Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day defends down 2021 season for franchise QB Cody Fajardo: ‘he’s a winner’

Photo courtesy: CFL

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day gave starting quarterback Cody Fajardo a vote of confidence following a subpar 2021 season.

Despite the downturn in production, O’Day remains pleased with the play of Fajardo who is now 21-8 as a starter during the regular season.

“The first thing that comes to mind: he’s a winner — he finds ways to win games. I know everyone is going to compare his first season to his second season, but the reality is he’s our quarterback and we’ve won a lot of football games,” O’Day said.

Fajardo was named a CFL all-star and the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 2019 after throwing for 4,302 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions while rushing 107 times for 611 yards and 10 majors.

His production dipped during the shortened 2021 season as he threw for 2,970 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eleven interceptions while carrying the ball 78 times for 468 yards and four scores.

“Proud of the way he played, it’s about winning football games. I know everyone would want the quarterback to throw for 30 or 40 touchdowns a year, lead the league and be the M.O.P. but sometimes the games don’t always turn out that way,” O’Day said.

“If you look at his season in particular, he had a different group of receivers almost every week and we had a younger offensive line in front of him than in the past. We had some adversity but ultimately it’s about winning football games and he’s done a nice job of that as our quarterback.”

Fajardo expressed frustration periodically through last season regarding “disgusting things” that were said about him on social media. He also became emotional following a loss to Calgary and later apologized for “spazzing out like a child.”

O’Day appreciates that Fajardo is an emotional player and isn’t asking him to change anything moving forward.

“Cody is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve and it matters a ton to him — just proud of the way he fought through the whole year,” O’Day said.

Fajardo remains under contract for the 2022 season as the Riders look to continue building around him in their pursuit of a Grey Cup title.

“Cody’s our starting quarterback, it’s nice to know that he’s under contract and he’s coming back. He’s got a full year under working with coach [Jason] Maas,” O’Day said.

“He had a younger group around him and gave them a full year of experience. There’s a level of comfort, it’s nice to know that your starting quarterback is coming back.”

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.