Following a succession of blowouts, a blow-up is warranted.
Members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ footballoperations hierarchy need to be ruthless as they assess the survivors of the 2011 CFL season. In the wake of a somniferous season, a few figurative sticks of dynamite could not possibly hurt.
It seems, however, that recently appointed head coach Corey Chamblin is not inclined toward tearing apart the roster.
"I don’t see a lot of changes,’’ Chamblin said during a Friday media gathering. "We’ve made some changes right now. We’ve trimmed some things, and Sean (Lucas) has retired. There are probably one or two changes to open the door for some other things that we’re thinking, but I’m not looking to completely overhaul this roster, because two years ago this was a team that was a Grey Cup contender.
"We want to get this team back to a winning level - not just as a team that lost in the Grey Cup two years in a row. Like all the other teams, we’d better be trying to win a Grey Cup, and that’s what we’re looking at across this roster - how we’re going to try to win a Grey Cup.’’
One solution is to resist any impulse to tape together a team that competed for the Grey Cup two years ago - only to lose 21-18 to the Montreal Alouettes in a dreary championship game.
Precedent should be a guide as the Roughriders look to the future while severing many ties with the past.
In 1976, as in 2010, the Roughriders lost by three points in a Grey Cup game. Following a 23-20 loss to Tom Clements, Tony Gabriel and the Ottawa Rough Riders, the Green and White embraced the status quo and missed the playoffs for two successive seasons before finally initiating an overhaul in 1979. The Riders next reached the playoffs in 1988.
In the late 1970s, as in 2011, the Roughriders employed an offensive line on which players past the age of 30 predominated. They fell into the trap of assessing players on the basis of their resumes, and the results were less palatable than a yakburger.
There is also a parallel to the 1989 Roughriders, with one notable distinction. Saskatchewan won the 1989 Grey Cup. The problem was, then-Roughriders head coach John Gregory kept trying to win the 1989 Grey Cup in 1990 and 1991. Loyalty to the players who had won for him, coupled with an injury to franchise quarterback Kent Austin in the 1991 regular-season opener, cost Gregory his job in August of that year.
Loyalty is an admirable trait, providing that you are in the market for a golden retriever, but it can be detrimental to a team’s interests in the often brutal and unforgiving game of Canadian professional football.
As a consequence, Ken Miller’s best qualities often worked against him in 2011. Miller, who completed last season as the head coach and vice-president of football operations, kept deploying past-their-prime players such as Lucas, middle linebacker Barrin Simpson and tailback Wes Cates. The offensive line (average age: 32.8) was in decline by season’s end. The defensive backs, save for hard-hitting rookie safety Craig Butler, were hardly impact players. Neither were the receivers, save for 1,000-yard producers Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf. And did anyone see any evidence of a sustained pass rush? Or a backup quarterback who engenders confidence? Or a touchdown pass in October? Or a mercy-rule provision in the CFL regulations?
This is not the time for "I don’t see a lot of changes.’’
This is the time for a fresh start - led by an engaging, 34-year-old head coach of considerable promise and intellect.
Chamblin, who has the luxury of a honeymoon period, should unreservedly seize the opportunity to grow with this team.
A concerted effort has been made to freshen up the coaching staff, which has an average age of 44.5 (compared to 58.8 last season). A similar mindset should apply to the roster after a season in which the fans, who had to pay to watch the first non-playoff edition since 2001, aged faster than the coaches and players.
It is tempting to wonder whether the Roughriders’ brass truly grasps just how feckless the team was in 2011. In case a reminder is required …
The Roughriders went 5-13 - including a galling, can’t-get-any-worse-thanthis 0-10 against salivating West Division rivals.
They finished dead last in the CFL’s overall standings, suffering 10 of their 13 losses by a double-digit disparity.
Saskatchewan’s average margin of defeat was 15.9 points. That figure was fattened by back-to-back 37-point losses to the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders - a colossal choke job that quickly counteracted an illusory, three-game winning streak.
During what there was of a stretch run, the Roughriders went 286 minutes 29 seconds without an offensive touchdown, and 410: 10 without a touchdown pass.
Admittedly, those figures have been frequently (and excessively) cited in this cherished space. This recording will self-destruct in five seconds … four … three … two … one …
If a comparable blow-up does not ensue after the excruciating events of 2011, what will it email@example.com
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