There are few things in sport more irritating than watching your rival claim a championship.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders know that first hand after seeing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win back-to-back Grey Cups, after having been the final West Division victim of their prairie nemesis each time. Still, Riders head coach Craig Dickenson says he’s not jealous of the team that has kept him out of the title game.
“Do I envy the Bombers? No, but I respect what they’ve done,” Dickenson admitted in an appearance on the SportsCage. “And I do tip the cap to the decision-makers over there because I feel like early on they could have pulled the trigger on Coach O and Kyle Walters, but they didn’t. They allowed them to grow a little bit. They allowed them to take their lumps early.”
Dickenson has been complimentary to the Bombers’ model of stability in the past, commending them for sticking with the eventual Grey Cup winning Canadian Mafia despite a 13-28 start to their tenure.
The resulting Winnipeg dynasty is a lesson that many teams in pro sports could stand to learn from and Dickenson believes the Riders have.
“I don’t envy them because I think we’ve got the same thing going in Saskatchewan. I really do,” he noted. “You’ve got [team president] Craig Reynolds, who’s been there for a while. [General manager Jeremy O’Day] and I now are going into our fourth year, third season with the miss, and the coaching staff has been the same really for the last three years. I feel like we do have that and I feel like, for the most part, we have the same thing with our players.”
With a combined 22-10 record with Dickenson at the helm, Riders management hasn’t faced the same public outcry for change that the Bombers once did. However, the organization has remained steadfast in their support of their coach despite two tough West Final losses and a step back by the team last season.
Management continues to believe that he is the right man to put the club over the top and he’s passed down that trust to the rest of the team.
“That goes for me as well with the players. If I feel like I’ve got the right guys, I feel like we’ve got good chemistry, we’re gonna stay with that,” Dickenson explained. “You’re better every time if you can have the same guys doing the same thing year after year and you can have some stability. I believe we’re on our way, I think we’re seeing that in our organization and I think it’s gonna pay off.”
It took six seasons of stable building for Winnipeg to reach their Grey Cup potential, but Saskatchewan is much closer to that end goal. Consistency in management, coaching and quarterbacking means their breakthrough could be just a year away.
“Another year with [offensive coordinator Jason Maas] and Cody [Fajardo] being together, trying to keep the staff as continuous and as stable as possible. We don’t have a lot of changes and I think that’s gonna help,” Dickenson said.
“I’m sure everybody feels the same way, but we definitely feel like we’re gonna have a better team than we had a year ago.”