The Saskatchewan Roughriders were originally scheduled to host the 2020 Grey Cup and Cody Fajardo believes green and white confetti would have fallen at Mosaic Stadium.
In 2019, the Riders produced a 13-5 regular season record, which earned top spot in the West Division. However, the uprights stopped Fajardo from potentially connecting with Kyran Moore for what would have been a game-tying touchdown against Winnipeg in the West Final.
General manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson wanted to keep the core together and did so in free agency last February, which included the re-signing of Fajardo’s favourite target Shaq Evans. The franchise quarterback was influential in convincing the group to maintain continuity for a run at a Grey Cup on home soil.
“For me, on paper, I thought we had the best team in the league, personally. We retained a lot of core guys and we actually went out and got a lot of talented guys,” Fajardo said.
“I felt on paper our team was going to be really good and it’s just a shame how much work J.O. (O’Day) put in to put this team together and we’ll never know.”
Along with Fajardo and Evans, offensive playmakers such as running back William Powell, receiver and returner Kyran Moore and fellow target Jordan Williams-Lambert would all have been back with Saskatchewan. Veteran offensive linemen Dan Clark, Brendon LaBatte, Takoby Cofield, Terran Vaughn would have provided protection for Fajardo as well as rising Canadian guard Dakoda Shepley.
On defence, Charleston Hughes, A.C. Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and Cameron Judge were under contract along with the entire starting defensive backfield — Nick Marshall, Ed Gainey, Mike Edem, Loucheiz Purifoy and L.J. McCray. Otha Foster was tabbed to replace Derrick Moncrief at strong-side linebacker.
“No one will never know what the 2020 Riders look like, but I think the Riders win the Grey Cup pretty handily and might not lose a game all year. A lot of these guys signed one-year deals, so they might be a free agent and sign somewhere else,” Fajardo said.
The rival Calgary Stampeders won the Grey Cup in 2018 when Bo Levi Mitchell earned CFL title game MVP honours and the league’s Most Outstanding Player trophy in the same week. Since 2013 when Mitchell emerged as an instant star, the Stamps have either won the West Division or tied for the best record.
2018 – 13-5
2017 – 13-4-1
2016 – 15-2-1
2015 – 14-4
2014 – 15-3
2013 – 14-4
Mitchell suffered an upper body injury to his throwing side last season during Week 3, which caused him to miss a start for the first time since 2014. He wasn’t able to perform at his elite level due to the setback. Following a procedure in the off-season, Mitchell would have been fully healthy for a Grey Cup run in 2020.
“I’m trying to find out what paper he’s looking at because my paper looks different,” Mitchell responded to Fajardo. “We’d have won for sure.”
The ever-confident quarterbacks would have been dueling all season and surely in the playoffs for the chance at Grey Cup glory.
Fajardo hoisting the big silver trophy in Regina would have been a fairytale, while Mitchell could have furthered his villain status in Saskatchewan by securing the Cup in front of the prairie faithful.