Change in temperament leads Riders to first victory

Bob DyceKeep it in perspective.

One win against the CFL’s weakest team does not transform the Saskatchewan Roughriders into Grey Cup contenders. Not this year, at least, because the Roughriders have only a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.

Realistically they have zero chance of qualifying for the postseason. A team that lost its first nine games can’t honestly be expected to win six, or seven, or eight of its last nine games to post a good enough record to secure a playoff berth.

Beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 37-19 on Sunday proved only one thing — that the Roughriders are not the CFL’s worst team.

Despite their 1-9 record and Winnipeg’s 3-7 mark, the Roughriders look better poised to march forward.

Last week’s firing of head coach Corey Chamblin, who led them to their 2013 Grey Cup victory and still had 2 1/2 years remaining on his contract, obviously changed the Roughriders’ temperament.

General manager Brendan Taman was also — more surprisingly — replaced by assistant GM Jeremy O’Day, who is now the “interim” GM. Because he was being groomed to become a CFL general manager, O’Day will get serious consideration for keeping the job if he can show an ability to manage the team’s salary cap and keep his head coach under control — two flaws Taman displayed, according to Riders president/CEO Craig Reynolds.

Interim head coach Bob Dyce made some minor changes to the roster. He re-inserted tailback Anthony Allen, gave rookie quarterback Brett Smith a vote of confidence (which extended from the head coach to O’Day and all the way to Reynolds), plus he installed Andre Monroe at defensive tackle, Matt Webster at safety and Jermarcus Hardrick at right tackle.

Dyce had been the longest-serving assistant on Chamblin’s staff. It wasn’t a staff populated with future head coaches, so Dyce was basically a default choice to step into the breech. Dyce, a friendly soul who seems very popular with the players, displayed a calmness that might help him retain the job. Although he had few tough decisions to make, Dyce showed poise on the sideline as he pondered his team’s options and ultimately made sound strategic choices.

Dyce’s players shared his demeanour. They were relaxed. Their former coach had made them nervous, knowing that mistakes or that challenging his authority would carry consequences.

Smith played with confidence. The offence was productive and well-balanced.

The defence was no longer being exploited up the middle, nor did it stand around and watch Winnipeg’s receivers catch the football. They attacked on defence, then celebrated with defensive co-ordinator Greg Quick, who now controls the defence after Chamblin’s fingers were pried away.

There was a joy in their performance, which blossomed full-bloom during the post-game hugs. This appeared to be more than a team simply snapping a nine-game losing streak. It looked like a team becoming a team.

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.