Riders’ steady as she goes approach is good, but a fork in the road is approaching

Photo courtesy: CFL

The CFL’s free agency period is fast approaching, and unsurprisingly the Riders are headed into the action with a familiar crew.

The team announced on Thursday the extensions of offensive coordinator Jason Mass, defensive coordinator Jason Shivers, and assistant general manager Paul Jones, amongst others. The new deals will keep the group, along with general manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson, with the team through the end of the 2023 season.

The football world is always full of change, so there’s no guarantee that this group will be together entirely between now and the end of their deals. On paper, this is a good move for the team.

Some of the best teams in football operate kind of like a government, in a sense, and change can be akin to turning a cruise ship. It doesn’t happen instantly. Teams can often be far too reactive to a bad season or one where expectations aren’t quite met. Unsurprisingly, those teams tend to be consistently inconsistent.

Teams that achieve sustained success — something president Craig Reynolds said was the goal when he fired Brendan Taman and Corey Chamblin during the 2015 season — remain consistent. Even though Chris Jones, who was hired with that goal in mind, has since come and gone, the foundation that was built during that time remains.

Keeping the band together is an important part of achieving Reynold’s goal of sustained success.

Since Jones was hired, and O’Day and Dickenson took over, it’s safe to say the team has been taking steps toward that goal. They’ve made the playoffs in all but one season, Jones’ first in green and white. The Riders have hosted three playoff games. They’ve played in three division finals, hosting one.

There’s still room to grow, though. The current regime has only won one playoff game. That would be this year’s West Semi-final win over the Calgary Stampeders. Their nemesis has been the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who have ended their last three seasons.

At this point, it doesn’t look like the Bombers will become less a thorn for teams in the West Division.

In order for the team to ultimately achieve sustained success, they’ll have to win a Grey Cup. You can’t prove that you can sustain success without first achieving the highest level of it.

For the time being, the Riders will have to go through Winnipeg in one form or another in order for that to happen.

If O’Day and Dickenson can crack that code in the next couple of years, then they’ll be set up to be a legendary duo in Saskatchewan. If not, then it might be time to start turning the ship.