Then the reverse from what sounded like either Rider CEO Craig Reynolds or CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie to sit Hughes out after all. By Friday night it seemed like the Green & White had backed themselves into a corner by first putting winning over taking the moral high ground and then changing their minds just in time to alienate the fans who supported the decision to play Hughes to begin with.
Once again it was Willie Jefferson and the defense to the rescue (for the umpteenth time) and Zach Collaros and the offense to save the day (for the first time).
The Riders come out of this smelling like roses all around. Chris Jones stood up for his player. Management took the moral high ground. The players get their biggest win of the year and arguably the Chris Jones era.
And maybe best of all, Charleston Hughes can play ball again this week with a clear conscience now that he’s taken his lumps and didn’t cost the team any games.
2. ROUGHRIDER OFFENSE JUST AS GOOD AS ROUGHRIDER DEFENSE: The Rider offense this season has made meaningful contributions before. See the Labour Day Classic win over Winnipeg and the breakout game for Zach Collaros in Montreal when they beat a vastly underrated Alouette defensive unit led by guru Rich Stubler.
But Saturday’s win in Calgary was the first time all season this team hasn’t been carried by its defense or special teams. To put up nearly 500 yards of total offense on the road in the backyard of the best team in the country was clearly the biggest statement Zach or (Offensive Co-ordinator Stephen) McAdoo’s men have made this year.
We’ve been waiting a long time for this edition of the Green & White to really look like a complete TEAM. Saturday, we saw just that.
3. CAMERON MARSHALL: Guy sits out half the season unsigned and nobody wants him? I know running backs are a dime a dozen but no-one could use this guy as a depth player forwhen their running back inevitably goes down? Seriously?!
4. DON’T FEAR FIRST-PLACE EXTRA BYE WEEK: Thanks to the moron schedule-makers who predicted the Riders couldn’t run down Calgary and gave them the bye for the final week of the regular season, the Roughriders could end up with back-to-back bye weeks, should they finish in first place. The great Ron Lancaster fretted about such a predicament back in ’96 when his Edmonton Eskimos came close to living that scenario, only to fall behind the Stampeders to avoid such a layoff.
“I just don’t know if I can keep them crisp for that long”, quipped the Little General at the time.
It was a valid concern back then but not anymore. There’s plenty of data and history to guide teams with how to handle those situations today. You give them one week off to unwind, then work like dogs the next since you’re still not playing an actual game, and then use the final week to prepare like you normally would for any other game.
5. DID YOU KNOW?: Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce is arguably the most important weapon for Patrick Mahomes who is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL right now. To hear Kelce tell his story, he really began taking football seriously in his college days with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. His quarterback throwing him the ball back then was …Zach Collaros.
6. GREATEST CFL SEASON FINISH: In the 27 seasons I’ve followed this great game so closely, I don’t ever recall any division, east or west, coming down to the wire with so much left to play for, for so many teams.
It’s incredible to see so many different playoff scenarios still possible.
The Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts are the only teams with nothing left to play for and they both have dramatic storylines at quarterback which makes their game this weekend just as fascinating.
Such a great reward for all the fans who have stuck with this league and refuse to cave in to the mindless hype of the NFL and U.S. College football.
7. A VALID MANZIEL-FLUTIE COMPARISON: Interesting to see that if Johnny Manziel plays these last 2 Alouette games of the season, he will have pretty well exactly half the sample size for stats from his rookie season in Canada that Doug Flutie had from his own rookie season in Canada. If Johnny continues to trend upwards, like he has over his last 3 games, and produces 5 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions in these last 2 outings than his stats will look nearly identical to Flutie’s. The only glaring differences will be Johnny has a much higher completion percentage (common in this era) and Johnny is two years younger than Doug was when Flutie broke into the CFL.
Point being: Manziel is entertaining to watch and is clearly making strides. If his name was Joe Blow from Kokamo, he would’ve been benched long ago but that’s okay. The Alouettes were going nowhere fast anyways and this investment still has plenty of upside. Montreal’s football team is must-see TV right now because of him and these final 2 Alouette games could set the stage for whether or not we see an encore in 2019. Doug Flutie shattered pro football’s passing record in his 2nd CFL season so it would be intriguing to see what happens with this guy.
8. SASKATCHEWAN SALUTE TO THE WETENHALLS: This doesn’t get talked about enough but on behalf of not just CFL fans, but all Saskatchewan fans, I would like to thank the Montreal Alouette owners, Bob and Andrew Wetenhall, for making sure we have a Montreal franchise to play against. This league cannot survive without Toronto, Montreal and B.C. and yet the smaller, more profitable markets don’t want to prop up these money-losing franchises.
Despite accepting equalization payments from the bigger markets in the late 70’s and early 80’s, equalization has become a dirty word out west due more to happenings on Parliament Hill than in any league office.
But still, we all owe a big debt of thanks the owners who prop these franchises up while allowing us to keep our hard-earned money with the Roughriders.
9. CFL COACHES ARE BETTER THEN NFL COACHES: Just ask the Montreal Alouettes, Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Those are the 3 tams who are run by ex-NFL head coaches and could very easily end up as the teams with the 3 worst records in the entire league.
10. U OF R RAMS SITUATION DESTROYS U-SPORT TICKET VALUE: How can any of us get excited about buying a ticket anymore, knowing full well that the result of that game could be wiped out from a ridiculous technicality over a clerical error like the one that has crushed the University of Regina Rams 2018 season? Did the Roughriders playoff win in Ottawa last November get squashed when Marcus Thigpen tested positive for a banned substance? Of course not! And which was a more egregious crime? You decide but I’m pretty confident it wasn’t anything the Rams did.
Use some common sense, U-Sport. Your fan base is tuning you out real fast.
(Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendanhowardmc)