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One week ago at this time the wounds for the Saskatchewan Roughriders were so raw that it was too hard to either look back or ahead.
The Green and White had just come 30 seconds away from an improbable run to the 2012 CFL West Final but a last-minute miracle by the Calgary Stampeders earned them a 36-30 playoff win over our Riders and finished their season at McMahon Stadium.
It was painful. It was right up there with the 2009 Grey Cup (the 13th man), the 1976 Grey Cup (Tony Gabriel), the 2004 West Final (the McCallum overtime miss) and, I’m told, the 1970 Western Division playoffs, but I wasn’t around yet so I don’t know what they’re talking about. Either way, just add more heartache to the pile with which we live here in the 306.
So now comes the question: was the 2012 Roughrider season a success? It would seem everyone has an opinion on this and they all count. Considering Saskatchewan was the worst team in the CFL in 2011 at 5-13 and rebounded with an 8-10 record and a playoff berth in 2012, I’ll say it WAS a success. They improved a great deal.
There are many who agree including first-year Rider coach Corey Chamblin, Hall of Fame sportswriter Bob Hughes and Sportsnet CFL reporter Arash Madani.
However there are many who disagree including former Roughriders (and now CKRM analysts) Carm Carteri and Scott Schultz and maybe, just maybe, Roughrider General Manager Brendan Taman himself.
In speaking with Regina reporters at his year-end news conference, Taman labeled this past season as “frustrating”, explaining that they didn’t achieve their goals. Those included a winning record, hosting a playoff game and even making it to the Grey Cup.
It wasn’t so long ago that was a regular occurrence with three Grey Cup appearances between 2007 and 2010. But this team hasn’t gotten a sniff of the big dance for a couple seasons now and that’s because the club was allowed to get old and out-of-date.
That run of success last decade was a magical time, almost like a dream, but it created two dilemmas: 1) the franchise got complacent and 2) the Rider Nation now won’t stand for anything less than a championship.
The first problem has been recognized and dealt with while the second one may not even be a problem at all, but it’s not realistic. To demand your team finish on top year-in and year-out is as much ludicrous as it is impossible. That would mean every fanbase of every team goes into the off-season discouraged. Who wants that?
Can we at least say the Roughriders are on the right track? No one can deny that and it’s exciting because for Chamblin and Taman, it was their true first seasons on the job. How much will this team improve in 2013?
That, I’m afraid, is a million miles away but it’s fun to dream about. And with the 2013 Grey Cup being played at Mosaic Stadium, there’s a very realistic shot the Riders will be in it to defend their turf.
And that should be enough to send you into the off-season with a smile!