Decision to deal Durant all about Chris Jones and his ego

The Saskatchewan Roughriders – otherwise known as Chris Jones – can spin it all they want but the trade of quarterback Darian Durant to the Montreal Alouettes is largely the product of a base human instinct: ego.

General managers and head coaches are, almost universally, an insanely competitive and egotistical lot. It is, in many ways, an essential competency for the role: they have to believe they are the smartest guy in every room they walk into, capable of out witting other coaches, general mangers and agents in order to claim victory. A lack of self-confidence would be seen as weakness and in football, weaknesses are to be exploited.

Needless to say, Chris Jones isn’t short on ego. Success in this business – and Jones is just a season removed from winning a Grey Cup – will exacerbate what is already a default position of supreme confidence. This battle with Durant, played out in private and in the media, reeked of a urination contest between a beloved player with an unusual amount of leverage and a football uber boss disinclined to give an inch, no matter what the cost.

Jones’ house cleaning in Saskatchewan – and don’t forget fan favourites John Chick and Weston Dressler were shown the door last year – is hardly unique. In Hamilton, Kent Austin cut loose scores of veterans after taking over, releasing locker room leaders like Rey Williams, allowing Marwan Hage to be taken in the expansion draft, parting ways with Henry Burris just a few weeks after he took the team to a Grey Cup. In Edmonton, Eric Tillman famously traded Ricky Ray in a deal that, by comparison, netted the Eskimos a fair bit more than the Riders got for Durant (though the circumstances were decidedly different.)

There are always football reasons for these moves, justifications that can be used in an attempt to placate an angry fan base. Jones used a bunch in his press conference shortly after the deal was announced. And there’s no denying that there’s some validity to those explanations: Durant is an aging quarterback for a team that won five games last season.

By dealing Durant, Jones puts his final, emphatic stamp on the Riders. This is his team now, without question. Whatever success they see in the future, he’ll be able to claim full credit for and that wouldn’t have been the case had Durant remained in place. That’s a huge, if unspoken, motivation for trading Durant, though it’s entirely possible Jones doesn’t even see it – he doesn’t strike me as the self-reflective type, someone who would spend any time examining his own latent motivations.

The flip side is that he’ll fully own the failure if that’s what comes next. Trading Durant, a hugely popular figure is Saskatchewan, will eat up whatever remaining goodwill he had after coming over from Edmonton. He’ll be based on performance alone now and if the Riders fail to find a quarterback and fall flat on their faces next season, Jones may walk the plank as a result. This could be a career-defining move for him.

While Durant is hardly blameless for this situation – some of his public comments weren’t helpful, either – the populist sentiment will be that he deserved to be the starting quarterback when the Riders open that new football palace next season. After all, he helped build it. Instead, he’ll just be the latest in a long line of football players who won’t finish their careers where they should.

Of course, that won’t bother Chris Jones one bit: putting your own interests first is one of the many of benefits ego. Now we find out whether his infinite self-believe is justified.

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