Like many pro football franchises, the face of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is largely its head coach and its quarterback.
Craig Dickenson and Cody Fajardo have played important roles in getting the Riders to today’s West Final, however it’s undeniable the Riders’ defence has played an equally large part in getting Saskatchewan there.
That defence was built by former Roughrider head coach/general manager/defensive coordinator Chris Jones and his fingerprints largely remain.
Two-time all-star defensive back Ed Gainey was one of those Jones recruits and remains an important pillar of the unit.
Another was four-time all-star defensive end Willie Jefferson who followed coach Jones to Regina from Edmonton after a tryout with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
When Chris Jones bolted from Saskatchewan after the 2018 season, so did Jefferson and predictably, he’s been on a tear with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ever since.
Gainey admits he and his Roughrider teammates have felt cursed each time they’ve played a Blue Bombers team that has included Jefferson.
“I hate to say it but ever since Willie went to Winnipeg, we can’t beat them,” Gainey said with a chuckle.
“That’s my dog. He was my boy when he was here and when he left to go to Winnipeg, I was happy for him and his family but deep down inside I was like, ‘Man, we lost a good one!”
The two won’t meet one another directly on the field in today’s West Final, but Gainey says they do talk and will connect after the fact.
“Ever since then he’s been helping them win so I just want to go over there and compete against my brother and have the trash-talking title for at least a year or six months,” the popular ballhawk grinned.
The Riders scored an average of 8.5 points per game in their first two meetings with the Blue Bombers this season.
Needless to say, Gainey and the rest of the Saskatchewan defence will have their work cut out for them in keeping the Blue Bombers’ offence to a number lower than that this afternoon.
It might be required in order for Gainey to win that trash-talking belt that he so desires away from Jefferson.