One would think losing to the last-place team in the CFL and dropping to 1-5 would signal rock bottom for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
However in this columnist's opinion they're nowhere near rock bottom, but they can see it from here.
The Riders closed the book on the opening third of the 2011 CFL season with a rather stunning 24-11 loss to the previously winless BC Lions in Vancouver. It was stunning because the Roughrider offense, which was picked apart in this space last week, managed a measly 11 points against, statistically, the worst defense in the CFL.
Rock bottom? No, not even close, and here's why: this football club displayed what it's capable of when they upset the Grey Cup champion Alouettes in Montreal in Week 4. That victory bought the club a little extra time as they continue to figure things out under new head coach Greg Marshall.
However, back-to-back losses against divisional opponents is a tragic sign. In B.C. the football club looked disorganized, ill-prepared to adapt to adversity and completely at a loss for how to turn it around. The hole continues to get bigger as they're already off to their worst start since 2000 and with 4-2 Calgary coming into Mosaic Stadium Friday night, 1-6 doesn't seem unrealistic.
So now you begin to wonder who's to blame, or who should pay? No one seems able to put their finger on who's responsible, although the dropped passes, missed tackles and blown assignments make it pretty easy to point the fingers at the players. However, this is a team coming off back-to-back Grey Cup appearances. Their players don't suck, and they're simply trying to execute the game plan set out for them.
Really it's up to team President Jim Hopson and V.P. of Football Ken Miller to assess the damage, and then chart the path ahead. Neither one has shown hesitation in the past to make the necessary changes.
"I don't think you make sacrificial lambs out of anyone," Hopson reasoned. "If there needs to be a change, then we'll do it, but I'm not in a position to say that right now because we haven't sat down as a group to see where we're going. "We won't make a change just to appease people. The reality is if you
make a change and don't get better, what's the next change?"
The key right now for this football team is to string a succession of plays together in all three phases and start to re-establish trust in each other. And they need to do it in a hurry because the loyal fanbase is quickly losing faith and letting this club know it. If the players start to believe what they're hearing and reading about themselves, then they're sunk.
However rest assured that the woeful play has caught the attention of the highest-ranking position on the team.
"We understand the seriousness of it," Hopson declared. "And we're going to turn it around and get it back on track."
(Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on CKRM Radio)