The Riders reward Cody Fajardo for rescuing the franchise identity

Photo Scott Grant /
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

It’s good copy on a slow news day for Saskatchewan Roughrider fans, but Cody Fajardo’s contract extension was never in doubt.

The rags-to-riches story of a journeyman who once upon a time couldn’t even beat out Jonathon Jennings for a job was never going to be jeopardized by some silly free agent dance.

He’s rescued the identity of a franchise that was very much at-risk following the exit of general manager; head coach; defensive coordinator; vice president of Football Operations, Chris Jones, back in January to the NFL and Cleveland Browns. The defensive mastermind was gone and the fan base never did have confidence this group would ever find its mojo with Zach Collaros at quarterback.

New head coach Craig Dickenson brought virtually no experience from either side of the football, having spent most of his career working on special teams.

Opening the season with back-to-back losses out east didn’t help, either.

In Week 1, Collaros went down and all of a sudden the Riders had no offence, losing in Hamilton. In Week 2, they had no defense, losing in Ottawa.

They had no leader and no identity.

That might fly in the weak-sister East but doesn’t work so well in the rough-and-tumble West.

Since then, Fajardo has rattled off wins in 11 out of 14 games and even has Rider Nation daring dream about its second first-place finish in the past 43 years. And unlike the quarterback he replaced — Collaros — he’s looked like he’s having fun the whole way through.

Fajardo’s Brett Favre-like enthusiasm was just what the ‘306’ needed in a tough harvest and a tough economy. The joy he plays with on the gridiron every week is something fans in Regina haven’t witnessed since the likes of Henry Burris in the early 2000’s.

That, along with three hours in the new stadium every couple of weeks has been just what the doctored ordered to help the prairies forget about both their problems and the onset of winter. And somehow through it all, the defence recovered from losing its leader on the sidelines, Jones, and its leader on the field, Willie Jefferson.

Funny how that happens when they get a quarterback finding his groove.

The Riders were never going to let this get to free agency. They wouldn’t dare let their fans down on this one. Cody Fajardo was never going to walk away, either.

Living through the bulk of his 20’s as an absolute nobody with three other pro teams, no way would he screw this up. You just knew he would take a hometown discount for less than any of the elite quarterbacks in the west, and he did.

Fajardo will make less in 2020 than Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Edmonton’s Trevor Harris and B.C.’s Mike Reilly. He’ll make roughly the same as Winnipeg’s Matt Nichols did in 2019.

He’s won more games this year than all of them.

This marriage has been a match made in heaven from the get-go and any kind of deal was too good for either side to pass up.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders haven’t looked their best in the past two weeks, losing at Calgary and winning ugly at B.C. They will have their hands full trying to pull off a home playoff game, let alone contend for first place.

But yet somehow, now that Cody Fajardo has signed on the dotted line, the future looks and feels a whole brighter for the Riders.

Even though we all saw it coming from miles away.