October 22, 2012

Pedersen: Roughriders remain unapologetic

A smile flashed across Brendan Taman’s face at the mention of the term “playoffs”. There’s actually another word the Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager actually despises, but we’ll get to that later.

Chamblin leading Riders

Rookie Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin has taken the Riders from the cellar in 2011 and into the post-season a year later, a feat that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his boss, General Manager Brendan Taman.

The Roughriders entered this past weekend teetering on the edge of a playoff berth needing either a home win over Montreal Saturday afternoon, or a Hamilton Tiger-Cats loss at Calgary Saturday night.

Fortunately for the Riders, one of those two things happened.

The Green and White rallied, but ultimately came out on the wrong end of a 34-28 decision against the Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium. Later that night, however, the Ticats dropped a nail-biting battle to the Stampeders at a snowy McMahon Stadium, which allowed the Riders to clinch a playoff spot without even breaking a sweat.

Backing into the playoffs? Absolutely. Apologizing for it? Not on your life.

“I hate doing this because I never want to look back to last year but going from where we were a year ago to where we are now, it’s a big credit for us,” Taman said about heading back to the CFL post-season after a one-year absence in 2011. 

“We’ve improved this team, I think there’s no doubt about that but we need to play better. We’re happy to be where we’re at, but we need to be better.”

No guff. 

The Riders have lost back-to-back games to Edmonton and Montreal. 

The chance at a home playoff game has been blown and now the only question which remains is: are they going on the road in the West Division in the playoffs or crossing over into the East Division?

Really, if you ask these Riders, it doesn’t matter.  They’re in the playoffs with a rookie head coach and a roster that was completely overhauled in the off-season by Taman, his first season truly in charge of the organization. 

They rebuilt, without using the term “rebuild”. Why?

“I hate that word,” Taman grimaced.

“I don’t know if there’s another word to use.  I’d use it if there was but I hate that word because that’s sort of a built-in excuse to lose.

“We were never going to do that but we knew we were going change the team a lot. I think other teams in the past have done it, even Edmonton did very well using ‘that word’ last year.

The Riders have two games left; at home this week to Toronto and then the last game of the regular season against the Lions at BC Place Stadium. 

Who knows how things will play out?  Regardless of how it does, it will constitute as a huge leap from last year under the guidance of Chamblin.

The key is that they’ve clinched a playoff spot with still two games remaining, and they can now start making plans for the playoffs. As for the makeover – the “rebuild” – things went according to plan despite a lot of silent hand-wringing behind closed doors.  Especially during a five-game losing streak mid-season.

“I think in this league with eight teams, you can do it pretty quick,” Taman explained. “It’s not easy, but it’s a credit to the coaches and the players to have won enough games.”

The current two-game slide is nothing to be overlooked but by no means is it an omen for the future.  In 2010 the Riders lost four in row in October before winning game 18 and rolling into the Grey Cup in Edmonton.

Hold on tight. This is where it gets fun.