There was the young gunslinger given the endorsement of the kindly old coach to be the starting quarterback on an offense that had what was likely the best corps of pass receivers in the Canadian Football League. They were like lightning, you just never knew where and when they would strike. And, they clapped with the sound of thunder, rolling across the CFL West, bringing home playoff games at the same stadium that had once serenaded the Rider Nation with the music that was Ron Lancaster throwing to Hugh Campbell and then Rhett Dawson, or Kent Austin firing zingers to Ray Elgaard and bombs to a streaking Jeff Fairholm.
And, then it was Darian Durant, tough and competitive, fierce and durable, lofting shots to Andy Fantuz, who it seemed, could catch a hiccup in a hurricane, or to Weston Dressler, the little fireball who had never heard of the word “Quit.”
Now, 14 long, disillusioning, frustrating and sometimes horrific games into the season that wasn’t, that never had a chance, there is the growing feeling that the whole ship has to be restructured in so many ways.
They have been out-scored 99-9 in three games they have had to win. They haven’t scored a touchdown in so long it is stunning. They have become roadkill on the road to nowhere. Even the head coach, the always optimistic Ken Miller, concedes there is nothing but a sliver of hope for them now. They are, indeed, hopeless and helpless, and nobody has any answers. Not management. Not the coaches. Not the players. Not even the eternally hopeful lead chanter of the Rider Nation, the flappable John Frenzy.
They go into their final four games playing out the string, and the way they have been playing for virtually the whole season, there is nothing to look forward to, and the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed a runaway freight train. They have traveled into football oblivion, and it gnaws at the Rider Nation in a painful concert of ineptness.
Now, Darian Durant can’t find the open receivers, and when he does, names like Fantuz and Getzlaf drop his passes. They can’t run the ball. They can’t stop the other teams. They plumb can’t do nuthin’ right.
There is, really, nothing that can be salvaged from this wreck this season has become, even if they somehow won all four games remaining cause they are too deep into the septic tank to pull themselves out.
And, it all happened so fast.
Or, did it?
Maybe it started when they failed to replace defensive ends John Chick and Ricky Baggs. They still haven’t. Maybe, it started when they let Ken Miller stay on as head coach in 2010 even when he admitted later he was ready to give up the job. The man who brought so much to the team turns 70 this week, and the tank is empty.
Maybe, it started when they decided to name Miller vice president of football operations, and wrecked the whole accepted chain of command, rendering general manager Brendan Taman powerless in the decision-making process.
Maybe, it started when they hired Greg Marshall as head coach when nobody else in the CFL would despite countless interviews. Maybe, it started when Marshall filled his assistant coaching staff with three aging former head coaches at a time when the game is going to younger, more innovating, more daring coaching staffs.
Maybe, it started when Miller fired Marshall and Berry and decided to go without an offensive co-ordinator, to run the position “by committee.” It put Durant on an island. He had already lost his quarterback coach Marcus Crandell to the Eskimos, and now he was without an offensive co-ordinator. Absurd.
It really doesn’t matter when it started, and likely it was a combination of all these things that tore apart the team, and created the monster of a season that is still not finished. What matters is what happens now. There has to be wholesale changes in the coaching staff because even Miller admits it’s been a coaching problem, the way this team fails to find any sense of fluidity when it hits the field. There will have to be roster changes. And, somebody is going to have to clean up the executive hierarchy of this team. The chain of command is as clear as mud.
The only good thing about where the Riders are now is they get an extra couple of months to start on next season, to start building a team that can get to Grey Cup game when it comes here. They’ve already wasted enough time.
Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org
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