2 - THE QB: This is why I've noted the next QB of the Roughriders would be incredibly tough to predict. If you'd made me a bet a week ago that it would be Zach Collaros, I would have taken you up on it. Chris Jones rolled the dice with an injury-prone QB in 2018 - which I supported wholeheartedly - but it blew up in his face (Zach wasn't available in Round 1 of the playoffs due to a concussion). In fact, he never even made it out of the preseason intact. Yes, he won 10 games, but when the chips were down - Money Time - he wasn't on the field. If there's a word for a situation being even BIGGER than a gamble, this would be it.
3 - BACK-UP: The search is on for a capable, adequate, veteran QB behind Zach Collaros and as it stands, names like Kevin Glenn, Travis Lulay, Brandon Bridge and Ricky Ray are still on the market. (Why haven't we heard a retirement announcement on Ricky yet?). All are capable, but none are someone you'd be prepared to stake your franchise's future on. So, it's time to find and develop the next Darian Durant. Sure Collaros will start (that's what we're told to expect), but I'd wager a lot he won't finish.
4 - JONES: People want to move on from Chris Jones and so do I. But the fact is, we'll be talking about him for ages. It's also clear that he left GM Jeremy O'Day and Head Coach-elect Craig Dickenson holding the bag. O'Day can do the job and do it well, but he got tossed the hot potato at the most pivotal time of the season for management. Willie Jefferson was the team MVP but he admitted to Winnipeg media that as soon as Jones left town, he started packing his bags as well. Did Chris Jones improve this team in his 3 years? Yes. Could he have left it in better shape upon his departure? Clearly. 3 years, nowhere close to a Grey Cup, and now they're going back to the drawing board. Cue the rebuild.
5 - CLEVELAND ROCKS: Again, you certainly can't blame Chris Jones for accepting a career advancement and landing a highly-coveted position in the NFL. Over time the CFL was restricting Chris Jones' every move - choking him off essentially - and it was evident he was getting very uncomfortable. The league changed a lot over the period that Chris Jones became a powerbroker and his hands became tied. I wish him well and have nothing negative to say about him because he was always professional and always let me do my job. I also can't wait to see where his career goes next.
6 - LOYALTY: My phone's been blowing up with the same question from Rider fans: "Why are so many players leaving?" It's a question I can't answer although Willie Jefferson certainly gave you an idea. A few weeks ago we mentioned here the new adage "You gotta do what's best for you" and that's not just for coaches. It extends to players as well. There is absolutely no loyalty left in pro sports whatsoever and for that I blame management and ownership. They'll slit a throat or throw a man overboard in a second but then whine and cry when it's done to them. That's the way it is now, and you're left to decide who you want to cheer for: the team, or the players who switch teams every year.
7 - THE BRAND: Perhaps, now with popular figures Jeremy O'Day and Craig Dickenson in charge of the Roughriders, we can get back to normal. So many fans have mentioned to me that this is a "nameless, faceless" organization and they have no idea whose jersey to buy at the Rider Store. That's the Jones Effect, but this is now a new era. There's a ton of work to do to reconnect this team with its fans and it needs to begin yesterday. Cue the rebuild in marketing.
8 - TRIVIA QUESTION: When's the last time the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Regina Pats were in a rebuild at the same time? ANSWER: The decade of the 1990's.
9 - 2020 GREY CUP: We automatically assume that whenever the Roughriders are in the running to be awarded anything in the CFL, they'll be the winners. But not so fast. Saskatchewan has put in a bid to host the 2020 Grey Cup but so too have the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes. CFL business has changed a lot but one thing hasn't: private owners are still given preferential treatment over community-owned clubs. If the Ticats or Als can guarantee financials in the ballpark of the Riders' bid, then I wouldn't be surprised to see one of their names called next Thursday. It's been 23 years since Hamilton hosted the CFL championship game and 11 for Montreal. The arrow, I'm afraid, could be pointing at them.
10 - RANDOM THOUGHTS: Kudos to Alex Giannoulis for organizing a hockey tournament this weekend in Yorkton and Theodore, SK with all proceeds going to local Mental Health Initiatives. Last year they raised $15,000 with the funds all being distributed in the Yorkton area, and a lot of them going o the safeTALK program. Way to go boys! ... The Oilers have traded Cam Talbot. It’s a start. ... The Brandt Centre was packed Friday night and the Pats outhustled and outworked the Edmonton Oil Kings in a 4-0 victory. What's the problem? ... Hats off to Dave Struch and John Paddock. Things are looking up. And we can't forget Brad Herauf and Rob Muntain. ... I thought the Don Cherry-themed jerseys with the players' nicknames across the back were cheesy, but I get it. ... The Saskatchewan Rush look to snap a 3-game losing streak tonight when they visit the Vancouver Warriors at Rogers Arena. For now you can watch on B/R Live. (Look it up). Come mid-season, the Rush road games will be on Access TV. I really wish Rush owner Bruce Urban would televise their home games!! ... It's the coldest February in Saskatchewan in 80 years. Yet everyone seems surprised when winter hits, and it turns bitterly cold. You'd think people would be used to it. ... A recent social media report suggests the SJHL has the second-strongest sports brand in Saskatchewan behind the Roughriders. That puts them ahead of the Rush, the WHL, its 5 Sask teams and all other leagues. Amazing! I could post it upon request. ... Stay warm.