Milo’s release serves as smokescreen for Riders problems

How do you spell scapegoat?


As in Chris Milo, the Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker who was jettisoned following the CFL team’s season-opening loss. The Roughriders didn’t dump one of the eight or nine defensive players who missed tackles. They dumped their kicker!

Milo had a less-than-stellar 2014 campaign, making only 71.4 per cent (30-for-42) of his field goals, but he fended off four challengers for his job during the team’s 2015 training camp.

He made one field goal during Saskatchewan’s 30-26 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It was from 19 yards. Earlier in the game he missed a 40-yard attempt, but a Blue Bombers penalty let him try again from 35 yards. He missed again. And evidently sealed his fate.

The Roughriders “deactivated” their kicker as they began preparations for their second game, Sunday against the visiting Toronto Argonauts, according to head coach Corey Chamblin. Upon announcing that 22-year veteran Paul McCallum was rejoining the Roughriders, Chamblin said he needed a kicker who was “automatic.”

Offseason rule changes have forced CFL teams to kick one-point converts from the 32-yard line, 20 yards further back than before. Converts should be automatic, although it’s worthwhile noting that Milo made both his converts against Winnipeg.

McCallum should qualify as “automatic” — he made 86.7 per cent of his field goals during the past 10 seasons with the B.C. Lions, who released the 45-year-old during the preseason.

McCallum has parachuted midseason into Saskatchewan once before, in 1995, when he replaced legendary kicker Dave Ridgway for a gig that lasted until 2004. Knowing the Roughriders wanted him, McCallum demanded an immediate roster position before coming to Saskatchewan.

It’s funny: Ridgway wasn’t released because of his kicking. Ray Jauch, Saskatchewan’s coach at the time, was irate about Ridgway’s ineptitude as a tackler on kickoff returns.

Chamblin was also upset about his team’s tackling deficiencies during that loss against Winnipeg. Defensive back Macho Harris was the main culprit while the rest of the defence performed almost as poorly, applying little pressure on Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy (who passed for 325 yards) and not stopping tailback Paris Cotton (who ran for 108 yards).

Chamblin oversees the defence, with help from co-ordinator Greg Quick. Cutting Milo doesn’t make the defence any better, but it certainly takes the focus away from the primary problem.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.