10 MONDAY MORNING LATE HITS
1 - THERE ARE NO WORDS: Two days later, there are still no positive words to describe Saturday's 53-7 Saskatchewan Roughriders loss at Hamilton which dropped the beleagured club's record to 1-7. However there are some words. Inexcusable, inexplicable and beyond disappointing all come to mind. There really is no lipstick to put on that pig.
While watching the team's practice sessions leading up to the game, the thought echoed in my mind that "This offense wouldn't scare anybody right now". They only mustered a pair of field goals and a punt single against the Ticats, but the defense let the club down too.
The "Us Against The World" theme of last week denigrated into "Us Against Ourselves" as the Rider playmakers failed to make plays and an array of penalties shot off just about every toe the club had.
After a display like that, it's tough to make the case that the football club is getting better.
A Rider fan who made the trip to Hamilton - Lane from Saskatoon - said to me in the Sheraton Hamilton before the game, "Watching this team in training camp, you'd never think they'd be 1-6".
It's true. But the Riders were putting together a punishing ground attack at that time which included Xavier Fulton, Brendon Labatte, Dan Clark, Chris Best and Thaddeus Coleman on the offensive line with Matt Vonk and Andrew Jones as tightends and Curtis Steele in the backfield.
Right now, Fulton, Labatte, Clark, Best and Steele are all on the injured list with no sign of return.
If you got Chris Jones alone with no microphones or cameras around, he'd likely tell you that's the biggest reason for the club's first-half demise. However he wants to build a culture of "No Excuses" and knows Rider fans won't accept anything less.
2 - THEM'S THE BREAKS: Even when the Roughriders threatened to wake up early in Saturday's game, the CFL's Command Centre snatched momentum out of their hands. With Saskatchewan trailing 10-0 late in the first quarter, rookie defensive back Justin Cox picked off Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros at the Saskatchewan goal line and it could've been a big swing in the game. However "upon review", rookie Rider cornerback Kacy Rodgers was called for Illegal Contact after tugging at a Ticats receiver's jersey far away from the play. The Ticats retained possession and wound up with a field goal for a 13-0 lead.
Later in the game, in a similar situation, upon review, what appeared to be clear Pass Interference penalty in the endzone by a Ticats defender was deemed fair play by replay official Jake Ireland.
Riders Head Coach & GM Chris Jones was surprisingly calm about those situations when asked about it on 620 CKRM's postgame show.
"The CFL's put this new (P-I) rule in. This is what they wanted," Jones responded. "Sometimes they go your way but right now it seems nothing's going our way. We have to keep grinding. I know the hearts in the room and how much it means to them. They know how much it means to the people of our province. Eventually it'll fall in place. We got a lotta young kids."
The same instances occurred the week before in the Riders' 19-10 home loss to Calgary.
Why even have referees if somebody's going to play God in the Command Centre in critical situations?
If you have to enforce these ridiculous rules, at least enforce them all the time.
Now with the NFL and CFB starting up, the CFL is in serious jeopardy of losing viewers and ticket-buyers.
3 - HURTING THE CFL: Just putting this out there -- when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are hurting, so too is the entire Canadian Football League.
For instance, what if I said "Don't bother going to the game in Edmonton this Friday because the Riders are going to get smashed anyway."
10,000 Rider fans staying away from Commonwealth Stadium this week - at an average ticket price of $50 - would cost the Edmonton Eskimos $500,000.
(I'd never make that statement in the first place, particularly since the Esks have graciously provided my family four tickets for the game).
And how are ticket sales going for the 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto?
With an 0-9 start last season, Rider fans found other things to do with their money rather than going to the 2015 Grey Cup in Winnipeg. The CFL and the Blue Bombers definitely felt the pinch.
Maybe some of the breaks should start going the Riders' way.
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Ticats defensive end John Chick alluded to the "circus in Riderville" when addressing reporters at his team's walk-through on Friday at Tim Hortons Field. You can't blame John for still feeling jilted by Jones and Co. for his off-season, life-altering release and no one around here had a problem with his comments. If the Riders had a do-over, they likely wouldn't have set Chick free in the first place but that's small consolation now.
Chick certainly had the last laugh Saturday night with a pair of sacks and a forced fumble.
TSN 1150 Hamilton radio host Jim Tatti said last week the Riders "should be embarrassed" by the litany of fines the club has received over the past few weeks. It's a narrative we've heard from coast-to-coast lately and it will likely linger for awhile.
To me, the CFL has some fault in this for not disclosing all fines in its weekly news release of player discipline. To date, the fines for the Rider intro violation in Calgary and Darian Durant's uniform violation still haven't been formally announced by the league.
If they want to keep these types of penalties under wraps, the CFL shouldn't be upset when teams or players disclose them themselves. Calgary quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell did just that last week, days before the CFL got around to announcing his fine for Tweeting about the Riders which put the spotlight on Roster-Gate.
5 - BREAKING NEWS: The MMG is going on the 1-Game Injured List with a sprained thumb after blocking so many Twitter trolls from various CFL cities over the past week. Hundreds of them. The most wonderful feature in all of social media is Twitter's "BLOCK" option, where with a couple of quick taps on your Iphone, the hatred is silenced.
A lot of the vitriol the last few days has come from fans of other CFL teams - and even some fringe media types - for my prediction of the Roughriders to finish in first-place in the West Division this year. HEY, do I need to remind people again that in 2001 when I predicted Saskatchewan would struggle to make the playoffs, I received a death threat?
Objectivity is not worth my life.
I'm a play-by-play guy who picked his own team to finish in first-place. Wow. Lock me up and throw away the key.
6 - WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?: Those were the words of the immortal John Lynch on radio many times over the past number of decades when Canada's Team was struggling through spells like this. Some Rider fans wrote into this blog over the weekend saying, "It's never been worse than this" but that's nonsense. It's dubious to point out, but the club has been through far worse stretches.
When do you really ever know what's "rock bottom"? How do you know how much stress is actually required to go on "stress leave"?
Saskatchewan is only three seasons removed from a Grey Cup championship whereas Ottawa (40 years), Winnipeg (26 years) and Hamilton (17 years) all are carrying far bigger bags of rocks.
However Saturday's lopsided loss in Hamilton was the worst blowout the Riders have absorbed since 2000.
And that 2000 season is coming up a lot recently. There are certainly some parallels to 2016. It was the first year of the Roy Shivers/Danny Barrett regime and the Riders - under Defensive Coordinator Gary Etcheverry - deployed 11 rookies on its starting defense. It was nothing for the Riders to allow 50 points or more on a weekly basis. It mattered little that prized free agent Rider quarterback Henry Burris - at the tender age of 25 - was putting up 40 points on offense.
It was a rebuild then just as it's a rebuild now, however we're now realizing why CFL coaches and GMs are loathe to use that term. It means a lot of pain, and being able to do nothing about it other than exercising a great deal of patience.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders of 2000 finished at 5-12-1 and out of the playoffs.
That very same season Bill Belichick took over the New England Patriots and led them to a 5-11 record. They too missed the playoffs.
So Rider fans, if history is any indication, we could very well be headed towards a five win season and that's exactly what Rider great Wayne Shaw predicted in training camp because there was simply too much turnover of the roster.
Whether the Riders make the playoffs or not this year is anybody's guess.
When asked in Saskatoon in June what it will take for this season to be a deemed a success, Roughrider President Craig Reynolds responded, "We gotta make the playoffs".
But if they don't, what will the consequences be?
Chris Jones isn't going anywhere and the man will be allowed to finish what he started even if the rebuild extends all through 2016 and beyond.
Although he's not any happier with 1-7 than you and me, Craig Reynolds isn't panicking.
Nor should you.
To quote the great Art Buchwald, "Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got."
7 - RAZZ MA TAZZ: Much has been made about Lions linebacker Jason Arakgi setting a new CFL record for special teams tackles with his 185th Friday night verus Calgary, and deservedly so. However Rider Hall of Famer Dan Rashovich has been getting somewhat worked up over the fact that if they had counted Special Teams tackles prior to 1991, he'd be the runaway winner atop the list.
"Razz" had 153 Special Teams tackles over the final nine of years of his 16-year career, however the league only kept track of that stat for half of his career. As we all know, Dan battled significant injuries in the twilight of his career. Being conservative and calculating at the same rate of tackles in his first (prime) seven seasons, he would have had an additional 119 tackles making his career total 272. That's being conservative. It's not a stretch to think that Dan could've achieved 300 ST tackles for his career.
That's a record that, if kept track of, likely never would be broken.
8 - SNOOP A LOOP: A hearty congrats this morning to Calgary Colts coach Mathew "Snoop" Blokker who recorded his 100th career victory in Calgary's 36-17 victory over the Regina Thunder on Sunday. The former longtime Vancouver Island Raiders head coach has a staff in Calgary which includes former CFL'ers Tim Kearse and Marvin Pope.
9 - FIRE THE CANNONS!: Another key PFC note from the weekend is that Winnipeg Rifles running back Micheal Richott rushed for 358 yards on 33 carries on Saturday against the Edmonton Wildcats. That puts him in the top five single game performances in PFC history. Ironically, it came against Edmonton and the Wildcats have four players in the top five.
10 - BUTLER'S: The weeks of having a weekend day off are coming to an end due to the fact the CFL switches to Sunday games in the fall, however yesterday we were able to enjoy another glorious trip to Regina Beach. We visited the BlueBird Cafe on Main Street, now in its 88th year. However everyone refers to the place as Butler's Fish & Chips. What's the reason for this?
Either way, I enjoyed the fish & chips even though it's the most calorie-rich meal you can order.
Why not live a little? With the Riders at 1-7, some comfort food was in order.
Congrats to Regina Pats great Jordan Eberle who proposed to Lauren Rodych on the weekend!
She said yes.
THAT'S IT FOR TODAY! SEE YOU ON THE RADIO AT 4:00 PM