‘It’s all on me’: Riders’ Craig Dickenson accepts blame for 2023 season ‘failure’

Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

After the Saskatchewan Roughriders missed the CFL playoffs for a second straight year, Craig Dickenson called 2023 exactly the way he saw it for the Green and White.

“This season was a failure. We didn’t get to where we wanted to, which was to get in the playoffs and compete for a championship. We weren’t able to do that, so give us an ‘F’ on that,” Dickenson said in a solemn tone.

The 52-year-old started his era with the Riders 22-10 through 2019 and 2021, which included two West Final appearances. The last two campaigns have had matching 6-12 records with identical seven-game losing streaks to end each schedule, missing the postseason in 2022 and 2023.

“At the end of the day, it’s all on me. It was a different team, but we didn’t win any more games. Just didn’t do enough this year, didn’t coach well enough, didn’t play well enough at times and it just didn’t turn out like we’d hoped,” Dickenson said.

Saskatchewan needed just one win to punch a ticket to the playoffs, but couldn’t get it done down the stretch. The Calgary Stampeders, coached by his younger brother Dave Dickenson, did enough to secure the final spot in the Grey Cup playdown, including a 26-19 win over the Roughriders in Week 19 at McMahon Stadium.

“We just didn’t take advantage. You look across the way, Calgary, they weren’t very good either a couple weeks ago and all of a sudden, they found a way to win. We just couldn’t find a way to do it and we had plenty of opportunities,” Dickenson said.

“It’s brutal, to be honest. We were in it for a while there and it felt like nothing could really go our way. It was a combination of a lot of things, each game was different, but in some aspects, it felt the same,” quarterback Jake Dolegala said.

Dickenson coached all season in the final year of his contract and it seems as though a new deal for him is a longshot at best. He made it clear there were no discussions with general manager Jeremy O’Day about an extension at any point during the season. The Riders bench boss acknowledged he does not know what the future holds for him.

“The people that make the decisions will make the decisions and I respect whatever direction they decide to go. I’ve enjoyed every minute here and I hope to continue to coach here, but if that’s not the way they go then I leave with no regrets,” Dickenson said.

“We had really high expectations, high hopes. I know we worked really hard this offseason to try to get the right guys, with the right character, and the right skill set. I think we did that for the most part. It just felt like we were that close the whole season and just couldn’t for some reason get over the hump.”

Rider Nation has been vocal about its unhappiness with the team and its leadership. Dickenson appreciates the support from fans and wants them to at least be proud of the effort the Riders gave this season.

“It didn’t work out like we wanted either,” he said. “It didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, we’re working our tails off to try to win not only for the guys in that locker room but for this city, this organization and this province.”

Dickenson planned to go home, have a good dinner, come in on Sunday to watch the film and go from there. It could be his last supper as the Roughriders’ head coach.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.