Hiring internally has served Riders well so far


Facing more media than quarterback Darian Durant does when providing injury updates, Saskatchewan Roughriders president/CEO Craig Reynolds outlined his plan Thursday for a make-or-break hiring.

The Roughriders need a general manager.

Reynolds, who has never had to make such an important decision for a CFL franchise, has to hire that general manager.

“In this province you get lots of opinions and you hear lots of opinions,’’ Reynolds said. “But at the end of the day I need to be comfortable with this decision. I’ll walk our board through it so they’re comfortable with the decision I made. At the end of the day, I own this decision.

“There will be criticism regardless of which direction you go. I know that. That’s part of the role, part of working for the Saskatchewan Roughriders organization. That’s why people want to work here: Because it matters.’’

With the help of a head-hunting firm, Reynolds hopes to have someone in place by mid-December. He expects compiling a short-list of 3-5 candidates who will be interviewed; interim general manager Jeremy O’Day is expected to be in that group.

Reynolds has spoken to “seven or eight” people throughout the CFL, but they’re not necessarily potential candidates. He trusts those people, admits he’s picking their brains for information and expects to continue talking to people who could help him pick the right GM.

Reynolds said his timetable is flexible, but he’s aware the Roughriders will fall behind if they don’t have someone credible in place shortly. The franchise has already fallen behind because it named O’Day (formerly the assistant general manager) as an interim general manager, when it may have been more productive to hire a fulltime GM upon the firing of Brendan Taman on Aug. 31.

The next GM will — like Taman — also be given the title “vice-president of football operations. Reynolds said the past two months have been used to assess O’Day and also begin searching for a new general manager who could, in a special circumstance and depending on the candidate, also serve as head coach.

Reynolds was an internal hiring. He was the team’s chief financial officer when he was called upon to replace outgoing president Jim Hopson. Reynolds acknowledged Thursday that most CFL franchises have business people serving as their presidents, so he is in a normal situation having to hire a general manager, who in turn hires a head coach, who in turn hires offensive and defensive co-ordinators.

“I’ve worked for the club for six years,’’ said Reynolds. “In that time I worked with three general managers…. I’ve seen them operate, seen them do things that are very successful and things that have been less successful.

“I think I have a very good understanding of the role. If I was tasked with hiring the (offensive co-ordinator) or the (defensive co-ordinator) I’d be less comfortable. We’re not talking X’s and O’s here. We’re talking (about) the senior leader of our football team, somebody who is going to build our team and I feel real comfortable in that decision.’’

The Roughriders evidently hired the right person as CEO/president. Strong organizations produce strong replacements. It would be a strong statement to stay internal. Forget the names being tossed around — John Hufnagel, Danny McManus, John Murphy, Kent Austin — and hire O’Day.

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.