Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo sounds like a man thrilled to have a new offensive play-caller.
He didn’t quite come out and say it, but the franchise QB subscribes to the philosophy of having a coordinator whose actually played the position. His new offensive coordinator, Jason Maas, did so for twelve CFL seasons, while his old offensive coordinator from 2019, Stephen McAdoo, did not.
“Absolutely, I think 100 per cent!” said Fajardo after a recent training camp workout at Mosaic Stadium. “I think the biggest improvement throughout this training camp that coach Maas has helped me with the most is calling plays and why we’re calling plays.”
“Last year, in 2019, we would call plays, I would make my reads and find a completion. But he (Maas) is really going into depth because he’s played the quarterback position and saying, ‘Hey, we’re calling this because we want cut coverage or we want hold coverage and when we get that, you’re going to think about throwing here or think about throwing here.’ And so having a guy who’s done it for years and at a high level, I think is going to help me exponentially in the future.”
The Riders’ resident rock-star pivot admits to doing some quick research on Michael Reilly’s career trajectory the moment he got word that Reilly’s old head coach, under whom he was named Most Outstanding Player in 2017, was coming to Regina.
“I was fired up because I did do some research and it seemed like he (Jason Maas) had the leading quarterback in passing yards about every year he was a coordinator, so that got me fired up.”
Fajardo suggests the fiery Maas could be the missing piece to the puzzle for a Rider offence that came within a crossbar of earning a berth in the last Grey Cup played.
“Obviously, you guys know there’s a lot of expectation, a lot of hype on me, whatever you want to call it, but I don’t want to be a flash in the pan in this league. I’ve worked my tail off to get to the position I’m at.”
Maas, himself, has high hopes for his new project but the extra time to prepare after the 2020 season was cancelled didn’t actually help.
“I think sometimes time off is not as well-spent as you think. You can overthink things, overanalyze things,” he said.
Quick to point out that any advantage caused by the delay is shared by the CFL’s eight other teams, the Riders’ new offensive coordinator insists the ‘paralysis by analysis’ phenomenon is real.
“I know how I am at times an overthinker and over-analyzer and sometimes (extra) time is worse than not having any.”
McAdoo’s play-calling proved to be unpopular with the fanbase in Rider Nation, many of whom viewed his system as too conservative and not daring enough for their liking. Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson predicts fans will see an offence that’ll move a bit more quickly under Maas than it did under his predecessor.
“I think the biggest difference early on that you’ll see is tempo. I think you’ll see us use a variety of tempos on offence. A little bit of no-huddle. We’ll huddle at times,” Dickenson said.
“We’ll do some no-huddle while we’re calling the play from the line, so I think that’ll be the one thing you’ll see is, hopefully, some tempo and pace. I think good, bad or indifferent, that’ll be something different than the offence you saw last year.”
It remains to be seen if Maas will win over the Monday morning quarterbacks in Saskatchewan by taking Fajardo to the next level.
But for now, it appears as though his head coach and his quarterback both think Maas is the answer.