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Monday, July 4, 2016

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE


REGINA -- A Rider fan named “Jenny” came up with a very interesting, yet simple question regarding Saskatchewan’s 30-17 loss to the Toronto Argonauts in Thursday’s last-ever season-opening game at the old Mosaic Stadium.

“In one word, what did you think of the game?” she quizzed me on Twitter @rodpedersen on Friday.

I can’t even remember what my initial response was – and maybe I should’ve gone with that – but after about 10 seconds of thought, I settled on the term “disappointing”.

The Online Dictionary’s definition of disappointing is: “failing to fulfill someone's hopes or expectations”.

Yeah, that about covers it.

My expectation was that the Saskatchewan Roughriders – after six months of ballyhooed hype with the sweeping new Chris Jones regime – would storm their home field and eke out a close victory over Ricky Ray and the Toronto Argonauts.

Instead, the Roughriders shot themselves in the foot just enough times to come away with a double-digit loss.

I posed Jenny’s question to listeners of our Canada Day edition of the SportsCage on 620 CKRM and we got a wide variety of responses.  They included the words ‘encouraging’, ‘optimistic’, ‘patience’, and ‘determined’.  However the term that was used the most by the Rider Nation was ‘expected’.

That one was a surprise.  To me anyway.  I never expected the Saskatchewan Roughriders would lose that game, nor did long-time Rider player and management-type Jeremy O’Day who joined us on the radio and answered my “one word” query.

“Disappointing,” offered O'Day, mirroring my mindset.  “It’s always disappointing when you lose, especially when it’s your home-opener.  You want to get off to a good start and unfortunately we were unable to make enough plays and avoid the mistakes you need to to win a game.

“As most of the games are, they come down to three or four plays that decide them and that’s what happened to us.”

Those three plays specifically?  1) A 57-yard punt return by Toronto’s Larry Taylor to the Rider 5-yard line on only the game’s fourth play, 2) A 56-yard touchdown reception by Toronto’s Vidal Hazelton on just their second series putting the Argos up 14-0 and 3) A 27-yard “scoop and score” by Toronto safety Matt Black - after a fumble by back-up Rider quarterback Bryant Moniz - which put the Argos up 21-7 late in the second quarter.

That’s it.  Three plays!  And it call came in the home debut of an almost entirely new roster and completely new coaching staff.  Perhaps that’s why so many in the Rider Nation expected this team to fall in their Week 1 game;  it was just too soon to expect perfection given all the moving parts.

In truth, I was mildly shocked at how positive everyone has been beginning with the postgame call-in analysts on CKRM Radio Thursday night followed by all of the fans I’ve spoken with in the days since the game.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Whatever that means.

However I’ve got this nagging feeling of what last year’s braintrust (Taman/Chamblin or O’Day/Dyce) would’ve been subjected to had they lost a game by that same sliver of three plays.  They’d be rioting in the streets around here and calling for heads to roll!

But not one year later.  And that’s because, apparently, Rider Priders are willing to allow Chris Jones the time to bring his plan together.  Some are even saying it’ll take six or nine games for this symphony to be conducted perfectly, however I fear this club could be out of the running if it takes that long.

Will they be in tune enough by this Friday when they visit the Grey Cup-champion Eskimos in the first real return of Chris Jones to Commonwealth Stadium?  It's doubtful.

And for that reason, I'm taking the Esks in our pick pool.

And finally, as they’re building this Roughriders team over the summer, they’re going to have to do it without the services of defensive stalwart Shawn Lemon who was granted his trade request over the weekend.  The Akron product and 6-year CFL veteran was shipped to the Argos on Saturday for quarterback Mitchell Gale and offensive lineman Matt Sewell.

Apparently Lemon was upset over his playing time and the fact he got only 10 plays in Thursday's game compared to his defensive line counterparts Jonathan Newsome (35), Justin Capicciotti (32) and A.C. Leonard (30).

Are the rats fleeing the ship?  Hardly.  However it’s abundantly clear that Chris Jones is a “My Way or The Highway” kind of guy and if you’re not on board, you’re welcome to get off at anytime.

So Shawn Lemon did.

Who’s next?

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MONDAY NOTES

1 - RIDERS NUMBER ONE:  Too much has been made of the fact the Roughriders' home-opener didn't sellout on Thursday night.  The fact is the 29,896 who did show up at Mosaic Stadium represent the largest crowd in the CFL through the opening two weeks!  It's also the highest-attended home-opener and although the RedBlacks haven't staged theirs yet (it's this Friday against Calgary), the most TD Place Stadium can hold is 24,000.  That means the Riders are already the #1 home draw in the Canadian Football League.

Take a bow Rider Nation.

Now if you want to take issue with the fact no crowd in the CFL has been over 30,000 so far this year while the league is on centre-stage with no competition for the NFL or NHL, that's fair game too but it's also a conversation for another time.

2 - ARASH THE CFL-HATER?:  Sportsnet and 620 CKRM CFL Insider Arash Madani was critical of the conduct of the fans attending the Toronto Argonauts home-opener in Week 1 against Hamilton.  Most notably, Madani pointed out how many of them streamed out of the stadium after the third quarter.

It prompted many fans to attack Arash on Twitter, labelling him a "CFL-hater".  The Voice of the Tiger-Cats, Marshall Ferguson, even went on a 20-minute rant on his radio program about Arash although he refrained from referring to him by name.  Ferguson went on to lambaste all anti-CFL types in general, saying their criticisms are more appropriate for the "old CFL" and that the league has taken gargantuan strides in the past few years.

I offered Madani a chance at a rebuttal on the SportsCage last week.

"It's the whole thing where you can't let two dozen people in a little vacuum control a message," Madani scoffed.  "You just kind of let people be.  Whatever.  There's no question that I'm a guy that's going to challenge the CFL and the sports that I cover.  I think that's an important part of what we do as journalists and as broadcasters.

"For some reason this professional league and the people who follow it take it personally and are so sensitive to any kind of scrutiny or criticism that may not be rosy.  It baffles me to be honest."

I mentioned to Arash that he's levied far worse criticism towards NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or the National Hockey League for some of their issues in the past, yet there wasn't any type of backlash like what he faces from the CFL and its fans.

"I'll tell you what - people say 'Oh you're a Rogers shill'.  Whatever that means.  Which is a joke," Madani continued.  "It's an absolute joke.  Never before has anybody at my company told me to do anything negative, positive, up or down with the Canadian Football League.  Okay?  Sometimes you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say 'What do you believe in and what's going on here?'

"Rod you created more of an off-season stir and off-season marketing in April with your predictions for the West Division than the CFL did all winter.  It's unbelievable that people have no problem criticizing disciplinary decisions with the National Hockey League or the concussion crisis in the NFL but if you say something about the CFL, suddenly all the arms are up and everybody's defensive.  C'mon.

"And people say 'Why aren't you comparing CFL ratings with the MLS?'  Well, does the CFL want to be compared with Major League Soccer?  A league that's only been around 10 years?  This is the league that said for years that they draw more viewers for the Grey Cup than the Super Bowl.  Well it doesn't anymore.

"This is the same league whose PR Twitter account proudly boasts that CFL ratings are the most-watched program in Canada every weekend.  Guess what's happened?  The Blue Jays have surpassed them.  In Week 1 this year the CFL was the 7th, 8th and 12th-most watched programs in the country.  The problem is people get their backs up about it rather than realizing they have to evolve and make things better.

"Instead, they just jump back at you.  And Rod, you and I've known each other since 2004 when I was in the front office of the Ottawa Renegades.  If I didn't care about the CFL, why would I watch, follow, Tweet and report about it?"

I think he answered himself well.  And Arash and I will have each others backs until the world stops spinning.

3 - MOVING ON:  The odds have not yet been posted for Friday's Saskatchewan-at-Edmonton CFL game but my guess is that the Grey Cup-champion Eskimos will be favoured by around 6.5-points.  With the Roughriders moving players in and out at a dizzying pace, I suggested on Friday's SportsCage that at some point the team has to settle on the 44-or so players they believe the most in and start working them together as a group.  The talent they already have is undeniable, but clearly team chemistry is still a ways away judging by the gaffes against Toronto.

However the Riders' Jeremy O'Day maintains the quest for the best available players will continue for the foreseeable future.

"The large majority of the players are the guys we're focused on being here, and the guys we're going to go out on the field with," O'Day observed.  "Something we'll never do is stop continuing to try to improve our roster.  If there's any way we can do that, even if it's on the back-end (depth) of it, we're going to try to do that.  That's something we'll never stop doing regardless of the outcome of a game.  We'll always continue to search for players and anyone we feel will help our football team, we're going to continue to do that."

It will be interesting to see who's on the field when the team begins its practice week on Monday.  Josiah St. John will be.

4 - CARTER VS CAMPBELL:  It's so Canadian-ish!  Montreal receiver Duron Carter bowled over Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium and although there was a mild skirmish on the sidelines afterwards, the matter pretty much died within 24 hours.

Holy smokes!  This incident got way more play on ESPN than it did on the Canadian sports networks over the weekend.  Maybe that's because Duron Carter is the offspring of Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, but Canadians basically shrugged the whole situation off.

Imagine if Carolina's Ron Rivera (who like Campbell, lost in the league's title game last season) got pancaked on the sidelines of an NFL game?  The offender would've needed a police escort out of the stadium and it would've led off CNN newscasts!

Thursday's incident in Montreal reminded me so much of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien getting a cream pie in the face in PEI in 2000.

So Canada.

John Murphy
5 - WELCOME TO THE FISHBOWL:  On our Rider Nation Pregame Shows on 620 CKRM we are rotating Assistant V.P.'s John Murphy and Jeremy O'Day on a weekly basis in the spot we've long reserved for the General Manager dating back to the Al Ford days (it airs one hour prior to kickoff).

So for Thursday's pregame show I was joined by John Murphy and I asked him how he's enjoyed Riderville since coming over in December, and if it's all he'd hoped it would be.

"I think it's more," Murphy smiled.  "From dealing with you guys everyday, the coverage is 10 times what it is anywhere else.  The lady in the Coop wants to talk to you, the lady at the gas station just wants a high-five, the night security guy at the hotel we stay at is saying, 'Hey at least I know you're walking in here every night at 10:00 so I know what you're doing everyday!

"So there's a lot of fun interaction with that.  I think all of us have taken very seriously what this team means to the organization, the community, the fans and our sponsors.  We put in the work to make sure the results turn out like we want and not be okay with a victory here or there, or a good season here or there.  We've seen the complacency almost that the fans have gotten into here where they now want us to show it.  There's a reason the home-opener didn't sellout.  You want to bring that excitement to this stadium.  The struggle last year was also a home struggle and fans have a little warming up to do.  But I think the brand of football, the up-tempo style and aggressive on defense and special teams will bring that.

"All of us are excited to see how much hard work Darian Durant has put in to get to this point.  That should not be under-estimated.  He's also been very willing to, with all of this new staff and new players, bring out more of his personality and a little bit more of himself.  He's become more of a vocal leader than I'd heard he was and I give him a ton of credit for that.  He, Labatte, Chris Best and guys like that have taken to an entirely new style of doing things.  Being a Rider means different things now and all of those guys have been open to it.  If you're a Rider fan, you should be very excited."

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ARE YOU EXCITED?  THANKS FOR READING TODAY,
RP
@rodpedersen

24 comments:

S.A.D. said...

One word reflection: Hopeful.

Darian looked good, very good, as and he goes, so goes the team entire. The rest of the squad just needs some gel time, and eliminate mistakes. There is some talent there.

Hopeful.

Brian Shepherd said...

I think we were all disappointed, but to add to that...optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cow! When I woke up and sat at the computer this morning and clicked onto this blog I panicked as I thought I'd screwed up my days and was late for work! Monday Morning goalie on Sunday morning - almost gave me a heart attack .. lol.

Anonymous said...

Nice surprise on a Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Ya no kidding Chamblin and Taman would've faced wrath, the 2015 isn't 85% new like the 2016 team is.

You understand that different circumstances come with different expectations, right??

I don't get why you think for a second it's relevant bringing that up.

Dennis said...

The defence played good aside from the Hazelton td. Special teams are a concern, giving up big plays and our returns were poor. But I am more optimistic about our team than if was a Bomber fan right now.

Rod Pedersen said...

Because most Rider fans don't look that far into it.

Dick Rubnutz said...

I was pleasantly surprised with our team. Sure we lost, but I was expecting much more difficulty against a very good and veteran team in the Argos. Darian was making most of his throws and the ones he did miss I think is easily correctable with more playing time. Our new crop of receivers all looked like they belong. Our secondary has some very good athletes that just need some more time together to really excel.

I'm excited to see where this team ends up. Like Coach Jones said, we're ahead of where he thought they'd be at this time and I believe him.

Great thing ahead boys and girls

Anonymous said...


Game was close. A couple blown coverages changed the game. DD is a great player but didn't play great and didn't move the team. He needs to be much better. Twice not getting first downs on 1 and short meant 14 points. Had the offense been moving well those situations wouldn't have arisen. That was the game. After the first two blown coverages our defence didn't give Ray much at all the rest of the way. I think Jones was expecting more from DD.

Management was able to sign St John to a long term deal. They were able to trade a cancer for huge young starting Canadian O-lineman and a QB. Bravo! People were beefing when they gave up an American for a Canadian. WELL they have given up an American for a Canadian talent. Where are all the Kudos?

They lost because the players shot themselves in the foot. The coaches can't teach them to hold on to the ball right!! I think the critique delivered here was unwarranted and unnecessary. The sample sizing is far too small to draw any conclusions or articulate any credible opinion yet.

JackD83 said...

Hate to say it but I agree with Rod the Esks will not let Chris Jones get his first Roughrider coaching win in Edmonton. Mass will be looking for his against Mr Jones. The 16th vs BC will be our first win IMO

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if the public can watch Argo practice this week. Any details as to practice times at Mosaic and whether they are accessible? It would be a treat to watch Ricky Ray and his team scrimmage and see how the Argo's excellent head coach runs his show. We need them to win against other western division teams. Go Argos!

Rod Pedersen said...

Argos practice 2 pm daily at Mosaic Stadium including today (Sunday).

willy said...

Riders will play their Butts off for Jones and come up with a tight win in Edmonton is my prediction. Durant has to be hot and his receivers have to have glue on their hands, our running game will take care of the rest.

Ryan said...

The problem with Madani isn't that he challenges the CFL, it's that he says things that are false just to be a jersey and that's why people think he is Anti-CFL. His comment about the streakers was false and only said to put a damper on the excitement of BMO and that's what Marshall called him on. In terms of his Rogers bias, he never "challenges" anything that the blue jays management/owners do, such as the Atkins and AA debacle. He also doesn't challenge the flaming mess that HNIC has turned into. So he will get that moniker. Unless you give him a chance to do that on the radio?

This Guy said...

It's just nice to see that rider fans aren't running around with pitch forks. This season seems similar to when we rebuilt when we brought in chamblin. That was when we discovered a diamond in the rough named Sheets. Who's going to be our diamond in the rough this year to help drive rider nation to the top in 2 years? Talking with a colleague today we concluded a 5+ win this year would be a success. The labour day game may just be our grey cup this year. Next year in the new stadium, the Cfl better watch out as the riders will be on top once again!

Dubya said...

I'll challenge Arash's comments. First off, I don't disagree with what he said about the CFL having not done much for marketing in the off season when they should have. But Arash also never cares to discuss anything positive with the CFL and the good things that came out of the Argos rebirth, etc. And he won't. Arash isn't stupid, he knows who signs his checks. Maybe he hasn't gotten any direct orders from Rogers to trash the CFL but he knows full well that if he heaps praise on them, he'll be getting a phone call from his superiors because that'll be pushing people to watch programming on their main competition TSN. Can't have that, especially with NHL numbers in the toilet. Rogers has made it a priority to mention the CFL as little as possible, whether its Sportsnet Central or especially Tim and Sid. Marshall Hamilton summed it up best, the NFL snobs have an agenda of trashing the CFL every single chance they get. Tim and Sid do, that one Toronto broadcaster on Fan 590 does, etc.

Parkside said...

Arash likes to brag about the Jays. Which is cool and all, I love the Jays. Joe Carter hit his series winning homer on my birthday. But its one team that brings a nation together. The ratings should be good. But don't compare ratings Jays vs CFL to make your company sound better. How about those NHL ratings?....

Rod Pedersen said...

Hey Parkside! Did you win your DraftKings pool?

RP

Jarrett Rusnak said...

Arash tweeted that the loudest BMO got for the home opener was when a streaker took the field. This statement was a bold faced lie - an attitude reflective of his employer's desire to obliterate the CFL - a Canadian institution - because because Rogers is only capable of viewing the league as an intellectual property broadcast on a rival network.

I was at the game in BMO. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric - two bitter rivals opening a new season in a new stadium. Pregame festivities were amazing – the 300-piece marching band brought the crowd to their feet. There was a moment in the 3rd quarter when my hair stood on end and my skin tingled – everyone who was there knows exactly what moment that was.

I will go as far to say that the atmosphere in BMO was more electric than the home opener at Mosaic Stadium (which I also attended). The stakes were higher. After suffering the indignity of playing at Rogers Centre - being forced to play 'home' games in Hamilton in 2015 – the journey the Argos and their fans took to arrive at that moment was harder, more arduous, and sweeter.

Even Hamilton fans stood on their feet and celebrated with Argo fans in recognition of this occasion. The game really was secondary to what that day meant to the franchise.

The Argos finally had a home to call their own.

MetalRocks said...

While we are rotating players in and out....could we please get a back up QB? Making me nervous here!!!

Dubya said...

Further to that last comment, Rod you mentioned regarding the CFL haters versus proponents, this isn't an election and you don't need to have both sides of the debate. I really think you should because it's a conversation that needs to be had. There are far too many media types in this country who view the CFL as a second rate league and have no desire to help it succeed. Get Marshall Hamilton on and he can explain his side of the story. Even better would be a live debate between him and Arash but obviously that's not going to happen. You're buddies with Arash and you're not going to throw him under the bus, plus if he were to lose such a debate he'd be in huge trouble with his employer. Maybe the CFL isn't doing everything right just yet but we need to have a dialogue as to how we as the grassroots fan base and media can help the process along and make the league even better. Constructive criticism is not a bad thing, unlike the malicious criticism Rogers spews out.

Rod Schubert said...

Good for Arash, the CFL does deserve some criticism, and it's not blasphemous to say it. Doesn't make you a "CFL hater". Look at the league website, it's terrible. Officiating seems to get worse every year. Salary cap rules lead to massive turnover from year to year which makes it really hard to get attached to your team's star players. And could the league not, once and for all, request that TSN employ some better play-by-play people than Rod Black??? TSN should be calling you up Rod, you'd be a massive upgrade!

Russell Cone said...

Thanks for the information Rod.

One question, did Lemon request the trade or was the team wanting to trade him before the request? Seems like I've read both.


Safe travels to Edmonton. Go Riders!


Russ from Saskatoon

Parkside said...

Hey RP, actually I did win one of them. haha.