It was a day that Saskatchewan Roughriders fans won’t forget any time soon.
The fourth anniversary of the Riders releasing receiver Weston Dressler and defensive end John Chick has come and gone — January 14. It’s led to different discussions around Riderville. The Riders even seemingly marked the day by signing long snapper Jorgen Hus to a new contract. Ok, not really.
In the world of football, four years seems like a good time to look back on that day and see what it’s led to. Generally speaking, football seems to run in a four-year cycle. That could be because the nature of college and university football or the shorter careers and guaranteed contracts leading to more turnover at key positions.
Regardless, it’s safe to say at this point that then-head coach and general manager Chris Jones made the right move by moving on from the long time fan favourites.
At the time, it was certainly a tough pill for many to swallow. There might even be some that still have hurt feelings from it. There’s nothing wrong with that, there’s many ways to be a fan of a team and none of them are wrong.
The first season under Jones, without Dressler and Chick, didn’t exactly go well. However, that decision was never made with the 2016 season in mind. It was about the future, it was about signalling that a new era of Riders football was here. We didn’t really know what that era would be or if it would be successful, but the chapter on the 2007-2015 era had closed.
It was time for something new. A new way of thinking. A new way of playing the game.
This would have remained true had Dressler and Chick gone on to continue to have long term success in the CFL. Now that we’ve reached the four-year mark, it’s become pretty clear that those moves and many others after the fateful day, ended up being the right decision.
To use a college football term, 2016 was very much “year zero” for Jones and the Riders. It was about getting the players, systems and everything in place. Any success would have been a bonus. Since then, the Riders have steadily improved every year with a crossover playoff spot, hosting a West Semi-Final and hosting a West Final.
Saskatchewan had some luck along the way, like signing Cody Fajardo just under a year ago, but you’re going to need some luck along with smart planning to have success.
While the Riders have to be pleased with their success over the last four seasons, they still haven’t reached their ultimate goal — sustained success. Only time will tell if they can achieve it.
In order to get there, another day like January 14, 2016 will come again. That’s just the nature of the game. When it does, with proper planning the team shouldn’t miss a beat.
If not, then the Riders didn’t really learn anything from the last four years.