‘There’d be an argument’: Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day shoots back at Chris Jones for Cody Fajardo slander

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day has come to the defence of his starting quarterback against slander from his former boss.

Early in January, newly hired Edmonton Elks’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones defended the hiring of his former offensive coordinator with the Riders, Stephen McAdoo, by placing the blame for his departure from Saskatchewan on quarterback Cody Fajardo.

“I’ll be honest with you, I just look at that and between me and the fence post, I didn’t think Fajardo was a top five guy at quarterback. I know he’s a good runner, I know he’s a winner, but I just don’t see him as a passer,” Jones told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun.

During a podcast episode of Rider Rumblings with Rob Vanstone and Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post, O’Day shot back at the man he served under for three seasons as the Riders’ assistant vice president of football operations.

“I don’t really need to defend Cody’s play. Now Chris is certainly entitled to his opinion of any player in our league and I’ve got a ton of respect for Chris, but I think if you look at Cody and his two years of starting he’s averaged being in the top three for passing yards in our league,” said O’Day.

“I think there’d be an argument there to say that if he’s not a passer then how do you fall in the top three of passing yards each of the last two years?”

Fajardo was named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 2019 after throwing for a league-best 4,302 yards with 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Jason Maas was hired to replace McAdoo in 2020 and Fajardo’s numbers regressed as he passed for 2,970 yards with 14 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 2021, albeit in a shortened season.

Jones departed his head role in Saskatchewan for an NFL shot with the Cleveland Browns after the 2018 season, before O’Day took a shot on the career backup in Fajardo that ultimately paid off when starter Zach Collaros was injured in the 2019 season opener. Despite their differences of opinion on the move, the two executives aren’t completely at odds over his skillset.

“Honestly, there’s some of that sentiment that I wouldn’t disagree with,” O’Day admitted. “Cody does use his legs and it’s a lot of the value that he brings to the team. He’s able to extend plays and make big plays off of his legs and it’s not something that I think that he would debate. It’s another weapon that he has in his arsenal that he uses to help win ball games.”

Jones may never be sold on Fajardo as a passer, but O’Day and the Riders will sleep easy knowing he is their starting quarterback. Meanwhile, the Elks don’t know who will take their snaps next season, with Argos flameout Nick Arbuckle, XFL pick-machine Taylor Cornelius and NCAA star turned NFL castaway J.T. Barrett providing a scintillating trio of options.

“I don’t think anyone’s upset when he’s scrambling around and diving at the pylon to win games for us,” O’Day grinned. “There’s different ways to skin a cat and some quarterbacks are going to sit in the pocket and not be very mobile. Cody just happens to be mobile and is able to pass and run, which is a lot of the reasons why we like him so much.”