Trevor Harris should stabilize Riders after Cody Fajardo rollercoaster

Photo: Andrew Parry/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The new quarterback of the Saskatchewan Roughriders doesn’t do social media.

“To be honest with you, I don’t read very much online. I know a lot of people probably say that but I mean that,” Harris told 620 CKRM’s The Sportscage.

“I don’t have a Twitter (account), I do have Instagram. I sign on there to mainly watch funny reel videos with my wife and I have Facebook that I sign onto once in a great while.”

To say things will be different in Regina would be an understatement. This is a big change from the last guy who tried to boldly go someplace only four other quarterbacks have gone before in the 113-year history of the franchise in trying to lead the green and white to a Grey Cup championship.

Cody Fajardo regularly complained about online trolls and the toll they took on his mental health, including a lengthy rant following a victory over the Argos during the 2021 season.

By then, it was clear the fishbowl had got to him. After coming off the bench to post an unforgettable 2019 season in which he led the CFL in passing yards to capture the West Division Most Outstanding Player nomination, Fajardo presided through a steady regression.

From a first-place finish in year one to a second-place finish in year two after the coronavirus cancelled the 2020 season. Year three had a promising start only to quickly spiral out of control into a disaster of epic proportions.

From eating corndogs with a smile on his face early on to complaining about fans booing, keyboard warriors and eventually even management, with some subtle jabs at his head coach, the signs were evident of a quarterback quickly growing unhappier by the week.

Throughout his three seasons in Saskatchewan, Riders fans saw some of the best of CFL quarterback play with Fajardo and then some of the worst.

The new guy, Harris, has had his own ups and downs, too. From a high of taking the Ottawa Redblacks to the 2018 Grey Cup to the low of being passed over for Taylor Cornelius in Edmonton, it hasn’t been all rainbows and lollipops for him either.

But there have not been the wild fluctuations in performance and mood out of Harris that happened with Fajardo.

Sure, he can run and isn’t afraid to make things happen with his legs as pointed out by some who even suggest this Roughrider-Alouette free-agent quarterback swap could benefit Montreal.

But that need to scramble can make a shaky O-line look even worse without pocket presence and it caused irreparable damage to the relationship between a quarterback and his offensive line.

Fajardo didn’t point fingers last season but he did at his receivers the year before. He never laid blame on his offensive line for surrendering a CFL record 77 sacks in 2022, but kept trotting out there, knee brace and all, scrambling around, becoming virtually impossible to protect and rarely did he truly put the blame of a miserable year on his own shoulders.

There was not a lot of passionate defending of his offensive linemen from Fajardo in their darkest hour while their own reputations, including position coach Stephen Sorrells, took a merciless beating from fans and media alike.

Even after being benched before the final two games of the season against Calgary, Fajardo spoke of being a “casualty” of poor offensive performance. It wasn’t exactly a sign of someone winning over his offensive line after the five-man unit had been so badly maligned and embarrassed by the stink bomb that was a 6-12 finish in Riderville.

Since that miserable exercise of a football season ended, Fajardo has talked of playing through injury and never being at 100 percent. Yet, not once did he ever pull himself out of the lineup for the greater good of the team.

Not wanting to risk his status as a resident rockstar franchise quarterback, Fajardo showed no signs of willingness to put the betterment of his own teammates ahead of his own standing as starting QB.

There was no going back to Fajardo after that.

There are warts with Harris, too. Even his old teammate Almondo Sewell accused him of not being tough enough and suggested Harris would fold like a cheap suit once he starts getting hit. But Harris took the high road and wouldn’t take the bait.

And when he got benched by Edmonton, himself, and later shipped out of town, there was no complaining at all out of Harris or his camp.

It remains to be seen if Harris can right the ship in Saskatchewan and the criticism of his ability, or lack-there-of, to produce in the red zone is real. There is still no clear idea as to whether or not the Riders have truly upgraded at quarterback.

But one thing you can bank on is that a healthy Harris will get Rider fans off the roller-coaster that was Fajardo. And after the season the Roughriders just had, that’s a pretty big win for Saskatchewan.

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