Cold, narrow-minded and misleading as it is, football eras are often defined by a team’s head coach and quarterback.
The same is true with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their fan base.
The current coach-QB duo of Craig Dickenson and Cody Fajardo has 22 wins and 10 losses over their two seasons at the helm in the prairies. And the pair have just completed the best back-to-back season winning percentage in franchise history since 1969-1970.
That mark of 27 wins and five losses was set by the most elite head coach-quarterback duo in Rider history, Ron Lancaster and Eagle Keys, when they ruled the roost in Regina. But there’s a big difference to the path Lancaster and Keys took compared to what we’re seeing today with Dickenson and Fajardo.
The Riders made it all the way to the Grey Cup in ’69 and had already established themselves with a championship just three years earlier. This Rider bunch has just one playoff win since the 2013 Grey Cup and with a loss on Sunday would drop to 0-for-2 in the playoffs under Dickenson and Fajardo over the past three years.
It wouldn’t be fair to include a pandemic-lost season in the middle, but life hasn’t really been fair to anyone since March of 2020. The narrative of the Riders Dickenson-Fajardo era could change pretty quickly from ‘feel good story’ to ‘winless in the playoffs’ and the bench boss knows it.
“We’ll be judged by how we do in the playoffs. I think every coach and every quarterback is judged by how well you do in the games that really count and the playoffs are the games that really count,” Dickenson said.
“We know what’s at stake, I think it would be selfish of me to worry about my record ahead of the 46 guys in there that are going to be playing and want to move on. But it’s the truth, it is what it is, you’re judged by how well you do at the end of the year.”
“Nobody cares how many games you win in the regular season. They want to know: ‘How far did you go in the playoffs?’
Truth be told, the Riders home playoff record at new Mosaic Stadium is 0-and-2 so far including a pedestrian effort from quarterback Brandon Bridge in the 2018 West Semi-Final under the guidance of then-head coach Chris Jones.
But still, the narrative of the green and white under the two most recognizable faces it has today will change for better or worse upon Sunday’s outcome.
“Our goal is to go as far as we can,” Dickenson said. “It starts this week against Calgary and we know that’s eventually, ultimately what you get judged upon: ‘How’d you do when the playoffs started and did you win a championship?’”
For now, Rider Nation would be happy with their first playoff win in the new park and that would go a long way to solidifying the long-term future of the team’s head coach and quarterback.