFL's least-penalized team this season ... TSN's Paul Lapolice disclosed on the Coaches Playbook radio edition on 620 CKRM that referees have to call penalties away from the play, away from the "point of attack" if you will. Lapolice said "how do the referees know it doesn't affect the play when they're calling it?" Furthermore he went on to say his fellow CFL on TSN panelists don't agree, and they argue about this all the time.
10 - AND FINALLY, JUST NOTES: OMG The Toronto Maple Leafs have hired Lou Lamoriello as GM! ... Congratulations to Canada's mens baseball team who won gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto this week. Regina's Dustin Molleken was not on the team (he usually is) because he's having a great season on the mound in AAA baseball in the States and told me he didn't want to skip out on the season ... Luc Mullinder has picked against the Riders for a second straight week ... I'm crestfallen that ESPN Radio is losing Colin Cowherd. Now what am I to listen to between 9 and 12 in the morning?? ... The best show on television right now is Grand Benders on MTV. I discovered it by accident because it's on Channel 48 which is right between CNN Headline News and Sportsnet 360 while I'm on the treadmill ... Oh, speaking of, don't forget Gold's Gym Regina is offering $10/month memberships for a limited time as they prepare for the opening of their fourth location, in East Regina. Stop in their trailer behind Victoria Square Mall and see former Regina Pat Matt Sawa about signing up ... I miss the Pats. Training camp is a month away, right after Buffalo Days ... One of the names being floated for the new Las Vegas NHL team is the "Rough Riders". However bet on the team being called the "Black Knights" with the colours black, gold and silver. That's what owner Bill Foley has on his business cards.
THAT'S ALL FOR THIS WEEK...