The toughest thing ever is admitting it’s over. A marriage, relationship, job, life, a CFL team’s playoff chances.
In Saskatchewan, where the Roughriders’ fortunes seemingly rival the importance of life itself — judging by the number of newspaper obituaries that contain references to the CFL team — it’s over.
Really, it’s over. The Roughriders are not going to be among the six teams (out of nine!) that qualify for the postseason.
Despite the fact a recent poll on CFL.ca showed 34 per cent of respondents said the Roughriders were going to make the playoffs, it ain’t gonna happen. Those respondents were delusional, the never-say-die fans of a popular football team. Good for them for supporting their team. Bad for them if they’re betting on it happening.
It’s nice to know two-thirds of the respondents were realists.
The Roughriders are winless heading into Sunday’s road game against the Ottawa Redblacks. Steve Daniel, the CFL’s extraordinary statistician, pointed out before Saskatchewan’s most recent defeat that no 0-7 team has ever qualified for the playoffs. Now they’re 0-8.
Of course there’s a mathematical chance for a winless team to win 8 of its final 10 games, which might put it in the playoffs. Realistically there’s zero chance of it happening, even though the Riders are approaching the easiest six-game stretch of their season — home-and-away games with Ottawa and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers followed by a visit from the Montreal Alouettes and a road game against the B.C. Lions.
The Roughriders could soon end their winless streak. They may even win a couple games, or four or five. When you watch the Roughriders play or practise you wouldn’t know they’re on a dead-end road. They play hard, they seem to enjoy their practices, or else they’re very good actors. One thing they are not is finishers.
The Roughriders have had an opportunity to win every game they played this season, but have always lost because of bad coaching decisions, on-field breakdowns, injuries to key players, a passive defence with an inability to force turnovers and an endless display of bad luck. How should the Roughriders finish their season? By deploying their young, promising players. The Roughriders have been reliant on veterans for too long, with an aversion to replace under-performers.
Veterans like slotback Weston Dressler, offensive linemen Xavier Fulton and Brendon LaBatte and defensive back Tyron Brackenridge, now that he’s moved to linebacker, still perform at a high level. The rest of the season should show if new quarterback Brett Smith, who is replacing injured veterans Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn, receiver Alex Carroll, defensive back Mark Legree, tailback Steven Miller and kicker Ray Early, plus a few other prospects, can reach a level that will help the Roughriders make the playoffs. In 2016.