Bad boy Garrett Marino an easy scapegoat for Riders’ disappointing 2022 CFL season

Photo courtesy: CFL

Bad boy Garrett Marino’s fine for his rough play in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Week 11 loss to the B.C. Lions added a little more negativity to what’s been an ugly summer-long drama for him and the CFL’s most popular team.

Some in Regina are suggesting the ugly hit on Ottawa Redblacks’ quarterback Jeremiah Masoli on July 8 and his celebratory actions that night should’ve been enough for head coach Craig Dickenson and general manager Jeremy O’Day to hand this young man an apple and a road map.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, the Riders’ decision-makers chose the path of forgiveness, apologizing on Marino’s behalf and accepting his four-game suspension.

In Marino’s first game back from suspension, a TSN halftime montage critiqued the way he was going after players, even suggesting a targeted head hit on Lions’ receiver Lucky Whitehead. Then came word of another fine to Marino for his rough play in knocking B.C.’s centre Peter Godber to the ground after the whistle had gone.

Once again, the Riders, who should be focused on an important and winnable road game against a backup quarterback, are distracted by Marino’s antics.

Not only have the Riders stumbled to just one victory in five tries since that fateful Friday night in July, they have yet to put together a 60-minute outing even comparable to the juggernaut that has excited new Mosaic Stadium crowds with a winning record in every season since the new park opened in 2017.

In fact, if not for a few unforced errors at the wrong time for the Elks, Saskatchewan could’ve very easily been looking at a five-game losing skid in the middle of this home-and-home with the Lions.

Dickenson knew that the low Marino hit on Masoli created a negative vibe for his football team the night it happened.

“I’ve been here three minutes and this is all we’ve been talking about,” Dickenson said. “And I’ll continue to talk about this for probably 10 more minutes and it didn’t need to happen.”

The Riders wish it would’ve been over in 10 minutes. To his credit, Dickenson seems to be the only one in management quick to answer for the misdeeds of the green and white athletes on the field.

He has always been accountable to the media, win or lose, and has endured his share of criticism for not being tougher on players who had discipline issues early in the season. Dickenson probably wishes he were answering questions about penalty yardage, instead of Marino.

So the question becomes: How much of the Roughriders’ free-fall can we pin on Marino?

The answer: Clearly some of it. But not all of it.

Marino isn’t the reason Dan Clark got injured in Week 2 and the offensive line completely fell apart.

Saskatchewan fans can’t blame Marino for the fact other teams know the Riders desperately need to run the football and focus their entire defensive game plan on shutting it down.

Marino didn’t create a situation where Jason Maas has to call quick-release plays but doesn’t have a quick-release quarterback to work with.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest the Riders’ season went from championship contender to fighting to make the playoffs in the West the minute Marino embarrassed Saskatchewan with his live chest-thumping on national TV.

It is debatable if the Riders should’ve or still should dump their lightning rod d-lineman, but it is not debatable that they have not been the same since he became a household name for the wrong reasons.

The Roughriders do not look like a team playing for each other right now, despite what some of Marino’s teammates are saying about having his back. But to blame it all on one man is too easy for everyone else.

If the Riders are going to fold on a Grey Cup hosting season all because of the foolish antics of one teammate, then the reality is this team never had a shot in the first place.

Adversity tests the mettle of pro football teams all the time and contenders rise to the occasion while pretenders fold under pressure.

So far, just over halfway through their 2022 season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders — not just Marino — aren’t showing signs of rising for much of anything.

“We are a .500 team right now,” Dickenson said after losing the first half of this home-and-home series with B.C. “We are what we are.”

Legendary NFL head coach Bill Parcells is credited with saying: “You are what your record says you are.”

The Riders might be a .500 team in the standings but considering their recent stumbles and combined 11-28 record of the teams they have managed to beat, it has to make us all wonder if today Saskatchewan is worse than what their record says they are.

Marino was never important enough to this football team to get that much credit or blame. This fall from grace looks more and more like a washed season every week and it’s much bigger than him or anyone else.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.