RIDERS SHOULD BE LOCK TO WIN GREY CUP BID
Big questions surround franchise’s efforts to field championship-calibre team in 2020
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are exercising 2020 foresight.
That became clear on Monday, when Roughriders presidentCEO Craig Reynolds told CKRM the team is preparing to submit a bid for Canadian professional football’s 108th championship game.
One would think the bid process will be less competitive than gas prices.
The Roughriders, after all, are the CFL’s flagship franchise — and the primary tenants of a gleaming new stadium, which has cup-holders.
By 2020, seven years will have elapsed since the Roughriders last held the Grey Cup aloft, so the Green and White will certainly be in position to say: “It’s our turn.”
And while the Roughriders aren’t likely to take anything for granted as part of the bid process, approval should be the expectation upon the team’s declaration of interest.
The event is a guaranteed money-maker — not only for the Roughriders, but also for the league. And the Roughriders, remember, are a money-maker for other franchises by virtue of being a gate attraction.
With financial might comes considerable influence, something the Roughriders can wield in cases such as Grey Cup bids.
Rest assured that the homework is already done. It’s doubtful the Roughriders would publicize a target date of 2020 in advance of a formal bid without having an idea of how the proposal fits into the league’s plans.
It wouldn’t look good for anybody should the mighty Roughriders bid for the 2020 event, only to be told: “Better luck next time.”
And, really, there are only so many prospective sites in a nine-team league. This year’s game will be held in Edmonton. Calgary will host in 2019.
A Regina-based Grey Cup in 2020 would be the third consecutive championship game to be played in a West Division centre, a situation that would represent an imbalance.
Consider, too, that a Grey Cup hasn’t yet been held at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field, which opened in 2014. Steeltown should be part of the equation at some point — for the first time since 1996 — and a case could be made for 2020.
Even so, it’s difficult to say no to the league’s Goliath, that being the Roughriders.
The larger issue, presuming that assent is given to a Saskatchewan bid, concerns the state and the composition of the local football team, looking ahead to 2020.
It’s difficult to roll out a multiyear plan, roster-wise, when oneyear contracts are now an option — and a popular one at that.
That wasn’t the case until 2014, so the Roughriders are facing a new dynamic when it comes to constructing a Cup-worthy team.
Another complicating factor could be the expiration of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the CFL Players’ Association in 2019. With labour issues in mind, players have been hesitant to sign contracts beyond 2018.
The new Alliance of American Football, set to kick off in February, presents another option for players, and perhaps, an obstacle for any CFL general manager who aspires to lay out a multiyear blueprint.
Former Riders GM Brendan Taman was able to establish some cornerstones in 2012 with some important free-agent additions (see: Brendon LaBatte) and by signing quarterback Darian Durant to a new contract.
Given the uncertain labour situation, and the increasingly transient nature of players due to the one-year contracts, how might that affect the Roughriders as they look ahead to 2020?
Other important decisions can be made in the interim. The first order of business should be to ensure that the current football operations staff is in place through 2020.
Head coach, defensive co-ordinator, general manager and vicepresident of football operations Chris Jones is under contract through 2019. The team’s progress under Jones dictates that an extension is warranted.
But how about the rest of his staff ? A football operations salary cap takes effect next season — another issue that represents a change from the preparatory process leading up to 2013.
One more question: Who will be the quarterback?
Zach Collaros keeps improving as the Riders’ starter. However, his contract expires after this season. The same applies to backup Brandon Bridge.
That’s one more thing to consider as the Roughriders strive to build a bridge to 2020.