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It almost seems like the last Rider fan had barely left Mosaic Stadium from Saturday’s playoff game against B.C. before the Riders tied a can to the scapegoat for the loss.
Monday night, quarterback Michael Bishop was placed on waivers and told he’d be released by the Riders if not claimed by another CFL team. 48 hours later, there are still no takers.
Bishop bore the brunt of the blame for the loss, both from inside the locker room and out. He threw three interceptions and fumbled twice as the Riders succumbed 33-12 to B.C., ending what had become a remarkable 12-6 season.
“Michael Bishop is a quality young man,” said Rider GM Eric Tillman. “He has come in here and helped us win some football games and I certainly appreciate what he’s done and his work ethic. He was very much falsely maligned in Toronto. He was in a tough situation and sometimes the camera angles made him look like he was moaning and groaning, but he really is a good team guy. ”
“But we’ve had far too many interceptions and we have not had enough production. Coach Miller’s given him ample opportunity to establish himself.”
Rider coach Ken Miller expressed frustration with Bishop when he met with the media Tuesday morning at Mosaic Stadium. Miller said it was difficult knowing Bishop had so much more to give than what he’d shown in the playoff game.
Rider linebacker Maurice Lloyd further put the screws to Bishop when talking to reporters inside the Rider locker room this week.
“He was a good man off the field,” Lloyd said while the Riders were cleaning out their lockers.” On the field I didn’t like the way he carried himself after turnovers. Everyone praised him for the Winnipeg game (on Sept. 7) and he did a wonderful job but we had guys who could move the ball down the field. When you have that many turnovers . . . it gets very frustrating.”
I recall thinking to myself during the broadcast on Saturday, “this great season can’t possibly be ending this way, can it?” Indeed it did. The Riders turned the ball over seven times including four in the first quarter. Remarkably they were only down 7-0 after the opening 15 minutes but the defense can only do so much.
Backup quarterback Darian Durant heads up the list of free agents which Tillman has yet to disclose. Durant said Tuesday the release of Bishop provides “clarity” and should help him make up his decision whether or not to re-sign with the Green & White this off-season.
Hard feelings remain over the bitter loss to the Riders’ top rivals. It’s the earliest conclusion to a season for the Riders since the 2005 East Semifinal when they succumbed to the Alouettes in Montreal. We’ve become accustomed to the Riders battling further into the playoffs making at least the West Final in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.
In the end, B.C. coach Wally Buono was right in saying before Saturday’s game there is no home field advantage in the playoffs, and that they would in fact meet up with Calgary again in the West Division Final.
And right now that’s what hurts the most.
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Riders on 620 CKRM Radio.