Realty One

Titan Auto

Monday, September 21, 2015



1 - A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS:  The look on Rider receiver Ryan Smith's face during Saturday's 30-27 home loss to the Ottawa RedBlacks tells you all you need to know about the mood in Riderville these days.  That loss left the Riders' record at 1-11 and has put them in a considerable bind with six games to go.  According to CFL Statistics, the Riders can't afford a loss in their remaining games if they hope to make the playoffs in 2015.

Don't laugh.  Quarterback Kevin Glenn told the media at his postgame news conference Saturday night that no one's throwing in the towel just yet.

"I don't think the season's over with," Glenn deadpanned.  "We've got Montreal coming in, a team that we're chasing and B.C. lost this weekend.  I don't think we're out of it based on how many games we have left.  I don't think anybody will ever punch out.  It's not over till it's over.  We have to hope that other teams help us out but that's just the nature of the sport."

Winning six in a row will be a tall order for a team that's only been able to win once in 12 games already this season.  And really, their schedule's been somewhat soft considering seven of those games have been at home and they've only faced division leaders Calgary and Edmonton once each.  They've lost four games to bad B.C. and Winnipeg teams. The final third game of the season could aptly be named Murderer's Row.

How tragic, in football terms. They're playing their asses off week after week but are 1-11.

Can anybody else see where this is going if it's not headed off at the pass?  In 2013 the Riders were clobbering everything in their path, winning games by double digits.  In 2014 before the Durant injury they were just eaking out wins, and then couldn't win at all without their QB.  In 2015 they've been losing games by the narrowest of margins, in fact a league record for thin futility.  The way it's going (if you were to draw a graph of the Riders' results the past three seasons), the next logical step would be to be blown out in games in 2016.

That is, unless the new regime can change the franchise's direction and that's the goal for whomever it winds up being.  More on that futher down in the column.

2 - HOLDING OUT HOPE:  There's no question the Roughriders will continue their focus of "one game at a time" heading into this Sunday's home game against Montreal - the annual Plaza game - as long as they still have a heartbeat.  In his postgame comments, interim Riders coach Bob Dyce said he knows no other way to prepare for a game than to win at all costs and field the best lineup.  That would include starting Kevin Glenn at quarterback since he proved against Ottawa he still presents the best chance of winning at the quarterback position.

And the notion of the Darian Durant's season-ending injury costing the Riders the 2015 season really is a mirage.  Saskatchewan's allowed the most points, given up the most sacks, taken the most penalties and is last in the turnover ratio through 12 weeks this season.  9th, 9th, 9th and 9th in a 9-team league.

However they still have tickets, jerseys, t-shirts and caps to sell and they'll continue to sell "hope" right along with it.

If nothing else, the Rider Nation is proving its mettle as the best fanbase in pro football with crowds consistently over 30,000 throughout this disastrous season.  If Mosaic Stadium had the capacity of the 24,000-seat TD Place Stadium in Ottawa, our home sellout streak would be around 100 games.

The tickets aren't printed with a guarantee of playoff contention or even if the game will be exciting but more often than not, the Rider home games this year have been heart-stoppers.

The forecast for next weekend calls for sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20's Celsius so it should be another fantastic atmosphere at the Grand Old Lady as the Roughriders are truly down to their final out.

The Riders' Most Outstanding Player this season truly has been the 13th Man.

3 - TRADE TALKS:  With this season on the verge of going up in smoke, there have been loud murmurs within the Rider Nation about the possibility of trading veteran QB Kevin Glenn to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats since they lost their starting pivot, Zach Collaros, to a knee injury on Saturday.  (An update on the severity of the injury is expected to be provided on Monday).

If the Riders are considering such a move, we likely won't know about it until it happens (if it happens at all).  That's the nature of how this new Roughriders regime will work; interim GM Jeremy O'Day is as tight-lipped as they come, which is probably a good thing.  However my sources in Hamilton say, at this time, there is no appetite to acquire Kevin Glenn since it's likely too late in the year for him to satisfactorily digest their complicated offense.  Plus, they're comfortable with the quarterbacks they have behind Collaros.

Meanwhile Roughriders defensive end John Chick set the Twitterverse ablaze Sunday evening when he posted a selfie from the Regina Airport with the caption, "Just leaving for Toronto.  Announcement coming tomorrow. #SunLife @CFL Stay tuned".  The truth is Big John is headed to Toronto for a national Diabetes campaign announcement on Monday sponsored by Sun Life.  However it was entertaining to watch the hysteria in the Rider Nation Sunday night when fans thought Chick had been dealt to the Argos.

4 - O'DAY QUOTE #1:  Regina-based Chicago Blackhawks scout Bruce Franklin noted over lunch last week at the new Regina Keg that "coaches are shortsighted and GM's are longsighted" when it comes to their respective approaches to the fortunes of their franchise.  It really is no different from sport-to-sport so with that in mind, I asked Roughriders GM Jeremy O'Day if his mind is on the "now" or on the "future" of his franchise.

"That's a great, great million dollar question: how do you balance the two of them?" O'Day observed.  "With letting the players know winning the game is the most important thing but also keeping the focus on the future.  I think that's something you have to do - especially as a GM - is you have to obviously want to win every game, prepare for every game, but also keep in the back of your mind the need to prepare for the future so that you'll be in the best spot to win in the future."

O'Day was careful in selecting his words, and wasn't ready to lay his cards on the table from his position in the General Manager's chair.

"That's my job, to balance the two, and provide the coaching staff with the best possible players available and manage the roster so you don't affect their ability to put the players on the field that they want to have out there," O'Day said.  "We understand the situation we're in, and our record, but we haven't thrown in the towel by any means.  You can see that with the philosophy of going back to Kevin this week, that we want to win and we want to get that winning feeling back.  It's just a better atmosphere when you win."

5 - O'DAY QUOTE #2:  Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba spent the 2011-2013 seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and in 2013 was named the club's Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Most Outstanding Canadian.  That earned him a contract with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts where he spent the 2014 season however he was waived by the club two weeks ago.

Muamba is now fielding offers from the Blue Bombers, B.C. Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats about a return to the CFL and I asked O'Day if they'll be making a pitch to the free agent.

"The thing I'd like everyone to know is that any time there's a player on the market that we believe would help our team, we'll go down the path of at least getting our name in the hat and also exploring that opportunity that's presented to us at the time," O'Day explained.

"Unfortunately in this circumstance, we've actually reached out to his agent to see what the contract demands are and also to look at our own salary cap and where it's at.  The bottom line for us is it just doesn't work with the cap situation that we're in right now.  Aside from what you may hear, we are probably out of those sweepstakes but we did do our homework.  We looked into it and looked at the potential of trying to get in that game but unfortunately with our cap, we're not in a position to do that."

Great question:  what will it take for O'Day to have the "interim" tag removed from his title?  Don't expect that to happen any time early in the off-season because with Marc Trestman's NFL Baltimore Ravens off to an 0-2 start, the whispers are getting louder in CFL circles that the Riders will make a SIGNIFICANT pitch to Trestman to get him here as a Coach/GM combo for 2016 and beyond.

6 - O'DAY QUOTE #3:  The Roughriders have also had in-depth talks with free agent offensive lineman Ben Heenan who was waived by the Indianapolis Colts in August after suffering a meniscus tear.  As was reported on this blog last week, Heenan is back in Regina (where he spent the 2012-2014 CFL seasons) plotting his next move.  Heenan's availability was another question I posed to Jeremy O'Day.

"We've had contact with both Ben and his agent," O'Day reported.  "Ben's obviously in Saskatchewan and he's come in and seen us.  Right now Ben is in a waiting process of waiting for his knee to get better.  From that point, he's going to relay to us and evaluate where he's at with both CFL and NFL opportunities and from there he'll make a decision that's best for him.

"We've communicated to him that we'd like to be informed through the process and stay in touch with him and his agent.  He was great with that.  He's been really first-class to talk to.  He's following this team like a fan right now and a lot of his true friends are in that locker room that he's feeling for.  He's like a lot of people who are hoping that we get it turned around.  But he's focused on getting his knee back to full health before he starts to make any decisions."

7 - HENNNNNNRRRYYYYYYY:  RedBlacks quarterback Henry Burris certainly stuck it where the sun don't shine on Saturday night didn't he?  Hank's 477 passing yards against Saskatchewan were an Ottawa pro football record and the 40-year old betrayed his age in gunning down the Riders' secondary all night long.  With Zach Collaros now on the shelf, Burris is moving to centre-stage in the campaign for CFL's Most Outstanding Player, and also perhaps leading his team to the top of the East Division.  Is he a part of the RedBlacks' long-term plan?

"I think if he were to ask him he'd tell you he's got 10 years left!" reporter Tim Baines of the Ottawa Sun said on our pregame show Saturday.  "He's got one year left on his contract.  He's playing at a very high level right now and part of it is a great offensive scheme.  He's got a great set of receivers.  I think Henry will get through next year and we'll see where they go from there."

8 - A FINE MESS:  I've made no secret of the fact Roughriders running back Jerome Messam is fast becoming my favourite player on the 2015 team.  He's playing balls-out and hasn't hidden from the media during this distasteful season.  However he got his bell rung in Winnipeg last Saturday when led him through the standard concussion protocal tests last week, which he passed.  However he didn't exactly give himself a vote of confidence when discussing it with reporters.

"I feel good.  I had the day off on Tuesday," Messam smiled.  "Was it Tuesday?  Yeah it was Tuesday.  No, I feel good.  I followed the protocol, passed my concussion tests, and feel good."

With three former CFL'ers reportedly launching lawsuits against the League for the head trauma they are experiencing in retirement, I had to take the opportunity to ask Messam if - as a running back - he's concerned about the damage these head hits will be causing later in life.

"Honestly I've thought about it," Messam admitted.  "It's tough as a football player because since we're kids we're taught to be warriors and have a warrior mentality, and you've got 50 other guys out here counting on you.  You've got to do what's best for you, for your future, and really sit down and think about these things, which I have.  If I wasn't ready to play, I don't think I'd be out here."


9 - VERY SASKATOONISH!:  The University of Regina Rams are understandably seething over their 33-18 loss at the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Friday night which dropped their record to 0-3.  Noah Picton and company waged an admirable war against their provincial rivals but felt the game was ripped out of their hands by questionable calls from local officials.  Two contested turnovers went in Saskatoon's favour at key points in the game which caused a heated discussion between Rams coach Mike Gibson and head referee Mike Ciona.

"You're taking over the game!" Gibson snarled as he walked away from Ciona, and the Shaw TV cameras caught it all.  "Are we okay coach?" Ciona responded.  "Are we okay?"

Ciona seemed in control of the game and was doing a very admirable job but, without the benefit of video review like his CFL colleagues, was left at the whim of his officiaiting crew.

Shaw announcers Jim Mullin and Jesse Lumsden regularly questioned the job done by the officials for the balance of the broadcast.

Honestly I wasn't as riled up as the Rams because I have no dog in the hunt but this is a Regina blog and from a Rams' point of view, they certainly got jobbed in a game they could ill-afford to lose.

On another note, 6476 fans turned out to Griffiths Stadium Friday night on Support Our Troops Night and the camera shots of all the soldiers in the stands caused a patriotic lump in the throat.  Have the Roughriders ever held a Support Our Troops Night?  That would be a great promotion to pack the park.

10 - A GREAT WEEK AHEAD:  The SportsCage will be live on location on 620 CKRM on Monday from the annual George Reed Golf Classic at the Wascana Golf and Country Club as I'll be joined by Luc Mullinder and Mike Abou-Mechrek.  On Thursday, Kelly Remple and I will be live from Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw as the Pats and Warriors faceoff in the opening game of the 50th WHL season.  Then on Friday we'll be live from the 2015 Plaza of Honor Induction Dinner at the Credit Union Eventplex as we get set to enshrine Scott Schultz and Tim McCray.

It's always fun times around here, no matter our teams' records.


IG: ridervoice