Criticism leads to ‘added motivation’ for Riders’ QB Cody Fajardo to play his best against Chris Jones

Photo courtesy: Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

Cody Fajardo has a win-it-all attitude for the 2022 season, but offseason criticism from Edmonton Elks head coach Chris Jones has the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback even more focused to perform well against the so-called defensive guru in Week 2. 

“I love it because it keeps the CFL in the headlines, I am in the headlines quite a bit, and honestly, I wish it could be someone else. To tell you the truth, the NFL is really good at that, talking about NFL football year-round,” said Fajardo.

“The more we can do that as the CFL, the more eyes we can get on it all over. The more relevant you are outside of the season, it’s really going to pay dividends for the whole league.”

Jones doesn’t view Fajardo as a “top five guy at quarterback” in the CFL. He knows the Riders QB is a productive runner but doesn’t see him as an effective passer.

“There’s always added motivation when somebody doesn’t think you’re as good as you believe that you are,” said Fajardo. “So I’m excited about the opportunity and hopefully I can go out there and play my best.”

The critiques from Jones were made in regards to the Riders not bringing back offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo after the 2019 season, when Saskatchewan instead hired Jason Maas. Jones believes lots of Fajardo and the Riders’ offensive success during that season was because of McAdoo, who is now the offensive coordinator for the Elks. 

“I don’t think Coach Jones was being critical, I really don’t,” said Riders head coach Craig Dickenson. “I think he was just trying to defend Coach McAdoo. I think maybe he felt like that was a way he could do it.”

When Fajardo was asked if he was affected by these comments he referred to himself as a “vault” and said: “it’s tough to get in there.” He is aware as a quarterback it’s important not to get too high or too low with your emotions. 

The last time Jones was a head coach for a CFL team, it was for the Riders during the 2018 season. Jones left the three-down league for the NFL in 2019 to be a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. He returned to Canada as a defensive consultant for the Toronto Argonauts during the 2021 season while McAdoo was also with the Argos as the offensive line coach last year. 

Both Jones and McAdoo have lots of experience in the league and know how to win together. In 2015 the duo won the 103rd Grey Cup with Edmonton, Jones was head coach and McAdoo offensive coordinator. Jones is known in the league for usually fielding a difficult defence to play against but Fajardo seems ready for the challenge.

“There’s been plenty of fuel for me and I know a lot of it is mind games. Try not to panic when there is something new and go through your reads. We’ll get heated up, Chris Jones is known for bringing a lot of pressure,” said Fajardo.

“You always want to go against his defence because he tries to throw you different looks and you see how much you know as a quarterback. There’s a lot of things you’ll see against a Chris Jones defence that normally you don’t see on a week-to-week basis.”

The Elks will be looking for a win over Saskatchewan after getting shellacked in Week 1, losing 59-15 against the B.C. Lions. Fajardo threw for 311 yards and one touchdown while rushing 10 times for 42 yards and one major in leading the green and white to a 30-13 win over the Tiger-Cats. 

The Riders QB will try to keep his momentum going on Saturday night against the fabled Jones defence in Edmonton.