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Monday, August 17, 2015



1 - BE LIKE MIKE:  Mike McCullough (pictured above) retired in May after an 11-year career as a linebacker with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  He was a two-time Grey Cup champion and now works as an investment consultant with Investors Group and as an analyst on Rider Radio 620 CKRM.  During his Plaza of Honor-worthy career the Kingston, ON product served as the Rider player rep with the CFLPA and as a team captain.

He knows his stuff and his reputation is impeccable.

On Friday McCullough popped by CKRM's SportsCage to join Scott Schultz and me to discuss the plight of the 0-7 Roughriders who will hit the practice field on Tuesday for the first time after a bye in Week 8.  Saturday the Riders host the 5-2 Calgary Stampeders (5:00 pm, TSN, 620 CKRM).

Here are Mike's thoughts:

"People are calling for Chamb's head.  I don't know if that's the right call," McCullough surmised.  "Bringing in a coach halfway through the season, to me, has always been ridiculous.  I think the numbers show that over the 60 times it's happened in the last 60 years, the winning percentage barely increases.

"It doesn't do anything for the locker room so I definitely don't think they should fire Chamb."

But he didn't stop there.  McCullough offered a solution for the team's problems, particularly on defense.

"However it would go a long way in my opinion - and it's just my opinion - and it would go a long way for the media and the fans, if Chamb were essentially to hand the defensive coordinator reins over to Greg Quick maybe.  Basically because everybody wants something different!  Everybody wants a change.  You demoting yourself is about as big of a change you can get.

"It could just be for appearance sake and he could still do the playcalling, whatever it is, but at least you could appease some of the media and some of the fans by making a decision of that magnitude."

I recall hearing that suggestion somewhere before.  Oh ya, it was here on the MMG a few weeks ago.  No matter, McCullough thinks a move such as this would be in the best interests of the football club, both inside and out.

"It's a big move but if he does that, what else can the fans ask for?" McCullough concluded.  "What else can the media ask for?  He's not going to demote himself from being head coach.  That would be absolutely ridiculous.  But if he did demote himself as D.C., he's done the biggest move possible."

2 - HAVING SAID THAT:  This 2015 Roughriders season has been so complex to grasp.  On one hand you can stay up all night tallying where all the mistakes have been made and say "What if?"  On the other hand, you can say the Riders have been dealt a crappy hand of cards and they've done the best they could under the circumstances.  That hasn't been lost on McCullough either.

"You try not to use excuses but you've lost Darian Durant, you've lost Kevin Glenn and nothing against Brett Smith, really, he's a child," McCullough continued.  "He's 22!  Two starts?  I don't expect him to win five of the last 11 games.  You can't expect him to come in after having just graduated and put a winning record on the board.  It's not feasible, it's not possible.  If you'd have done that to Durant in 2006 it would've been the same story.   He probably would've gone 0-12.

"So give the kid a break.  He's shown some moxy.  I like his tools.  Who knows if he'll be the QB of the future or a dud?  But at least give him the opportunity and he's shown some good signs."

That brings up the next conundrum facing Canada's Team:  when veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn comes back from injury in the next few weeks, do you put the ball back in his hands or keep on with Brett Smith?

That's a delicate matter.

3 - PLEASE HELP OUT MIKE:  On August 27, 2015, STARS Air Ambulance will rally a group of influential members from the community (including former Roughrider Mike McCullough) for the first annual Rescue on the Prairie STARS fundraising event. Participants will dawn flight suits, be dropped by helicopter to an undisclosed, remote location and only have their smartphones to help them get back home. Throughout the day, participants will compete against each other in a number of survival challenges, including a race to see who can be the first to raise $50,000 or more in donations. Getting help from their family, friends and colleagues will be key to their success. Once players accomplish their goal, they will be ‘rescued’ by helicopter and delivered back to civilization.

McCullough certainly doesn't have to do this, but he's obliged because that's the kind of community guy he is.  To donate to Mike's cause, please click and donate here:

4 - SCHULTZIE SAYS:  Former Roughriders All-Star defensive tackle Scott Schultz is a millionaire businessman in this town (in case you forgot, just ask him!), and a football analyst on CKRM.  As part of our discussion on the Riders on Friday, the Moose Jaw, SK product weighed in on the Roughriders.

"One of the things in the football business that's very important is self-assessment, whether you're a player, a coach or a management type," Schultz reasoned.  "And you would think that, if you're being honest, and everybody looks in the mirror, and what we're talking about is, can you self-assess and be a big enough person to do just that?  Make an adjustment, take a step back?"

Schultz was referring to the suggestion that Corey Chamblin relinquish the defensive coordinator duties.  However he went even further into the subject.

"I would like to think that the head of this team is doing that, and hopefully they will.  It doesn't make sense.  You see there's very few people who've worn the double hat (head coach and coordinator) and had success.  Chamblin's abilities, I would say, and I've never been coached by him, his talents would be better served as a one-job head coach managing the orchestra of the team rather than micromanaging every little detail.  That seems to have been a problem.

"There have been coaching mistakes that have happened in the first seven games that you can argue might not have happened if there wasn't the dual focus of the head coach and defensive coordinator.

"These aren't critical statements to hurt anybody or pile on.  Those are just critical, looking at the situation comments, and you can take them as you want."

5 - NARCO SAYS:  Canadian Football Hall of Famer and Rougrhiders great Don Narcisse is an avid listener to the SportsCage.  During our discussion on Thursday about the Roughriders being the most-penalized team in the CFL, Narcisse texted in the following suggestion:

"Rod in 1997 we had a penalty plan," Narcisse wrote.  "For every penalty you take, it's a dollar per yard.  It's a small amount of money but it made the players accountable.  We used the fine money to buy a stereo for the locker room at the end of the season.  For example, a 15-yard penalty costs $15.  It really worked Rod.

"And it has to be the veteran players that get the other players involved.  Keep the coaches out of it.  As a player you hate to give up money no matter how much it is."

I shouldn't have to remind you that Narcisse and the 1997 Roughriders went all the way to the Grey Cup.

Mike McCullough and Scott Schultz were asked their opinions on Narco's suggestion and they both thought it was a great idea, however they agreed it has to be "Players Only".  McCullough said by CFLPA guidelines, coaches cannot institute a fine system such as this.

6 - JUST HAVING FUN:  The Roughriders may be 0-7 but their marketing department is still cheeky.  They've put up a billboard in Ottawa in advance of the August 30 game at TD Place between the RedBlacks and Roughriders.

While the Riders are getting flamed in the nation's capital for such a brazen move, I think it can be chalked up to being "all in good fun".  We're not performing brain surgery here.

The billboard certainly has caught the attention of the RedBlacks, as evidenced by their reaction on Twitter over the weekend (see the photo on the right).

Meanwhile that August 30 game between Saskatchewan and Ottawa has been announced as a sellout at the 24,000-seat TD Place Stadium, the 12th sellout in franchise history.

“We’re humbled by the way Ottawa has embraced the REDBLACKS and made our game days at TD Place such a spectacular experience,” said Jeff Hunt, President of the REDBLACKS parent company, OSEG Sports.  “#RNation was the talk of the country for the enthusiasm shown during our win at home last weekend and I can hardly wait to be part of the celebration at the next game and every game left in the season.”

The hilarious thing is all the barbs going back and forth between these two teams but they don't play for TWO weeks!  There's still a very important game in between for the Green & White, this Saturday at home against Calgary.

7 - THE POWER OF THE MEDIA:  While surfing the internet for NFL news articles over the weekend, one story caught my eye.  Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan said it was the media that got him fired as head coach of the New York Jets, not his record.

“We talk like brothers,” Ryan said of Jets owner Woody Johnson. “And I know Woody never wanted to fire me. I could have been his coach for 20 years, that’s what Woody wanted. There’s no question Woody wanted that.”

But he said he couldn’t have stayed in New York this season.

“There’s no chance that he could have brought in another GM and kept me again. There’s no way. It wouldn’t have worked in New York. They weren’t going to allow it. The media wouldn’t allow it. It wasn’t going to work.”

Instead, after a 4-12 finish last season, both Ryan and general manager John Idzik were fired.

“We’re in the win business … and we’re not winning,” Johnson said at the time.

Does the media really have this much power?  I think we're getting too much credit.

8 - FEELING JOBBED:  The two most high-profile signings in the CFL over the past two years both came from the Montreal Alouettes: receiver Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson and defensive end Michael Sam.  Unfortunately - for different reasons - neither player got to appear in Mosaic Stadium in the second half of the season.  Chad Johnson was scratched for Montreal's game in Saskatchewan in 2014 because of a concussion while Sam scratched himself on Friday, walking away from the Alouettes for a second time.

It's a shame because we haven't seen such noteworthy import players come into Regina with opposing teams since Ricky Williams and the Toronto Argonauts in 2006 (with apologies to B.C.'s Austin Collie).  Incidentally, it was Mike McCullough who ended Ricky Williams' CFL experiment by breaking his arm in the first half of that game.  However Williams recoved to play five more seasons in the NFL before calling it quits and going backpacking.

In the case of Sam, we likely haven't heard the last of him although his signing by Montreal GM Jim Popp didn't yield nearly the results he'd hoped.  It didn't translate to wins and, near as I can tell, didn't sell many extra tickets either.

What a sad story.  Pro football's first openly-gay player only wanted to be treated like everybody else but in the end, he didn't act like everybody else.  Leaving training camp to deal with the break-up with his fiance was scorned by players across the CFL.  Surely they wouldn't walk out of training camp to deal with a break-up themselves?  Or least, that's what they say.

I've heard stories of Sam's antics from his St. Louis Rams teammates which have really made me question his motives.  They weren't reported in the St. Louis media so I won't publicize it here.

But we wish the kid well.  Clearly he has a lot on his mind.

9 - THE THUNDER ROLLS:  The PFC's Regina Thunder was the first home team to win a football game at Mosaic Stadium this year and they did it Saturday night with a 49-32 victory over the Winnipeg Rifles in Week 1.  The Thunder rolled up 227 rushing yards on a chilly night.  You can see the Thunder in action in Week 2 when they host the Edmonton Wildcats Sunday at 2:00 pm at Mosaic Stadium.  Luc Mullinder is the Thunder's defensive line coach and he says they're the "best D-line in the country!"

Starting Thunder quarterback Jaeden Marwick left Saturday's game with what I'm told is a thumb injury but coach Scott MacAulay says it's not serious.

Meanwhile Mike Gibson's University of Regina Rams opened training camp on Sunday at the U of R in the dawn of a new era.  The former Roughrider offensive line coach has certainly brought an enthusiastic vibe to the Rams and he'll be a weekly guest in the SportsCage (Tuesdays at 4:35 pm).  I asked Gibson if the CIS has adopted any of the CFL's new rules and his response via text message was, "No thank God ... lol".  He quickly followed that up with, "Come out to practice some time."  We certainly will.

And Gibson still refuses to refer to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies by name, preferring the term, "that school up north".  I love it.  Stoke the fire.

10 - GOOD NIGHT RED SOX:  The curtain came down on the 2015 Regina Red Sox season on Sunday afternoon by virtue of a 4-3 loss to the visiting Lethbridge Bulls.  The Bulls completed a sweep of the best-of-five WMBL championship series with the victory at Currie Field.  However what a remarkable story the 2015 Red Sox were, overcoming a dreadful start which included a nine game losing streak before rallying just in time to go all the way to the league final.  Hats off to a magnificent job done by skipper Scottie Douglas, GM Bernie Eiswirth, President Gary Brotzel and all the volunteers.  See you next year!


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