October 11, 2018

Nye: Patience a virtue for Riders, Bombers

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

One thing fans aren’t, media types maybe less so, is patient.

But in professional sports you can’t change the quarterback every game, nor the coach, nor the manager, running back, offensive linemen, receivers, defensive backs, etc.

On Saturday, two teams have been rewarded for their patience.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders lost four of six games, dropping to 3-4 on the season. While they were without Zach Collaros for much of that stretch, that didn’t seem to matter.

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Chris Jones’ team has moved up to second in the West in the second half of the season (Arthur Ward/CFL.ca)

For what I do on a day to day basis, it wasn’t a tough assignment to get fan reaction to the state of the Roughriders. The offensive coordinator, receivers, head coach, quarterback and offensive line were all getting the brunt of the criticism.

Stephen McAdoo was the biggest lightning rod, as the offensive coordinator’s play calling was seriously under attack. McAdoo faced the criticism, understood the frustration, but stayed the course.

Head Coach Chris Jones knew he could rely on his defence and soon the offence would start to catch up.

Yes, the offence still has their problems from time to time but after seven games the team had scored just 20 points in a game twice. In their last eight games, they’ve scored over 20 points seven times, and 30+ five of eight games.

That is a drastic turnaround. While there are still a few critics, the phone lines have quieted, the arm chair managers are starting to think about planning a trip to Edmonton at the end of November, rather than thinking of how quickly a plane ticket can be delivered to which coaches or players.

There is a reason in an 18 games schedule and a nine team league, you can’t panic. If you panic the decisions you make then could come back to haunt you down the road.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers seemed like they were getting to the panic mode just a few weeks ago.

Matt Nichols threw three interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns in a loss to Saskatchewan. He was replaced by Chris Streveler as the Bombers were about to lose their fourth straight game.

Heading into a bye week, Head Coach Mike O’Shea and General Manager Kyle Walters were staring a quarterback controversy square in the face.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were patient with Matt Nichols this season (The Canadian Press)

It’s the last team a needs heading into the stretch run of season. Do you stick with a quarterback who has proven he can help win games for you or a young inexperienced quarterback that has shown the knack to make something out of nothing?

They stayed patient and gave the ball back to Matt Nichols and they haven’t looked back.

After a four game losing streak, the Bombers are in the middle of a three game winning streak as Nichols hasn’t necessarily set the world on fire but he’s definitely playing with a lot more poise.

Nichols had eight interceptions in that four game losing streak. He has just one in the three game win streak.

The Bombers and Riders patience paid off with no knee jerk reactions, more tinkering than anything, believing that the team they formed out of training camp would be able to find their way.

Now, we have two teams on Saturday with a race for second staring them square in the face, while the Roughriders are looking at chasing down the Calgary Stampeders to get the ultimate prize of a home playoff game in the Western Final.

Not what we were expecting from the Riders in July, nor the Bombers in early September.

But here we are.

Thing is, after this game there will be a loser and the arm chair coaches/managers/quarterbacks will find something to criticize, though both teams have shown they deserve the benefit of the doubt that they’ll make the right move next week.