The best thing the Regina Pats have going for them right now is the Saskatchewan Roughriders. As the Pats, once a glory team in junior hockey, flounder through another abysmal season, headed for yet another year out of the playoffs, nobody is talking about them.
Perhaps, the shock of missing the playoffs a year ago when they had, among others, a star named Jordan Eberle in the lineup, is still rolling through the city, and, thus, their pratfall this season is nothing more than the norm for what was once the cornerstone franchise of the junior hockey in Canada. Thus, they are virtually not even a topic of conversation among the city’s sports fans. Pity, that. Why, even Rod Pedersen’s Blog displayed a blah response when he asked what people what to talk about on his Sports Cage show, which airs every weekday afternoon from 4-6 on CKRM. They want to talk about curling as much as they want to talk about the Pats.
No, all anybody wants to talk about is the Roughriders, and their eternal search for a head coach who can deliver the goods the way Kent Austin did in 2007 and the way Ken Miller almost did in 2009 and 2010.
And, as we hit Week Two in the search for The Replacement, we find that it is turning into a search for the perfect used car.
You know the way it goes. “Hi! This is Irv from Valley Recycling, the dealer for the people, here to tell ya that you don’t need to buy a new car to feel like you’re driving a new car. We’ve got old recycled cars here that may have a lot of mileage on them, but can still drive the streets and the highways as if they just came off the assembly line. They may be old in terms of years, but they are new in terms of what they can do for you. Oh, yes. They still have lots of miles left in them, and they’re loaded with all the accessories. What’s that? Well, no, there is no warranty left, but, trust me, these vehicles have what it takes to take you where you want to go. Just give us a chance to put you in one of these used vehicles, and you’ll be surprised.”
And, so, we venture into Riderville, where, as the long-time members of the Rider Nation can testify to, the fields are filled with mines just waiting to be detonated.
We have, on the platter before us in this buffet of coaches lined up for the vacancy in the head coach’s office of the best run franchise in the CFL, a bevy of names that have been around for more than a few years. They somehow seem to be the favourites.
There is Richie Hall. He is there because he such a great guy, and he is, and he is always smiling and, after all, he played for the Riders and he coached the Riders, and everybody here loves him. How can you not love him? After being interviewed for years for a head coaching job and turned down time and time again, he was finally hired by Danny Long Gone in Edmonton. One of the first things Eric Tillman did when he got to Edmonton was to fire Richie Hall. Eric Tillman is not one to make mistakes, at least not in football. Richie got his chance, and he couldn’t deliver. All he had to do to save his job was beat the Riders in the last game of the season, and it didn’t happen. The game is harsh. It is built on winning.
There is Doug Berry, who is 62 years old. He coached for years in college football in the U.S., including a stop at Penn State, and has had coaching jobs in the CFL in Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. He was head coach in Winnipeg, and took the Bombers to the 2007 Grey Cup game in a woefully weak Eastern Division. In the 2010 Grey Cup game, the offence, coached by Berry, was woefully unimaginative and lost a game it could easily have won. That he was given the title of Assistant Head Coach is something nobody has ever explained.
Now, there is Greg Marshall. He was a defensive lineman in the CFL. He has coached in Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and now Hamilton. He is 54 years old. He has been interviewed for virtually every head coaching job in the CFL, but never got through the door. Why is that? Now, he is considered to by some as a front-runner here. Why is that?
The Riders do not seem remotely interested in this search to look at somebody younger, somebody who has never been a head coach, and somebody who has limited coaching experience. It is almost as if the “Old Boys’ Club” has taken over in a town and province that has a new energy about it, one that is leaning towards and embracing a younger breed of leaders.
They say that Dave Dickenson, currently of Calgary, doesn’t have the experience to be a head coach. How is one supposed to get experience as a head coach if somebody won’t take a chance on him?
Somebody took a chance in Winnipeg on Bud Grant when he was only 29 years old. Somebody in Winnipeg took a chance on Mike Riley when he was only 33 years old. All those two did was produce one Grey Cup champion after another.
Here, it seems we feel safer with a used car, rather than take a chance on the new model. “New” means just that. The chance to completely change the culture, be daring, be exciting and, ultimately, to be successful.
Y’er welcome. But, who wants to go back to the relentlessly painful days of Chaos-By-The-Creek when recycling was in vogue?
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