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Thursday, December 3, 2015



1. The events of the past few days are EXACTLY why I wanted no part of this General Manager search by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  The CFL's top two insiders - TSN's Gary Lawless and Sportsnet's Arash Madani - are in a dogfight to see who can report what, and the fastest, in this process.  That has caused a few problems.

Not all of the information that was reported on Wednesday is correct however there seems to be a bit of a gray area.  Madani reported that the Roughriders "did indeed" offer the Coach & GM roles to John Hufnagel however he turned them down.  The Riders maintained, through Lawless, that Hufnagel turned them down before they even had a chance to make an offer (and there was no money mentioned).

See what I mean?  I'm not sure Arash was entirely wrong, but that's how dicey this can get.

2. Some people are on the hotseat for leaking information but I'm happy to say I'm not one of them.  I truly have no idea which direction the Riders are leaning, what their day-to-day activities are in terms of conducting interviews, and am happy to keep it that way.  This way, when I get asked 15-20 times per day who the Rider GM is going to be, I don't have to lie or keep a secret.  Secondly, when the loose lips do sink the ship, at least the finger's not being pointed at me.

Ahhhhhhhhhh.  What a relief.

3. Madani reported on Wednesday that Jeremy O'Day's formal interview with the Roughriders will be today while Chris Jones will interview on Friday.  It would seem this search has come down to a race between these two?  Perhaps the Riders can have both candidates because if Jones is named GM, he'd need to rely heavily on Jeremy.  However, I'm still not convinced Jones is a GM type and my feeling is O'Day still has the inside track.  If Jones is in fact a Don Mathews-reincarnate (and he is, top-to-bottom, inside-out), consider this: Don Mathews was never a CFL GM.  This will be up to Craig Reynolds to decide, and that's why he gets the big bucks.

But I know this: the Riders feel this is a can't-lose situation because Jeremy O'Day is a shining star and no matter what, will be a good selection if it comes down to him.  Jones would be just as big of a roll of the dice as hiring O'Day.

Surfing the Edmonton media today, they're talking as if Jones is already gone.   It's interesting that he hasn't even interviewed yet!

The feeling in the CFL today is that this is Jones' job if he wants it. That's an easy decision for Reynolds to make because Jones is the sexy pick and if it blows up, it's all on Jones. But Craig may view this whole scenario differently.

4. One has to wonder if all of these reportings by the insiders are hurting the process?  Would the eventual successful candidate be miffed to be considered "second choice"?  Is the Rider Nation getting its hopes up only to eventually be letdown even though they're basing their feelings on incorrect reporting?  SHEESH.  That's why I'd prefer to just let Craig Reynolds conduct this process and announce the winner in a couple of weeks.

5. Another thing Arash Madani reported on Wednesday is entirely correct: that there's a sense of urgency on this hiring for the Saskatchewan Roughriders because the CFL's annual President/GM meetings are next week in Las Vegas and the Riders don't even have a GM yet.  Perhaps, if these interviews go well over the next couple of days, the hiring will be accelerated and we'll have an announcement next week while I'm in Florida.

6. I'd be willing to virtually guarantee that 2015 was Paul Lapolice's last as host of the Coach's Playbook on TSN.  Gary Lawless reports that the Blue Bombers desperately want Lapolice to accept their offer to become their next offensive coordinator position and he likely will if and when he exhausts options in B.C., Saskatchewan and wherever else (wait a minute, we wrote that here in this column a few weeks back?)  Meh, let's let Lawless get the glory.  He's doing a splendid job of covering all this stuff and I think I'll even stop referring to him as "Gary Clueless".

The info and rumours are flying to fast and furious that I'm sure you're like me; you can't remember who reported what.  But somebody said yesterday Special Teams Coordinator Craig Dickenson could be on the move out of Edmonton after two seasons with the Eskimos.  The destinations are Saskatchewan or Calgary, depending where Jones lands.  The Stampeders could be a stretch, as they're ecstatic with Mark Killam in that role but Craig's little brother Dave is now the Stamps head coach.

Another league note:  kudos to long-time Eskimos equipment manager Duane Mandrusiak for capturing his ELEVENTH Grey Cup ring Sunday night.

7. I got a tip this week that it's true -- those new CFL logos were indeed hastily painted onto the turf at Investors Group Field for Sunday's Grey Cup game after a monumental ball-dropping by the League Friday morning at the Commissioner's news conference.  AND, if the tip is true, the League is considering keeping the old logo which was introduced 15 years ago by then-Commissioner Michael Lysko.  We'll see, but that would be a great idea.  No harm, no foul.  Let's move on.  Maybe the logo which was introduced last Friday could be some sort of secondary logo for the League.

8. Speaking of logos, the Riders hit it out of the park on Wednesday with their news conference regarding the Farewell Season of 2016.  The Rider locker room was nearly filled to capacity with sponsors of the club and afterwards some of them mentioned they didn't really get what the fuss was about.  "It was a news conference about nothing," one of them said to me.  However, that person couldn't be more wrong and are suffering from a lack of forward thinking.  The 2016 Roughriders season is going to be ALL ABOUT the fact it's the last in Mosaic Stadium/Taylor Field and Wednesday's announcement was to get a jump on it.

The exact same thing is going on up in Edmonton at Rexall Place and the concourse is filled with pennants commemorating the final season at the old "Northlands Coliseum".  It actually puts a lump in the old throat for those of us who were Oiler fans way back in the day (a part of me still very much is, but God are they painful).

So the Riders announced their logo for the Farewell Season on Wednesday (which is displayed a few posts below), unveiled a clothing line, and are ready to hit the ground running.  Genius!  The Riders have always down the right thing for as long as I can remember and this is just another example.  I expect their GM hire will be the right decision as well.  The club actually unveiled TWO commemorative logos on Wednesday, one with four colours and another with just two.  I like the second of them because it's a little more subtle, but everyone has their own opinion.

9. It's been incredibly tough planning the SportsCage because of all the news which has been breaking across the CFL on a seemingly hourly basis.  Wednesday was nuts with the news in B.C. of Jeff Tedford's resignation or firing (depending on who you believe), the retirement of Jon Cornish and all the goings-on with the Roughriders.  We tried to slip in new NHL analyst Rich Sutter of Rogers Sportsnet on Wednesday but barely had any time for him.  For the most part, we're leaving today's show wide open to address all of this speculation.  And that's the fun part.

10. Remember the Regina Pats?  They spanked the Saskatoon Blades 5-0 last night at SaskTel Centre to improve to 3-3-1 on their nine-game rodeo trip.  The wheat gets separated from the chaff in the WHL on December 1 and it's beautiful to see that the Pats are in a playoff spot as of that date.  They are "rebuilding on the fly" and may be able to do it without missing a playoff spot.

You can watch the Queen City Kids on Friday on Access 7 province-wide Friday night as I'll be broadcasting their game along with Jared Dumba live from Brandon's Westman Communications Group Place at 7:00 against the Wheat Kings.  We're taking the SportsCage on the road in order to call the road game on TV so we'll be live on 620 CKRM at 4:00 pm from Brandon.  It'll be mostly hockey, but we'll have legendary Rider figures George Reed and Norm Fong on after 6:00 pm so tune in for that.