It's still too early to write off Zach Collaros but if his injury is anything serious or he doesn’t come around with a better-than-average performance by Labour Day than they haven’t upgraded. These weren’t the only reasons for the loss in Ottawa but they were the biggest. And it makes me wonder if the progress they made throughout the final two thirds of last season has stalled.
2-BRIDGE DISAPPOINTS: Multiple sources from within the building told me last fall that Chris Jones would never go all-in on Brandon Bridge because the quarterback relies too much on his athleticism and not enough on actually following the script. Not sure if any of that has changed and the idea of him being more protectable than Kevin Glenn or Zach Collaros doesn’t carry much weight if he can’t move the ball or make his receivers better than they are. Brandon came back to the Riders in the offseason saying the NFL was interested but wanted to see him play more. Unless these NFL scouts are seeing something I haven’t, that ship is going to sail pretty quickly and he might need a tweak to the import ratio to include quarterbacks in order to save his job in the CFL for 2019.
3-JEREMIAH EARNS RESPECT: Pretty tough to come up with a bigger exclamation point to quiet the Manziel Mania than Jeremiah Masoli’s back-to-back strong outings in an Alberta road trip including Friday night’s win in Edmonton. I’m trying to envision a scenario where the Manziel talk will quiet down but I’m not even sure a 3- or 4-game win streak would do it. Aaron Rodgers was ice under pressure when Brett Favre was being compared to him early in his career and it made him an iron-clad leader. Same thing for Steve Young when he took over from Joe Montana in San Francisco. Jeff Garcia went through it in Calgary when he replaced Doug Flutie. Get my drift? This kind of quarterback controversy will usually break you but if it doesn’t, will make you stronger. Early returns suggest the latter for Jeremiah Masoli.
4-NO MORE RICKY RAY?: Hard to imagine Ricky Ray coming back from that lick he suffered against the Stampeders over the weekend. For a guy about to turn 39 who was iffy about playing this year anyways, I can’t see how much motivation he would have to put himself at that kind of risk again. His base salary will be guaranteed for the season and he really has nothing left to prove anyway. I recall a young backup Anthony Calvillo making his move in Montreal at a time when their starter, Tracy Ham, couldn’t get off the injured list. Ricky turning his attention at this point to mentor James Franklin seems like a match made in heaven for the Argos and more likely scenario than Ricky fighting to get his job back.
5-WHY JIM POPP IS STILL THE BEST GM IN THE CFL: The Riders plan B with their starting quarterback is Brandon Bridge who we are quickly learning hasn’t got much upside. The Argos' is James Franklin who we just don’t know about yet. Not knowing isn’t ideal but it’s still better than what the Riders have. Jim Popp got to Franklin when Chris Jones didn’t. Jones and Wally Buono have proven to be much better Head Coaches than Jim Popp ever was. He never could coach worth a lick. But when it comes to choosing a General Manager to start my football team, I’m going with Jim Popp all the way. Just don’t ever let him coach.
6-REGINA RED SOX PITCHING WORTH PRICE OF ADMISSION: The greatest baseball ever played are the games we all get in and out of the park in under 3 hours. The Regina Red Sox pitching staff has powered the team into 2nd place in the East Division through 9 wins in their last 10 games. A stretch in which they’ve only surrendered 27 runs. That’s an incredible feat in a league where finding quality pitchers is getting tougher with college coaches worrying about pitch counts and inning limits. Manager Mitch MacDonald is still hunting for a couple of extra starters to get their rotation through July but so far Evan Rogers, Kyle Wilson, Peyton Burks and Dylan Bells have been getting the job done with some help from their bullpen. And the games have been as quick as I can recall in the past 3 seasons.
7-WHEN JIMMY FALLON EXPERIENCES REGINA: He’d better get the Dick Assman treatment a la 1995 when Dick got to do the ceremonial kickoff at a Roughrider game and judge a bikini contest. And he had better come down to Currie Field to throw out the opening pitch to the Red Sox game and do a half inning with me in the booth on the webcast. If he’s any good, I might even invite him to stay for the whole inning.
8-OTTAWA REDBLACKS MODEL FOR CFL AND MONTREAL EXPO BRANDING: The Ottawa Redblacks rising up from the CFL ashes of Ottawa is not only an incredible story for how any CFL market can rise up from the dead but also how a trendy, simple, old, historic logo can outsell the NHL in its own backyard. Redblacks gear outnumbers Sens gear in that town at least 2-to-1 these days. Teams like the Argos, Lions and Alouettes can do the same with a trendy retro look in their cities too. And the Redblacks can rise from the dead, so can the Montreal Expos when Major League Baseball decides it’s finally had enough of the Tampa Bay Rays.
9-IF YOU THINK NFL ANTHEM PROTESTS ARE ABOUT WAR VETERANS OR THE FLAG: Then you are probably not paying very close attention.
10-DOCUMENTARY/BOOK OF THE WEEK: I might have recommended “O.J.: Made in America” to you before but I’m going to do it again the ESPN 30 for 30, 5 part miniseries is still fitting today as it shows how Donald Trump’s then-good pal, O.J. Simpson, kept getting what he wanted and so kept pushing the envelope until it eventually blew up in his face. Not sure if that’s what will happen to “The Donald” but still a fitting piece nonetheless.
(Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendanhowardmc)