Realty One

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Jeremy O'Day wasted no time making his first decision as the Saskatchewan Roughriders' general manager/vice-president of football operations.

One of the Riders' most pressing needs this off-season is a bona fide quarterback but O'Day, who signed a three-deal as GM, quickly dismissed the return of veteran Darian Durant.

Saskatchewan promoted O'Day to the post Friday to replace Chris Jones, who resigned Tuesday as head coach, defensive co-ordinator, GM and vice-president of football operations to become an assistant coach with the NFL's Cleveland Browns.

Durant, 36, spent 11 seasons with Saskatchewan (2006-2016), leading the franchise to its last Grey Cup victory in 2013. Durant signed a one-year deal with Winnipeg in January 2018 that included a $70,000 signing bonus but retired shortly afterward and opted to keep the money.

Durant has kept the door open to a possible return to the CFL, saying he continues to work out and physically feels good.

"Darian was a very successful player and he did a lot of great things for our organization,'' O'Day told reporters in Regina. "But I will tell you we won't have an interest in Darian.''

O'Day, 44, begins his second tenure as the Riders' GM. He was first appointed Aug. 31, 2015 on an interim basis, holding the position for the final nine games of that season.

O'Day is in his 21st season with the Roughriders. The six-foot-three, 300-pound former offensive lineman moved into Saskatchewan's front office as its football operations co-ordinator upon retiring as a player in February 2011.

O'Day began his CFL career in 1997 with the Toronto Argonauts, winning a Grey Cup in his first pro season. In 1999, he signed with Saskatchewan as a free agent and spent 12 seasons with the Riders.

The Buffalo, N.Y., native, who played collegiately at Edinboro University, started 202 regular-season games with Saskatchewan. He also appeared in 16 playoff games and three Grey Cups, winning in 2007.

O'Day, a married father of three children, won his third CFL title in 2013 as a member of Saskatchewan's front office.

Riders president Craig Reynolds said he also looked outside of Saskatchewan for a suitable GM.

"The reality is the best candidate was already working for us and I knew that,'' he said. "Jeremy is more than ready for this opportunity.''

Jones left for Cleveland a week after signing a contract extension with Saskatchewan. But he had an escape clause in the deal allowing him to take an NFL position.

Reynolds said Cleveland called him about Jones last Saturday.

"The Browns crafted that role with Chris Jones in mind so it's quite the opportunity for him,'' Reynolds said. "But I'm comfortable where we're now at.

"And we're not going to hold people back from opportunities.''

Saskatchewan improved steadily under Jones, registering five, 10 and 12 regular-season wins in each of his three seasons. Jones, a 51-year-old native of South Pittsburgh, Tenn., was named the CFL's coach of the year in 2018 after a 12-6 season, but the Riders lost 23-18 to the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the West Division semifinal.

O'Day doesn't have the luxury of time to celebrate his promotion. Saskatchewan still must hire a head coach and defensive co-ordinator and CFL free agency begins Feb. 12.

O'Day said there's lots of interest in the Riders' head-coaching position. He has a definite idea of the type of candidate he's looking for.

"I'm not looking to hire a friend, I'm not looking to hire someone I get along with personally,'' O'Day said. "I want to hire the best coach that's a leader of men, that can go into the room and get the attention of the guys and command the respect of the players and hold people accountable.''

But Saskatchewan's new head coach won't be able to hire his own staff. With the CFL's newly instituted football operations salary cap, O'Day said the Riders are "80 per cent secure with our coaching staff.''

Another priority for O'Day will be finding a top-flight quarterback with veterans Zach Collaros and Canadian Brandon Bridge both scheduled to hit the open market. Edmonton's Mike Reilly, Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell and Ottawa's Trevor Harris - like O'Day, a former Edinboro player - top the list of big-name quarterbacks who could become CFL free agents.

O'Day wouldn't preclude either Collaros or Bridge returning in 2019.

"Obviously a big question is that position,'' O'Day said. "I'm not going to comment on any of the quarterbacks that are on other teams currently.

"But I think it's an interesting set of circumstances with how the CBA is lining up this year and the amount of free agents that we have at that position. My job is going to be to try and get the best quarterback we can.''

Success followed Jones over his 17-year CFL coaching career as he was part of four Grey Cup-winning teams. He also earned a reputation of being a players' coach, someone who enjoyed cracking jokes with his troops but could also be brutally honest with them.

Most of all, Jones' players understood he'd always put them in the best position to succeed. O'Day admits he has some big shoes to fill with both his players and coaches.

"A lot of the reason why they (players) loved Chris is he earned their trust,'' O'Day said. "I'm not asking because I'm sitting in the chair for the players to automatically jump on board, I'm asking them just to give me that opportunity to earn their respect and trust.

"You have to understand the coaches were hired by Chris and I'm asking the same of them that I'm asking of the players.''

O'Day said he learned plenty working for Jones.

"What I learned the most from Chris ... by far was how he handled personnel,'' O'Day said. "The type of players he wants, how he evaluates them, what he's looking for in each position, how they fit into the roster.

"You name it, from a personnel standpoint I think he has a huge passion for that and it's something I tried to absorb as much as possible.''

Fortunately for O'Day, he'll be able to lean heavily upon assistant GM Paul Jones, who joined the Riders this month after 21 seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos as well as time with Winnipeg and Toronto.

"There couldn't be a better guy ... to have him as my right-hand man,'' O'Day said. "He's had such success finding players and making sure that we've got the right players to win championships.''

(Canadian Press/Dan Ralph)


Rudyman said...

Congrats O'Day!

Let's get a QB and smack the league around this year!

Laura Fortier said...

how do you expect to keep any readers with no future Rider content? As my kids would say, Bye Felicia...

Rod Pedersen said...

You’re still here and always will be!

CJ Evans said...

I am encourage by O'Day's promotion to GM! He has been immersed in Rider culture for long enough and he gets it! Nip the rumours in the bud, so RiderNation doesn't run wild with further rumours, stories, and conjecture!

Durant is the past. He was a good player for us, but why should we pick him up just because he's available!

Looking forward to O'Day coaching selection and moving forward to free-agency and all the other fun stuff to precede the season! :-)

Steve said...

Now that O'Day is officially the GM. Of course a coaching search needs to be had.
But I have to agree its time to lock down some more FAs before FA starts.
Regardless of what system is used on D or O.
Mike Edem has got to be priority.
S/ WillLB/ Special teams. His skill set fits any D system

Steve said...

Other Nationals on D:
Eddie Steele perfect on any Dline rotation.
Sam Hurl as well. Whether he fits into a starting LB scheme. He has been a top STs player & at the very least would be great to be a backup WILL/MLB

Steve said...

Offensively National Olineman are a must to at least have depth on the Oline.
So get St John signed!

Anonymous said...
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Steve said...

Interesting fact I didnt know about O'Day is that he played his college football at Edinboro. Same as Trevor Harris.
With Harris still unsigned CBA or no CBA. It hints that his resigning in Ottawa is not Automatic.
Should be interesting

Anonymous said...

In j.o. We trust.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to all future endeavours Mr Rod Pedersen. Thanx for all that you provided with your on air game calls. Roughriders info via this blog site, authored books and all other media venues you have hosted. Always top notch insight.

Much respect,

Lyle Pederson said...

I hope Rider fans and SK folks in general realize what Rod Pedersen did for this team and as an extension ... the province.
Saskatchewan 'Rider Nation' is (at least) one area where the province comes together regardless of those too many things that can divide us. And Rod played a huge role in helping that along.
Rod was a leader in promoting and informing Saskatchewan on the Riders with a passion that was infectious. And always went that 'extra mile' over and above the job description.
Thanks Rod.

Rod Pedersen said...

Thanks Lyle ;)

Helix said...

Congrats on your new gig Pedersen. And thanks for keeping me so well informed on the sportscage for what seems like a very long time.

Yeah Steve Trevor Harris is my first choice for Riders QB all the way. He has shown to be among the best in the league for sure.

Helix said...

Congrats on your new gig Pedersen. And thanks for keeping me so well informed on the sportscage for what seems like a very long time.

Yeah Steve Trevor Harris is my first choice for Riders QB all the way. He has shown to be among the best in the league for sure.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks rod for all you’ve done for the team and the whole league actually, I think this blog brought comments from all across the country , hopefully someone can continue that, it’s great for the league as a means to get more people talking cfl. Thank you , rod p.

Scott From Saskatoon said...

Best of luck Rod! In J.O. We Trust!

Steve said...

Being a HUGE Cfl Fan living in Philadelphia, PA. in the US. I always listen to the Sportscage thanks to modern technolgy.
Rod you always had the BEST CFL intell & talk not just for the Riders but around the CFL and pro football.
Every Rider Monday & Football Friday. With the on demand mode It was a must listen for me.

Steve said...

Also Rod you were the one person thru the Sports cage that made the Riders a regional province team is Sask.
Anthony LeBlanc & the Expansion Atlantic Schooners to be. Would be Smart to bring you in to tie the team together across Atlantic Canada as not just a Halifax team but a regional team repping all the Maritimes.
I will be listening for sure