The Saskatchewan Roughriders are who we thought they were, or at least something close to what some of us thought they were.
Heading into this season, there might not have been a team predicted to finish in as many different spots as the Riders and for good reason. After losing Chris Jones and needing to replace his many jobs at an awkward point in the off-season, it can be pretty hard to come with a consensus on their pre-season expectations.
Winnipeg? Hamilton? Yeah, we knew they were good. Montreal? Toronto? (don’t look at my prediction) Widely expected to be bad. So far, those are right.
I was relatively confident placing the Riders fourth in the West and crossing over into the East for a playoff spot. That said, anything between second and fifth place in the division wouldn’t have surprised me.
So, what does all of this mean just a few games into the 2019 season? We really shouldn’t be all that surprised that they have looked good at times, bad at times and something in between at times. Teams that aren’t elite or awful will generally bounce between the extremes.
That’s where the Riders are.
None of this should be overly surprising either. It wasn’t all that long ago the discussion surrounding this team was how difficult of a spot new general manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson were put in. Taking over their jobs for the first time in their careers on a full-time basis late in the off-season.
We really shouldn’t forget that as the season progresses.
New regimes are often given time to allow their ideas to develop. Perhaps it’s because O’Day, Dickenson and defensive coordinator Jason Shivers were already here but not in their respective roles. It’s easy to forget that this is a new group with new ideas, with a new way of doing things and a late start made it more difficult to accomplish that in year one. Most new football ops departments take over in December. This group lost valuable time. Planning for this season would have started under Jones and continued under the new crew.
So, who really knows what kind of program they’re running this year. A lot of the scouting probably would have been built off what Jones had already started, that’s tough to switch midstream. The coaching staff might have been able to re-do parts of their plan but all of it? Who knows.
It takes the players time to adjust to a new way of thinking as well. We’re seeing that in B.C. with the Lions. We saw it here under Jones in his first season. Corey Chamblin’s first season in Saskatchewan was filled with some peaks and valleys.
In a lot of ways, this season continues to mirror that Riders 2012 season. It really does feel like this season should be treated as a build toward hosting the Grey Cup next year.
The Riders loss to Calgary should be taken for what it was. A butt whipping. Over 18 games it happens. For a team still learning who they are, it happens as well. There will probably be at least one more can of whoop ass to be opened on them this season. They also may open a couple on their opponents as well.
Eventually, the entire picture will come together. Until then, enjoy the ride.