Realty One

Monday, January 28, 2019


Canadian Press/Michael Bell

After two tumultuous weeks at Mosaic Stadium, the dust has finally settled and things just feel ... right.

General Manager Jeremy O’Day’s first big decision was made official on Friday when he named longtime special teams coordinator Craig Dickenson as the 47th head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He is the right choice at the right time.

Dickenson said in his press conference that he is up for the task and can’t wait to get his hands on this team. He has an incredible opportunity to build on an already great situation that Chris Jones has created.

Considering all of the flashy names and interview denials, sometimes the easy and low-key choice is the correct one.

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First of all, Dickenson has the right temperament to take over the reins. He knows this coaching staff inside-out but even though he generally shows an easy-going demeanour, you can just tell as he roams the sidelines that Dickenson will not shy away from cracking the whip on players, coaches and officials.

If there's any question over if this is the right hire - and there's only one - it's is Dickenson too nice a guy to be a head coach?

Former Rider receiver Duron Carter lauded the hiring on Twitter saying, "I guess good guys do win sometimes."

But go back and watch some games from the past few seasons.The voice that was constantly in Chris Jones’ ear was Dickenson. It felt like when there was chaos on the field and in the office that Dickenson was the voice of reason and was leaned on for instant support.

The only other question is if a longtime special teams coordinator can find success as a head coach in professional football? It will be tough to tell because there haven’t been many that have taken this path.

In the CFL there have been two head coaches that quickly pop to mind (three if you include Bob Dyce who took over the Riders in 2015 as an interim head coach when Corey Chamblin was let go) and they are current Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea and former Bombers head coach and current Hamilton Tiger-Cats special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold.

O’Shea only had four seasons under his belt as a coach all with the Toronto Argonauts as their special teams coordinator before taking over the Bombers in 2014. There have been a lot of growing pains for O’Shea but he has slowly helped the Bombers take little steps towards a potential big season in 2019. O’Shea also had the help of 16-seasons as one of the best linebackers in CFL history.

Reinebold has been a much-travelled coach and held the title of special teams coordinator with the B.C. Lions and Las Vegas Posse before he went 6-26 in less than two seasons as a head coach with the Bombers. He hasn’t been a head coach since.

Ottawa RedBlacks Head Coach Rick Campbell did special teams stints with Edmonton, Winnipeg and Edmonton, but has worked on all three sides of the football.

There are only two prominent former special teams coaches in the NFL that went on to become head coaches.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has been by far and away the most successful; winning Super Bowl XLVII and currently has a 104-72 regular season record.

For the other name, one has to go all the way back to the 80’s when Kansas City Chief special teams coordinator Frank Gansz took over the team in 1987 and didn’t have much success. In two seasons he was 8-22 and missed the playoffs in both years.

No one knows a team’s roster better than the special teams coaches. They have a grasp on what the younger players' strengths and weaknesses are. It’s even more important in the CFL because many of the up-and-coming Canadian players cut their teeth on special teams so Dickenson will have a grasp on who may be able to take the next step in their careers.

The downfall in many general managers' minds is that special teams coordinators may not have a full grasp on the ebbs and flows of the game on offence and defence and will have to rely even more on their assistants. But the same could have been said for Chris Jones. As the head coach and defensive coordinator (along with the general manager and VP roles) he wouldn’t have complete inside knowledge of what is happening in the other two phases.

Dickenson also has the advantage of watching and absorbing from some great coaches over his football coaching career. He can also tap into his brother’s brain on how to handle certain things. Dave Dickenson has been a great head coach with the Stampeders. Just how much he will share with his big brother remains to be seen.

So if Dickenson is successful he may open up some doors for future special teams gurus to become head coaches in football.

Both O’Day and Dickenson have three-year contracts and will be tied at the hip for the next few seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and it will be a fun ride.

However it won't be all lollipops and rainbows. Expectations are incredibly high in the Rider Nation right now. Fans want the best team to match the CFL's best stadium, and they deserve it.

The first thing Dickenson has to decide now is who will be the Riders defensive coordinator? This will be his first big decision and it will be interesting who he will ride with on the defensive side of the football. This has been the strength of the Riders the past two seasons and whomever takes over will have some big shoes to fill.

Next is free agency. Beginning February 12th, the team will develop into what we will see on the field beginning in training camp. It will be fun to see what kind of players they will bring in and how they mix with the current members.

Of course, it’s quarterback first, then Canadians and find a couple of explosive playmakers on offence.

Things are on the right track and training camp is only 16 weeks away!

An interesting take from columnist Mike Stackhouse from the Yorkton This Week on the Roughriders play-by-play job which has now been posted by CKRM:

- Long time voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Rod Pedersen, resigned last week after serving in that capacity (and more) for the last 20 years.

It will be a highly-sought job by sports media types right across the country, but make no mistake about it. The ‘new Rod’ will be under a lot of scrutiny and will be micromanaged to the point that the individual will be nothing more than a glorified public relations flak.

Have you ever wondered why local Saskatchewan sports media never break a big story? Think of the Chris Jones hiring by the Cleveland Browns. Dave Naylor, of TSN, had it first. Sportsnet's Arash Madani was the first to report Jones' replacement would be Craig Dickenson.

There’s no way we should ever be scooped in our own backyard, but it happens constantly and I refuse to believe professionals like Rod were unaware of what was going on. I think they are handcuffed and have to wait for the information to become public or for the Riders to give their okay.

But, such is life in the media now. There is no such thing as journalism anymore. Everything is geared around promotion and the Riders are no more or less protective of their brand than any other sports organization. This is the way it is.

I just think the new person coming in is going to be immersed into a pressure cooker and I don’t envy him (or her).



Anonymous said...

Bridge Glenn Ray Reilly Stick Watford
1-2-3-4-5-6 Roughriders qb room 2019, done deal.

Brady Y said...

Little early to be drinkin ain't it lil anonymous fella?

Anonymous said...

Who is the I who noted that local media are scooped on big stories? I think whoever it is, is correct, but I’d like to know who it is, and not just “staff”.

Anonymous said...

Actually Mike "CFL News" clearly broke the Chris Jones story. And if you follow along closely many people had the Dickenson hire by process of elimination.

The only thing you got right is that there is no journalism anymore. That's the impact of wanting to break things at all cost and the news circle that is social media.

Everyone mainstream knows that.

SWC said...

Mike; I agree 100% with you and I've always found it very frustrating.
Frustrating because I know it's a Roughrider thing.
There is a journalist out there, he's in Edmonton and his name is Terry Jones. He often writes columns on either the Oilers or Eskimos and quite often they are far from complimentary. If warranted he'll slice and dice on the home team exposing the truth, that's something that hasn't happened in Regina for a long time and I thank you for bringing it up.

Anonymous said...

Less than three years before this regime is turfed into oblivion if they don't produce a Grey Cup Championship to their hired contracts. Expectations are high, extremely high for a Grey Cup title 2019 or 2020 in a nine team league. Mr Jones left the cupboard full while setting the table of nothing less as he built the franchise back to professional sports respectability on and off the field of play. It's now on ODay Dickenson to produce big time with a 12-6, second overall team that they inherit on the cusp of greatness. Nothing less will suffice as losing in Saskatchewan by the Roughriders will not be acceptable or tolerated as it was in the past. That prevailing mentality of accepted losing resulted in onlly four Grey Cups in a one hundred year team history, unacceptable. High anticipated beginnings for this new regime await starting immediately. The clock is on.

Jonathan Gormleah
(Not to be confused with big mouth)

Glen Erickson said...

Journalism? A different deal these days for sure. Back in 1982 I spent the summer as part of the Star Phoenix sports department - summer relief. There were six or seven great writers in that sports department at the time...and they needed "summer relief"? LOL!! There used to be such anticipation; waiting for the daily newspaper to arrive because of a columnist we'd like to read. Or, even local events were covered and it was cool for people to see their name in the paper...or events that included family members. I didn't mind the ink from the newsprint making my fingers dirty. And newspapers allowed for sober second thought if a story broke. There was time available for research. These days, it's usually 140 characters of drivel on Twitter. But sadly, people seem okay with the shortcuts these days.

John Knight said...

One of the main reasons we only have 4 grey cups in our history is that, most teams had unlimited funds and there was no salary caps so rich teams would pay ridiculous salaries to star players. Now that there is a level playing field, Riders are in the cup final more often!

Wizard said...

When are the Riders going to announce some player signings? Every team in the league has extended or signed players except us???

SWC said...

To Jonathon Gourmleah:

The only promise Chris Jones kept was he said he wouldn't win a popularity contest and he was right.

Anonymous said...

Looks like jefferson’s Waiting for free agency, ? Everything’s open now that jones’s Gone.

Helix said...

Yes Jones was moderately successful as HC in the cfl. His coaching record was .500. He got us 1 Playoff win. But he also did improve the Riders from a 3 win clunker to a legit contender. I am optimistic about the Riders fortunes in 2019 with Dickenson as HC. And I hope to see Jones succeed in the NFL but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Anonymous said...

Quit now John Knight with the excuses and the prevalent loser mentality that permeates throughout Saskatchewan. 4 Grey Cup Championships so unacceptable. Mr Roy Shivers, Mr Chris Jones righted the ship with true professional sports franchise leadership on and off the field of play only to see others destroy. Let's not have a repeat okay.


Anonymous said...

"In Jones We Trust"

LF said...

True. But I read your whole post. Some of us still appreciate thoughtful insight.

Mike Humble said...

Did Jones rebuild the Riders? Absolutely. Did he do anything that arguably any other GM could have done over 3 years in a 9 team league? Nope. Moderate success at best. He did exactly what I said he'd do three years ago, when he was given absolute authority over football ops from top to bottom - he'd use it as a flagship project to advertise himself and progress his career. He certainly proved he could build and excecute an exceptional defence - dont forget that he did it at the expense of having a competent offence. Thats the luxury he afforded himself via having full control.

That vaunted defence has lost a few big names to the NFL, and a few more could become free agents shortly. Not to mention the D coordinator that led them is gone.

The offence was putrid last year. Like the worst offence in decades type of bad. We STILL have no QB and the one bright spot in the recieving corps JWL, was released to pursue the NFL.

Jones failed to deliver on expectations from a results standpoint and the roster is only marginally better off.

At least I can actually pull for Oday and Dickenson.

Anonymous said...

There are no secrets to success. Some people dream of it, while others such as Chris Jones get up every morning and make it happen. Let's hope the new gm and his new head coach have a fraction of a semblance of what Chris Jones brought to the table in Saskatchewan on behalf of the Roughriders Football Club. Go Roughriders.

Jonathan Gormleah

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we will finally build a team now, not a defence.

Mike Humble said...

He successfully transitioned himself to the NFL, and thats about it. I dont fault hom for it. Just calling it like it is.

He never delivered a grey cup, let alone the multiple cups that many predicted were a certainty.