No-one heaved a bigger sigh of relief then Dave Dickenson or Bo Levi Mitchell when the Roughriders came up short against the Blue Bombers in the Western Semi-Final. The Stamps didn’t take anything for granted in beating Winnipeg or Ottawa but only because of how each of their last two playoff runs have ended.
They didn’t want to play Saskatchewan. No sir. Not after losing 2 of 3 head to head matchups this season including their last two meetings.
Take nothing away from what the Stampeders accomplished in the 106th Grey Cup win and they clearly were the league’s best team in 2018 overall. But with a healthy Zach Collaros, the Riders would’ve put up a far better fight than what we saw from the Redblacks.
2. PLAN ‘B’ IF RIDERS DON’T GET REILLY: I spent all weekend in Edmonton arguing with a bunch of drunken Eskimo and Lion fans that Mike Reilly would love to live in Regina. Housing is more affordable here than anywhere else and he wouldn’t have to go through customs every day like he would if he lived south of the border like some B.C. Lion players do.
But then it hit me. What if Mike doesn’t see it the same way I do? Then what do the Riders do?
The reality is that Personnel Maven, John Murphy, has to identify someone we have never heard of to come in and become the ‘next one’. Russell Wilson did it in the NFL, Kent Austin did it here once and it’s time we open the door for a new superstar.
No more of this gimmicky Vince Young or so-so Kevin Glenn stuff. It’s time to mold us a quarterback. Our first home-grown pivot since Darian Durant.
Go all in on Mike Reilly first. But if you can’t seal the deal there, don’t waste our time with more retreads. I’m just sayin.
3. BO LEVI IS NFL READY: Jeff Garcia was 28 when he claimed his last Grey Cup as a Stampeder quarterback. Bo Levi Mitchell is 28 right now.
Garcia started one Grey Cup and got his only ring. Mitchell started 4 Grey Cups and won 2 of them.
Jeff Garcia went to 4 pro bowls, all in his 30’s. Bo Levi Mitchell doesn’t need to win any pro bowls.
He just needs a chance to prove he can play in the NFL.
He’s earned that shot and then some. I fully expect him to get it and make it down there.
4. JOHN HUFNAGEL IS HUGH CAMPBELL: I’ve always been a fan of “Huff” but have also felt uneasy about his tight control over the entire Calgary Stampeder franchise. Seeing him march into the assistant coaches booths in the middle of Grey Cups or down on the sidelines giving orders has struck me as micro-managing and part of their problem in finishing Championship games.
The Stamps have always been a little too uptight.
But then it struck me. Hugh Campbell used to do the same things in Edmonton before he retired 12 years ago. And when you think about it, the Eskimos really haven’t been the same since he left.
Like Campbell, Hufnagel is a CFL genius with NFL experience.
5. WHY THIS GREY CUP FESTIVAL ROCKED AND TORONTO’S SUCKED: Grey Cup week 2016 in Toronto was a non-event. The fan fest and radio row was set up down a bunch of escalators in the middle of a downtown convention centre and it was quiet all week.
That’s not how you connect with blue-collar fans.
In Edmonton, they had free ziplining(I even tried it), bungee-jumping(chickened out of that one) and a downhill ski-track all set up on the shore of the riverbank. And it was all right next to a tented beer gardens that was booming with traffic the whole weekend.
That’s what they need to do the next time they try to do this in Toronto. Set it up on the lakefront.
Make it a spectacle.
6. CFL’S ONE BIG PROBLEM: The Big 3: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The failure to connect with Canada’s immigrant population continues to hold the CFL back in the worst way. Canadian football is the greatest game on earth. So why aren’t we showcasing the games in Punjab and Chinese the way TSN is bragging about showing it on ESPN Deportes to the Mexican audience?
Hockey Night in Canada is shown in Punjabi and it’s a big hit. So why isn’t the CFL doing the same for its own brand?
The CFL has a lot of issues this offseason like the CBA, expansion to Halifax and the Alliance of American Football/XFL popping up but those issues will all sort themselves out.The league’s main focus needs to be on expanding it’s “Diversity Is Strength” campaign to create a more diverse audience. I’m approaching 40 and still one of the youngest people at these Grey Cup festivals. That’s a problem they need to address yesterday.
7. TWIN BROTHER LOOKALIKES: Rider Radio 620 CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder and NBC football analyst Rodney Harrison. Google the two images and tell me I’m wrong.
8. OFFSEASON QUESTION TO CHRIS JONES: Will you continue to wear Neal Hughes’ jersey t-shirt in 2019?
9. MICK McGEOUGH: Didn’t know the NHL referee from Regina at all expect for the time he dialed the wrong number to my cellphone when I was in the grocery store. But from the stories I’ve heard, he was a real hoot. My favorite memory of Mick is still on youtube from 20 years ago when he broke up a Darcy Tucker-Darius Kasparaitis fight in the middle of a line-brawl by literally tossing Tucker into the penalty box.
Tucker kept yapping non-stop and Mick stood his ground, having none of it.
McGeough could’ve chosen a lot of other places with warmer weather to spend his golden years but in his final days, he chose Regina. The good die young and at 62, Mick is gone far too soon.
10. ON THE TV THIS WEEK: Over the moon to do my first Regina Pats TV play-by-play assignment in 11 years Saturday night when the league-leading Prince Albert Raiders come to town. You can watch Jared Dumba and I do the broadcast on Access 7 or in HD channel 70 at 7 pm.
(Follow Brendan on Twitter at @brendanhowardmc)