Here’s why: they are worried about how nice their coaches and players are.
Do you want to win, or do you want to feel all warm and fuzzy?
There is a significant block of Saskatchewan fans and commentators who seem to think coaches and players should be running Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech through their heads:
“…you like me. Right now, you like me!”
Sure, it would be nice if all the players and coaches associated with the Saskatchewan Roughriders were great guys like George Reed, but George Reed was an extraordinary human being who could have played in the NFL, ended up in Regina, seemed to like it, was the best damned running back in history, in any league, and made Regina his home. (Although even George Reed moved away to Calgary and lived there for about 25 years. He’s not completely insane.)
Why do you think the Saskatchewan diaspora exists? Because even the people who are born in Saskatchewan don’t want to be there. People think the Saskatchewan Roughriders have a fan base that “travels well”. No they don’t. The Roughriders fans who show up in other stadiums throughout the league live in those cities. You can take the fan out of Saskatchewan, but you can’t take the Saskatchewan out of the fan.
So now, when the Saskatchewan Roughriders hire coaches or players, they’ve got to like the place? They have to live there now? They have to pass some kind of loyalty test?
The latest example of this weird fetish—that Roughriders’ coach and players have to be nice guys who just looooove Regina and all of Saskatchewan—is the article by Brendan McGuire of 3DownNation.
This article makes former Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager and head coach Chris Jones exhibit “A” for how a Roughriders coach should not behave. He was living out of a hotel, you say? Scandalous! He didn’t tour the province in the off-season, slapping backs, telling jokes and eating rubber chicken? He had the temerity to spend his off seasons scouting throughout the United States, looking for better players, trying to make the Saskatchewan Roughriders better? What an asshole.
Chris Jones built the foundation of the team that went to two Western Finals, until the team finally ran out of gas because management let a pile of good players leave and didn’t bother to bring better players in to replace them, after Chris Jones spent all of his time assembling a Grey Cup worthy team. Mr. Jones was like that legendary dickhead Don Matthews, who did nothing but turn the 1-6 1991 Saskatchewan Roughriders into the 1993 11-7 Saskatchewan Roughriders, one slipped/missed field goal from the CFL West Final. And what about Bob Shaw? He sounded like a complete prick, but he built the 1966 Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders. Kent Austin? He coached the 2007 Grey Cup winner and promptly got the hell of out town.
Mr. McGuire’s 3DownNation article mentions a raft of coaches who were apparently the good guys: Greg Marshall (1-7; didn’t even get through one season), Cal Murphy (3-15), Jim Daley (18-36). This doesn’t mean that nice guys are losers, but to mis-quote Clint Eastwood: Nice’s got nothing to do with it.
When Roughriders’ president and chief executive officer Craig Reynolds snatched Chris Jones from the Edmonton Eskimos about an hour after the Eskimos won the 2015 Grey Cup, I thought: now that’s the kind of ruthless aggression I can get behind. Then Mr. Reynolds got soft, letting the team fall apart and failing to drop the axe on the one guy who allowed the team to crater: Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day.
I am cautiously optimistic about new head coach Corey Mace because I think the CFL does not do a good enough job of hiring up-and-comers (so I’ll give Mr. O’Day credit), but I don’t care if Coach Mace likes Regina or is related to Mother Theresa. I don’t even understand how that any of that kind of stuff factors into anything. I can only hope it did not play a role in the decision-making process to hire him (as is being hinted by multiple commentators). Coach Mace, however, will still be hobbled by a general manager who was willing to watch the Roughriders’ offensive line atrophy into the turnstile “Matador” collection that almost killed the 2023 Grey Cup MVP when he played in Regina.
I’m not sure what to make of the hiring of Marc Mueller as the offensive coordinator. Far too much time is being spent talking about his bloodline and too little about his record in Calgary. This reeks of the kind of feel-good kumbaya warm-and-fuzzies that produce 3-15 seasons.
Part of my objection to the widespread focus upon Coach Mace’s “niceness” comes from my belief that everyone regards the Saskatchewan Roughriders as the lovable losers of the CFL. Oh, isn’t that cute, the Roughriders think they’re going to be good this year because they hired a coach who is swell. And when the Roughriders shit the bed, we all hear in our heads that “loser” horn riff from The Price is Right. Duh duh d-duuuuhhh…. Oh well, but we’ve got a great consolation prize for Rider Nation: your coach is nice! And anyway, those dopes and rubes in Saskatchewan are so starved for entertainment, they’ll watch any shit product on the field and keep coming back for more as long as the players and coaches smile a lot.
Hell of a stadium, too.