The first real test of the Riders’ Jeremy O’Day-Craig Dickenson era has arrived in Saskatchewan

Photos courtesy: Ingrid Bulmer/ All right reserved.

It’s safe to declare the honeymoon period is over for Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson.

The past two seasons were relatively smooth sailing for the duo who took over from Chris Jones in January 2019.

The Riders overcame a 1-2 start in 2019 to finish atop the West Division at 13-5. They lost the West Final, sure, but Cody Fajardo became a fan favourite and the future looked bright. Saskatchewan followed that up with a solid 9-5 season in 2021 and beat the Calgary Stampeders at Mosaic Stadium for the first postseason win in the venue’s history.

But in the world of football, anything that happened more than a few weeks ago is old news.

Every football operations department, with perhaps the exception of John Hufnagel’s Calgary Stampeders, have run into controversy and problems on the field in recent memory. O’Day and Dickenson are no exception.

The duo are currently dealing with a franchise quarterback who is banged up worse than he’s been since taking the job in 2019 and a couple of serious on-field incidents that are leaving people wondering whether this coaching staff has the ability to keep their players under control. Oh, and an outbreak of COVID-19 forced the team to cancel practice on Tuesday. Yikes.

The team has also had a couple of tough losses to East Division opponents in a year where Eastern wins over Western opponents have proven to be extremely rare.

At this point, what’s done is done. The question now becomes: how does the team get out of it?

When it comes to their star pivot, I agree with my colleague Brendan McGuire that it’s time for No. 7 to sit and rest. I would suggest resting Fajardo for at least this week’s game against Toronto, but adding another game to get him to the Week 9 bye as McGuire suggested would work too.

With a tough stretch of divisional opponents on the horizon, the Riders will need Fajardo to be as healthy as possible. Otherwise, they could quickly fall out of the race for first in the West Division.

As for the rest of it, that’s in the hands of the men in charge of this organization, and that even includes president Craig Reynolds because everything starts at the top.

The good news for the Riders is they are going through this with a very manageable 4-2 record and remain in a playoff spot with a crossover looking likely at the moment.

The Riders are far from the first team to go through a rough patch in a year in which they legitimately hoped to compete for a championship. Sometimes, these kinds of challenges even make a team better in the long run, provided they can get the train back on the tracks.

The sky isn’t falling just yet in Riderville, but the next few weeks could say a lot about where this season is going.