Steinberg’s MMQB: Riders get it right with O’Day

Last week’s MMQB didn’t have much of a shelf life. About 27 hours after last week’s piece about finishing what he started in Saskatchewan, Chris Jones shocked the CFL world by taking a senior defensive assistant role with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Jones’s extension didn’t have much of a shelf life either; his move to Cleveland came a week after signing a multi-year extension to stay on as VP of Football Operations, general manager, and head coach.

The Riders moved quickly to fill two of those roles with one person, while one position remains vacant and opens up an extremely fascinating job search.

Jeremy O’Day was introduced as Saskatchewan’s new VP and GM on Friday, and I think he’s the perfect choice to take the reins. O’Day has been preparing for this job for the last eight years and has more than paid his dues. Now that a job has opened up, going in any other direction wouldn’t have made sense for Saskatchewan.

O’Day has worked his way up the ladder since joining the Riders’ front office in 2011. That’s what I really like about this hire; O’Day has had a chance to progress through the ranks and learn the ins and outs of a CFL front office under Jones and Brendan Taman. I can’t see how this turns into an “over his head” situation.

I also really like that O’Day is a recent former player. We’re only talking about his career ending after the 2010 season, which I think helps O’Day relate to players effectively. Everything combined points to O’Day being successful in his new role. It’s why the Riders barely blinked before promoting him; he was the natural choice.


CHRIS JONES RESIGNS
» O’Day named Riders’ GM, VP of football ops
» O’Leary: Who will be the Riders’ next coach?
» Nye: Riders must act fast following Jones’ exit
» Free Agent Tracker: View Riders’ pending FAs


The first order of business for O’Day is an important one: hire a new head coach. As Chris O’Leary wrote last week, there are two roads O’Day could go down here. Does he continue the trend of hiring from within? Or does he look outside the organization and chase one of the big names currently without work?

For O’Day to do the former, Craig Dickenson seems like the natural choice. He’s been a coordinator for more than a decade in this league and is well versed in what goes along with coaching in Regina. He’s worked under successful head coaches, won titles, and has earned a shot at his first head coach gig.

From the outside, Marc Trestman seems to be the glaringly obvious candidate. Jim Popp and the Argos shocked us all when they fired Trestman at the end of a nightmare 2018 campaign, and if there’s anyone to help answer Saskatchewan’s quarterback conundrum, it’s probably him.

We’re already into the new year, so the Riders are going to need to work quick here. Whoever O’Day hires as head coach is going to want to implement their own processes and potentially make staffing decisions. The good news as a Riders fan, though, is it sure does look like the team has the right guy at the helm making these important decisions.

Canadian appreciation

I came away from Sunday really appreciating the CFL’s rules surrounding challenges. Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams was marred by an egregious missed pass interference late in the game that will be talked about for weeks to come.

In the hours since, many have pointed to the CFL’s ability to challenge pass interference as a potential solution going forward. If something similar were to happen in a CFL playoff game, the option would exist to use a coaches’ challenge to ensure the right call was made.

Now, there are caveats to that, of course. A coach would have to still own his challenge to be able to initiate a video review, because even inside three minutes, penalties aren’t subject to an automatic review. But to at least have the mechanism is a really nice thing to fall back on.

I really like the way the CFL approaches video review right now, because the league has done a good job of blending technology with the flow of the game. The league allows coaches to challenge a wide range of things, which I believe is important. The technology is there and so teams should have the ability to use it.

In saying that, commissioner Randy Ambrosie did a really good thing partway through the 2017 season. By limiting coaches to just one challenge per game, it eliminated the tendency to challenge borderline plays on the off chance a call would be favourable. It was a great example of balancing technology without compromising the spirit of the rule.

 

Sunday’s controversy south of the border served as a really good reminder of why I like the way things are in the CFL right now. Having one challenge mixed with a wide variety of reviewable plays adds an intriguing strategic element to the equation.

Is it better to use that challenge in the first quarter on a play you’re confident will be overturned? Or do you hold off and wait in case something pops up in the latter stages of the game? There’s no right answer, which adds so much weight to each potential decision.

On-field officials can’t make every call and sometimes things will be missed. That’s what goes along with having humans officiate humans, which is something I don’t believe should ever change. Sometimes, though, officials need a little help, and that mechanism currently exists. It just so happens it exists with restrictions, which is exactly how it should be.

Quick hits

It’s going to be weird watching the Edmonton Eskimos play without seeing J.C. Sherritt patrolling the middle of the field. Sherritt retired after eight seasons in green and gold late last week and goes down as one of the best linebackers of his generation. The 2012 Most Outstanding Defensive Player and 2015 Grey Cup Champion was a class act on and off the field and will definitely be missed.

Finally, it came as somewhat of a surprise to see the Calgary Stampeders and Kamar Jorden agree to a two-year extension late last week. After the devastating knee injury he suffered midway through 2018, there was speculation Jorden might call it a career himself. Instead, he’s back for another couple years which is good for the Stamps. Prior to his injury, Jorden had established himself as one of the most dangerous and reliable receivers in the league.