October 14, 2014

Pedersen: Riders trying to find a leader until Durant’s return


The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in a conundrum, but you know that.

However it may not be the scenario you think and it might not be as bad as you think either.

The Riders were smoked 40-9 on Thanksgiving Monday in Montreal to drop their record to 9-6 – losers of four of their last five – and it sent them home having to pick up the pieces with three games left in the regular season and a playoff berth not yet clinched.

The reason for their struggles isn’t that difficult to pinpoint; they were 8-2 when starting quarterback Darian Durant went down with injury and now are 1-4 without him. How can you blame the team for that?

With time running out, Corey Chamblin’s Coach of the Year credentials are being put to the test.

“We’ve got to find answers to everything,” Chamblin said after the game in Montreal. “It has to be more than the quarterback situation.”

“We have young guys in there and we depend on them to step up, but we understand that Darian’s not playing and we’re not hiding our heads in the sand on that. We’ve just got to make sure that with the new quarterbacks, we’re still able to win.”

That’s where the conundrum enters into the equation.  The Riders still have faith in young pivots Tino Sunseri and Seth Doege but they haven’t made the most of their multiple opportunities.

So, do the Riders keep going with the young guys, hoping for a breakthrough, or hand the ball to recently-signed Kerry Joseph, the hero of the 2007 Grey Cup in Saskatchewan?

That’s what’s keeping the Rider coaches up at night these days.

“We’re trying to protect against what happened to me in 2007 in the Grey Cup,” revealed Rider GM Brendan Taman.  “(Bomber QB) Kevin Glenn broke his arm and couldn’t play in the Grey Cup so we had to go with an inexperienced Ryan Dinwiddie.  Had Kerry Joseph been playing for Winnipeg that day, that’s a ‘what if’, but we have to protect, try to be better, and think ahead.”

So it’s not a slam dunk that the Riders will start Kerry Joseph this Sunday when Edmonton comes to town even though it seems like the best option. The club is careful not to destroy their other quarterbacks’ confidence. They were brought in here for a reason and it would be reckless to discard their promising careers.

But who should run this team in the absence of Darian Durant?  That’s the theme here and his return is imminent.

“Darian’s schedule has been progressing just like we all have thought,” Taman reported.  “He’s probably going to start throwing in two weeks.  I know there’s speculation this is a smokescreen but I wouldn’t do an interview with you and mislead you on something like that.”

“We expect him to be throwing in two weeks, but won’t be ready for Game #17 in Calgary, but then we have a bye week and finish at home November 8 against Edmonton.  I think there’s a fairly good chance Darian could play that football game and if you asked Darian and our medical people that, they’d say the same thing. We have a sense that he will.”

I’ve noticed this football club wants to win the Grey Cup as badly as last year. I put that question to Taman as well.

“I think it’s moreso to be honest with you,” Taman said.  “The aura of the Grey Cup being here last year, bringing in the vets and all that, that was one thing.  But this team is driven to try to do something that’s never been done in the history of this organization.  That’s why you pull out a stop like bringing in Kerry Joseph.”

“We’re trying to do everything in our power to win a football game, or two or three. We expect to go into the playoffs, play good football, and go into Vancouver for the Grey Cup and win it.”

“I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t.”