Quit acting like this is brand new Ridernation. There have been 4 game losing streaks under Corey Chamblin during every year that he’s been at the helm of the Saskatchewan Roughriders; and after every one of those losing streaks, the results have been either the playoffs or the Grey Cup.
The Green and White have hit consecutive losses during the middle of a campaign, during the end of a season, and now (in 2015) it seems as though the designated funk period is reserved for the beginning. This is an organization that is used to going through storms.
Don’t worry, that opening paragraph isn’t a set-up that leads into bright green promises and an “everything is A-OK’ attitude. The truth of the matter is that right now Saskatchewan hasn’t shown the ability to play as a cohesive unit on D. Through 4 games, the Riders haven’t been able to make stops during crucial phases of the game, and during Fridays clash, their defensive struggles were highlighted once again. The Lions opened with scoring drives to begin the 1st Qtr, and to open the 2nd half. BC also found ways to move the sticks when momentum was in the balance and the Green and White needed a stop. This defensive inefficiency has caused the Roughriders to become far too reliant on their offensive production, and the talented players that they have across that board. Football is sport made up of 3 phases. Teams cannot win games simply by dominating 1 category.
So here’s the million dollar question ($770802.08 if we’re talking CDN currency) how do the guys in that locker room turn things around during these early stages of 2015?
The answer has multiple layers, from coaching decisions all the way down to personnel, but there’s a certain group of players on this squad that are going to have to play a larger role than most in terms of getting the team right.
There are 10 vets on this Saskatchewan Roughrider roster that endured the worst season in the last decade within this organization. During 2011, absolutely nothing went right, from the beginning of training camp, all the way through 18 games where the Roughriders were mercifully put down at the end of the regular season. The leadership of these players will be needed now more than ever…They’ve seen everything that is about to happen in this province. From media speculation, to fan panic and locker room rumblings. Their contributions on and off the field will be the legs that this team stands on for the next little bit.
For this exercise we’ll call this group the Tone Setting 10, and it consists of:
Doubles, Getzlaf, Scott McHenry, Dressler, Chris Best, T. George, T. Jack, Brack, Bagg, and Dan Clark.
The Tone Setting 10 needs find ways to deflect the language that will try to infiltrate the locker room. Throughout the first 6 games of 2011, with every loss or bad play, talk of the front office looking to “blow things up” or “make changes” started creeping into locker room conversations. The guys that are still on this team, from that era, need to keep everyone focused on winning the next play and the next game. The business side of the game cannot start affecting practises and routines. The best way to keep everyone zeroed in is to be as upbeat as possible whenever one is around the locker room. The more the young guys, and other vets for that matter, see their leaders attacking the week with a love of the game, the more they’ll follow suit. Nothing creates more tension than a quiet locker room during the practise week. Keep the music blaring, the laughs coming and mood elevated. It makes practising with focused intensity so much easier. #ControlWhatYouCanControl
As we discussed last Sunday, there’s going to be one or two players that start thinking that they deserve more substantial roles, and that’s perfectly fine, it should be that way, however the Tone Setting 10 need to ensure that those men don’t isolate themselves from the group in frustration. The team needs to remain unified, and personal agendas can’t start factoring into the grand scheme. Guys can’t start getting “cliquey” right now. Position groups can’t start splitting up into the guys that are playing vs. the guys that are frustrated they’re not as involved as they would like to be. It happens, and it creates an awkward mood during meetings.
Media is going to start pushing. And pushing hard. Any negative angle that they perceive as news worthy will be touched on and scrutinized through social media, radio, television, and print. That’s why the 10 vets that we’ve singled out need to be front-and-centre. Players can’t be frustrated with the way they’re going to be painted over the next few weeks. They have to understand that a few wins will take all those negative storylines, and fan forums, and turn them into praise filled articles of overwhelming love and adoration. Understanding the fishbowl that they’re in will go a long way in getting on the right track. The Tone Setting 10 know this, and have been through the best of times, and the worst of times.
The final hurdle that the group of vets (from 2011) can help this 2015 team get over is the coaching divide that may try and test this locker room. Throughout the history of sports, when a franchise starts wavering, it's the coach that will be thrown to the wolves first. No matter what is said in the media, or what is done behind closed doors, teams have to battle like hell to remain on the same page. There are 14 games left in the year and the Saskatchewan Roughriders have no shot at winning any of them if outsiders succeed in creating a rift between players and coaches. In 2011 Greg Marshall and the locker room were split right down the middle. Zero accountability, and zero faith.
The final act of the Tone Setting 10 will be to ensure that communication lines stay open between the locker room doors and the coach’s offices. There can’t be a divide. #StayTogether#Team #DontLoseFaith
I like the title, The Tone Setting 10. It’s the perfect description for what is needed. If there was some sort of Bat Signal that Ridernation could shoot up into the atmosphere, it would be for this group. They’ve experienced every sight, smell, sound, and touch that encompassed the last troubling start that this franchise went through. We all know how 2011 ended. 5-13 with lockers being packed up before the Western-Semi was kicked off.
The 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t have to suffer the same fate. Things can be turned around.
Leaning on the experience of those who’ve been through the worst possible results with this franchise should definitely cast some light on the steps needed to get going in the right direction.
The Riders need answers. That specific group of vets know how to deal with the questions more than anyone else...