Halfway through the CFL season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are in need of a restart.
In the wake of a winless first half of their 2015 campaign, the Roughriders wiped the slate clean this week in advance of their Labour Day Classic matchup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Gone are general manager Brendan Taman and head coach Corey Chamblin, two men who teamed up to help bring a 2013 Grey Cup championship to the franchise. So is Tino Sunseri, the backup quarterback who was pressed into action last week as part of the team’s poor effort in Ottawa. He quickly drew the ire of thousands of fans from across the province and was let go by the team for the second time this season.
Bob Dyce has taken on the head-coaching job, while former player Jeremy O’Day was assigned the general manager duties – both on an interim basis.
The 0-9 Roughriders hope to start a new chapter Sunday when they host the Bombers in what has always been a spirited Labour Day Classic.
“There’s not a whole lot that needs to be added or that needed to go down earlier this week to make this a big game for everyone,” said veteran defensive end John Chick. “I don’t care if you’re the 0-9 Roughriders or one of the league leaders, this is pro football and every team is dangerous and hungry for a win. We just happen to be the team that wants it more right now.”
Chick wouldn’t go as far as to say a change needed to be made within the team’s front office. Instead, he said the players could have done more to prevent the team’s lacklustre start to the season.
“(The Roughriders executives) made the decisions that they felt had to be done and now it’s on us as a collective unit to go and get that thing we still haven’t done yet _ get a win,” said Chick. “Until we do that, we’re no better off than we were last week or the week before.
“At the end of the day, it’s the players that play the games. You can say it was this call or that call that has us in this position, but it’s the players that play the game. We’re still 0-9 and it’s on us to find a way to use this and respond to it and get a spark going.”
The Riders feel they can turn the negative news of personnel changes into something positive _ a much-needed win. This past week of practice has allowed the team to push the reset button and start fresh.
One of the first calls made by Dyce was to appoint Brett Smith the starting quarterback versus the Blue Bombers.
“That meant a lot,” Smith said. “Confidence-wise, it only helps. With the rest of the team, now it’s just about continuing to polish things up and earning their confidence so we can go out and get a win.”
Smith would like to put everything else in the rearview mirror.
“Everybody is just ready to move forward,” he said. “We don’t put too much emphasis on what happened.
“The task at hand is to win this weekend, so that’s what everybody’s mindset is.”
A possible playoff berth hasn’t been ruled out, at least mathematically. The Riders trail the Blue Bombers, who have lost three straight, by just six points in the West Division standings.
“Right now, we’re just thinking one at a time and to go undefeated this week,” said Chick. “We haven’t done that yet. Instead of thinking we need to go 9-0, we’re thinking of going 1-0 and winning this week.
“We have a good opportunity to still turn things around,” he added. “We have nine games left and we have things left to do that we haven’t done yet. And everyone’s mentality right now is finding a way to get that first win and get things moving in the right direction.”