Riders dodged bullet in missing out on the James Franklin sweepstakes

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com and edit by Taylor Currie (@TaylorCurrieSK)

Without giving too much credit for beating the sad-sack Argos, the Saskatchewan Roughriders win in Toronto over the weekend did give their fan base yet another reminder of a missed opportunity that has turned into a blessing for the green and white.

Two words: James Franklin.

Coming out of the 2017 season, the Riders options at quarterback were limited.

Sticking with the platoon of Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge didn’t seem all that appealing at the time and the prairies appeared ripe for welcoming a new franchise quarterback.

There were plenty in the ‘306’ calling on then-Rider general manager and head coach Chris Jones to go after an untested, yet highly-touted, three-year backup who had played for Jones with the Edmonton Eskimos.

It made perfect sense at the time.

At six-foot-two and 235 pounds, that quarterback looked the part.

His 12-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio hardly discouraged the idea either. Nor did his friendly Oklahoma smile stirring memories of a young Henry Burris. He’d grown up in a small farm town in the panhandle and once transitioned to Regina life flawlessly.

James Franklin looked every bit to be the saviour Rider Nation had longed for since Darian Durant’s prime.

Only problem was the division rival Eskimos owning his rights until that February and the Edmonton front office wouldn’t have been caught dead allowing their prized backup to come back to bite them with the hated Roughriders.

Franklin’s negotiating rights would be shipped to Toronto where Argo GM Jim Popp would talk him and his agent into a two-year deal before the Riders could even pick up the phone.

At the time, it was a blow to the prairies.

Saskatchewan would get stuck with the perennially-injured and not-looking-terribly-excited to live in Regina, Zach Collaros.

Collaros was and is a proven winner but he was never going to be the face of the franchise that Rider fans so richly yearned for.

Today, in 2019, the Riders have that guy.

Cody Fajardo’s enthusiasm and happy-go-lucky attitude is exactly what the Roughriders needed.

His journeyman status as not good enough to start for Toronto or B.C. has become a rags-to-riches story playing almost to perfection with the blue-collar fan base of dusty, little old Saskatchewan.

And there it was, for all to see in Saturday night’s win in Toronto.

Fajardo completed 85 percent of his passes to seven different receivers, including three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Vernon Adams Jr., Khari Jones and the Montreal Alouettes might be the CFL’s feel good story of 2019 but it’s Cody Fajardo and his Saskatchewan Roughriders who are in a dogfight for the Riders second ever first-place finish since the other Trudeau was prime minister.

On the other sideline it was that other saviour-to-be that got away, James Franklin, showing us a different story.

Two-and-outs, missed throws, quarterback sacks and a general feeling of ‘why is this guy even starting?’ When the stats, the pundits and Argos most recent Grey Cup-winning coach, Marc Trestman, all say it should be McLeod Bethel-Thompson or someone else starting ahead of James Franklin.

We might never know how hard the Riders even tried to acquire James Franklin and at this point it might not even matter.

We do know there was a part of the fan base that felt like they missed out on James Franklin.

There are some in Rider nation who still haven’t gotten over missing out on another quarterback from Oklahoma, Henry Burris.

But this time around, somehow one can’t help but feel like the melon-heads are okay with it.