Mur­phy leaves Riders with one hole

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - ROB VANSTONE rvan­[email protected]­ twit­­van­stone

John Mur­phy’s de­par­ture from the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers was such a dev­as­tat­ing blow that they pro­ceeded to make three con­sec­u­tive Grey Cup ap­pear­ances.

Us­ing prece­dent as a guide, the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers — who have mu­tu­ally parted ways with the vet­eran CFL player-per­son­nel man — aren’t likely to be in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion sans Mur­phy.

Yes, Mur­phy did pro­vide a foun­da­tion of tal­ent in Cal­gary that helped the Stam­ped­ers ex­tend their pe­riod of sus­tained suc­cess.

And, ob­vi­ously, the Roughrid­ers’ roster was up­graded dur­ing Mur­phy’s three years as the as­sis­tant vice-pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions and player per­son­nel.

Mur­phy was hired by Saskatchewan shortly af­ter Chris Jones took over as head coach, gen­eral man­ager and vice-pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions in De­cem­ber of 2015.

Jones and Mur­phy in­her­ited a 3-15 door­mat and sub­se­quently in­creased the vic­tory to­tal to five, then 10, then 12.

The 2017 Roughrid­ers were one de­fen­sive stop shy of ad­vanc­ing to the Grey Cup.

This past sea­son, Saskatchewan fin­ished sec­ond in the West Divi­sion and earned a home play­off game — al­beit one that was wasted when the Green and White was quickly bounced from the post-sea­son.

Even so, Jones was named the CFL’S coach of the year, an ac­co­lade that re­flects the ex­tent to which the Riders have el­e­vated their for­tunes on his watch.

But a Grey Cup berth re­mains elu­sive.

Af­ter so many changes — and not in­ex­pen­sive ones at that — the Roughrid­ers are still play­ing Fol­low The Leader.

The first-place fin­isher in the West has rep­re­sented the divi­sion in five con­sec­u­tive cham­pi­onship games.

Saskatchewan has been left to look en­vi­ously upon the Stam­ped­ers (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018) and Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos (2015) since last cap­tur­ing a divi­sion ti­tle in 2013.

More was ex­pected — by now, at least — when the Roughrid­ers wooed Jones away from Ed­mon­ton shortly af­ter the Eski­mos’ most-re­cent Grey Cup tri­umph.

Jones quickly added Mur­phy and, hon­estly, it looked like a lot­tery win for the Roughrid­ers.

Well, if you count get­ting four out of six num­bers cor­rect, the Roughrid­ers’ per­for­mance over the last three sea­sons could be con­strued as a lot­tery win.

How­ever, the jack­pot — the seven-fig­ure prize — has proven to be elu­sive. Sort of like a promis­ing quar­ter­back.

Un­der Jones and Mur­phy, the Roughrid­ers have for­ti­fied the roster in sev­eral ar­eas. The one glar­ing, gnaw­ing de­fi­ciency just hap­pens to be at foot­ball’s most cru­cial po­si­tion.

Dar­ian Du­rant was the Roughrid­ers’ starter in Year 1 un­der Jones, who in Novem­ber of 2016 deemed the iconic passer to be “mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful.”

Kevin Glenn and Bran­don Bridge com­bined for a league­high 35 TD passes in Year 2, but Jones felt that the team could do bet­ter.

Glenn was suc­ceeded as the starter by Zach Col­laros, who threw more in­ter­cep­tions (13) than touch­down passes (nine) last sea­son.

Ideally, the Roughrid­ers would have been able to de­velop a young passer by now, but they have failed mis­er­ably in that re­gard.

Whether the re­spon­si­bil­ity falls chiefly upon Jones or Mur­phy is im­ma­te­rial. The bot­tom-line as­sess­ment is that, dur­ing a three-year as­so­ci­a­tion with the Roughrid­ers, that duo could not se­cure a quar­ter­back who would pro­vide a long-term so­lu­tion.

Un­til that dif­fer­ence-mak­ing sig­nal-caller ends up wear­ing green and white, the Roughrid­ers will con­tinue to be mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful. Mean­while, back in Cal­gary …


John Mur­phy was the Roughrid­ers’ as­sis­tant vice-pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions and player per­son­nel un­til he and the team an­nounced a mu­tual part­ing of the ways ear­lier this week.


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