It feels like history could be repeating itself.
The announcement this week that Saskatchewan will host the 2020 Grey Cup brought back memories of 2013 when the hometown team hoisted the championship trophy in front of deliriously happy fans. And the situation in Riderville right now is similar to the run up the last time around with a similar path to success in front of them.
Much like in 2012, the Riders are at the start of a new era with a new general manager and a head coach.
Before the big game came to town in 2012, Brendan Taman was already the GM but considering his boss was his coach for most of the year before, it was a strange arrangement: so you could argue that his reign really began in 2012. Jeremy O’Day is the team’s permanent vice president of football operations and general manager for the first time, having served in the role on a temporary basis in 2015.
The parallels don’t end there. In 2012, Corey Chamblin was a first-time head coach in the CFL much like Craig Dickenson is with this year’s squad. Dickenson does have more coaching experience in the league, but being a new head coach is being a new head coach.
But if the Riders really want to take a run at winning the Grey Cup on home soil once again, a number of things have to fall into place again.
During that 2012 season, the Green and White were able to identify who exactly was the core of their team and build from there.
After a relatively successful 2012 (compared to 2011), the Riders dominated the headlines in the offseason by adding names like Geroy Simon, Ricky Foley, Dwight Anderson and so on. The team even ended up being over the cap that season and had to pay a fine for doing so.
While that group may have helped put them over the top, the championship still wouldn’t have been possible without the core group. Darian Durant, Weston Dressler, Brendon LaBatte, Xavier Fulton, Chris Best, Kory Sheets, Keith Shologan, John Chick, Craig Butler, Tyron Brackenridge. Just some of the names that were established with the team before the 2013 season.
That 2013 team also had Canadian depth that the team hasn’t come close to replicating since, with 10 or so players who could have been starters at the time.
Who is the core now? We’ll find out this year. The obvious missing link remains the quarterback but there are some names in place and the team will have to uncover some new names this season as well if they want to put themselves in the best position possible to win a Grey Cup at home.
The good news for the Riders this time around is they are in a much better position two years out from hosting the Grey Cup than they were the last time around. They were 12-6 last season, not 5-13. That same record also puts more pressure on the team to perform well this year compared to 2012. There will also be other Grey Cups at Mosaic Stadium, so the same “all-in” attitude shouldn’t exist in 2020 like it did in 2013.
While everything isn’t exactly the same, there are still some interesting similarities seven years later. What the team does now will determine if it ends the same as well.