The Saskatchewan Roughriders are about to find out if franchise quarterback Cody Fajardo can handle the ultimate test: winning a Grey Cup on prairie soil.
Nothing less will satisfy Rider Nation in 2022, especially after the green and white raised the big silver trophy at old Mosaic Stadium the last time the CFL title game was played in Regina. That’s helped create immense expectations for Fajardo to lead the Riders to Grey Cup glory in his third year as a starting QB.
“We feel like he’s at his best when things are the tightest and most pressure-packed. We wouldn’t want anybody else back there running the offence for us. We feel like he’s our guy and we’re more than happy to have him back there taking the snaps,” head coach Craig Dickenson said.
The 50-year-old has produced a 22-10 regular season record in two years as bench boss with Saskatchewan, but he’s lost consecutive West Finals against Winnipeg by one score with Fajardo playing the most important position in football. One missed goal post here or one last-minute drive there could’ve changed the result for the Roughriders.
Different outcomes might have altered the way former Riders GM and head coach Chris Jones views Fajardo’s abilities, especially as a passer. However, Dickenson, who won a Grey Cup with Jones as part of his Edmonton coaching staff in 2015, felt the perceived criticism of his quarterback was not entirely negative.
“I think some of it was taken out of context, he was just trying to do a solid for coach [Stephen] McAdoo who is a good friend of his and has been with him for a long time,” Dickenson said.
“Everybody’s got opinions. Statistics come out, analytics come out that shows some guys are better at one thing than the other. All I know is this: we believe in Cody, he’s our quarterback, we feel like we can win with him either with him running the ball, throwing the ball or doing both.”
The data would prove Dickenson correct, Fajardo can win football games. He’s 21-8 during the regular season as a starter and led Saskatchewan to the West Final twice — Jones never guided the Roughriders there in his time with the team. Regardless, Dickenson won’t trade words with Jones opting to let the upcoming results on the field speak for themselves.
“Good games played by the guys out there in the pads are what sells tickets,” Dickenson said. “I think we’re positioned to make a run at it.”
The 30-year-old Fajardo is entering his CFL quarterbacking prime and it’s the man Dickenson wants with the ball in his hands entering a Grey Cup or bust season.