Mom has been sent home. Heather is out somewhere. Scenes are done. I’m here at the apartment by myself, and I can finally begin to unwind and make sense of the football game from this afternoon. Mom has already told me that she won’t be reading this blog, so, here goes…
A very wise woman once said that if the Riders won this game in Montreal, then all of the underlying problems that have come out from under the carpet throughout the course of season would have been swept back under again. That woman was me.
I was very excited for this game. Even though I knew that winning would just cover up the myriad of issues that exist and haven’t been properly dealt with, as a true Rider fan, I wanted them to pull it out, say to all of those naysayers out there, “Don’t ever underestimate the little Riders that could!” As soon as the score became 21-0, I shed my Rider gear, took out my analysis homework, became realistic again, and barely watched the rest of the game.
I don’t want my Riders to “Rest in Peace” this off-season. I want them to roll over in their graves, figuring out how to resurrect an anemic offense, and heal a big-play prone defense.
“The pieces are all there. We’re a good football team,” they said all season long. Sure – they were a good football team. But not a great football team.
And it all starts at the top…
Danny Barrett is a good coach. He’s not a great coach – yet. He is able to motivate his players at times, but usually not at the most important ones. He makes questionable calls, and he doesn’t hold people accountable (see: Jason French, Marcel Bellefeuille, etc.). But, he does make people want to play in Regina, something that hasn’t happened around here in a long time. I think he should stay, but only if he makes changes. If he keeps the status quo, then it’s time to go.
Marcel Bellefeuille is as inconsistent an offensive co-ordinator as Jason French is a receiver. He refuses to adjust. He refuses to use his offensive weapons effectively (see Travis Moore, Chris Szarka, Corey Grant…). He calls the hitch pattern on 2nd and 10. There have been some good games called over the course of the season, particularly in the beginning. But down the stretch – oy. I think he needs to work as an assistant for awhile. He needs to go.
Richie Hall – he can stay. Our defence is excellent in all facets. I truly believe that. Today they had a crappy first half. But they did hold Montreal to 6 points in the 2nd half and gave the team a chance to win. If he can figure out how to stop the 2nd and 20 situations from actually being converted, he could run for Premier of Saskatchewan.
Offensive line. These guys are the hallmarks of consistency. The hold this football team together. They allowed the lowest number of sacks in the league this year, and, for the fourth year in a row, Saskatchewan had the highest average of rushing yards per game. We may have Corey Holmes and Kenton Keith – and they can make things happen – but the offensive line has been stellar all year. You guys are my heroes.
Defensive line. These guys had a rough year. Nate Davis was hurt quite a bit, but Fred Perry stepped up and proved that he can be a force in this league. Scott Schultz was quietly consistent all year – a well-earned All-Star nomination. Daved Benefield struggled at times this year, and his replacement, Dwayne LeFall, is still young. They may have not had a lot of sacks this year, but they made their presence felt – their rank as 2nd defending the run proves that.
The defensive secondary. These guys had a good year, too. Once again, ranked 2nd against the pass, they got screwed around today. But, you can’t play perfectly every game. And by the 2nd half, they had Montreal where they wanted them. They do struggle with the big play, though. That’s my only complaint. If it’s 2nd and 20, you can be assured that the offense will get it. That’s been a complaint for a couple of years now. Fix it.
Receivers. Good Lord. Jason French has got to go. How many important passes has this guy dropped? I’m so tired of him. Richardson is a good backup. Thurmon – he’s good. Unfortunately so good that he was double-teamed for the entire 2nd half of the season, and there, not exactly productive. Travis Moore – WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THINGS GREEN AND WHITE DID THIS MAN NOT GET MORE PLAYING TIME OR PASSES???? This is inexcusable. The guy is 35, but he KNOWS THE GAME. Did you see him get open today when Montreal was running zone? Did you see the 41-yard TD in the Calgary game 2 weeks ago? Use him! He may not be as fast as he used to be, but he understands where he’s got to be. And, he played with Crandell in Calgary for crying out loud! How much more do you want? I just can’t understand their misuse of him. Travis, I apologize. And the fact that you never, ever complained – wow. That’s class. I do wonder what would have happened had we had Dominguez all season. But that’s wishful thinking. The Riders lack depth at this kind of crucial position. These guys have dropped passes, run incorrect routes, given up on makeable catches and trotted around the field all season, hoping the rushing attack will make up for their uselessness. Go find us decent receivers. Someone who is actually a deep threat. How can you run a terrifying offence when you don’t air out the ball? Of course the defence is going to sit in the 10 yards in front of you, and you wonder why you can’t use your short game. You don’t ever throw more than 10 freaking yards! Find me receivers. NOW!!!!
Running backs. Kenton Keith seems to be a bit of a disturber. As talented as he is, I think he’s a problem in the locker room. Corey Holmes – you are the man. He is Mr. Roughrider. The guy can do it all. And he’s the only guy on offense, minus the offensive line, who actually showed up and played today. NEVER let him get away. EVER!!!!
Special teams. Paul McCallum has finally got the monkey off his back, I would think. He kind of slipped under the radar half way through the year, and had a decent second half. Punting could use a little work. Punt/kickoff return coverage has never been better. Walter Spencer was a force all year. Returners: Corey Holmes was magic. Dominic Dorsey will be, too. He just needs more practice. And to be able to hold on to the football.
Quarterback. Until this team steps up and gets a marquee quarterback, it will always be next year country. That’s what it comes down to. I like Marcus Crandell. He’s a classy guy. He makes smart decisions – most of the time. But his time to prove himself as a starter has come and gone. Nealon Greene – another class act all year. Starting him today wouldn’t have changed anything. Find us a true #1. If we don’t bid seriously for Casey Printers this off-season, something is truly wrong with this organization. Geez, Kerry Joseph would be a step up. Our offensive line is the best in the league. If a quarterback can’t make it work with that, then they’re not a good quarterback. I know our receivers suck, but there are still way too many poor decisions being made. It’s time to step up and show the fans of this province that the Riders actually care about their fans. Find me a marquee quarterback. Everyone else has one. I want one, too.
It doesn’t take 6 years to rebuild a football team. Calgary rebuilt themselves in one year, and got a home playoff game to boot. Why? Because they retooled themselves throughout the year. Look at the Alouettes. They tinkered with their defence throughout the season. It paid off today. Good organizations don’t settle for mediocrity. This organization has settled for it way too long. If they don’t demand changes this off-season, then I question their dedication to their fans and this province.
Rider fans deserve a winner. They are the best, most forgiving fans in the league, and they deserve to cheer for a winner for once. My patience has been tried and tested. I’m tired of losing. I want to be in the Grey Cup. Make it happen.