This topsy-turvy, rollercoaster of a 2011 Canadian Football League season came to a conclusion Sunday in Vancouver with a thriller of a Grey Cup. The B.C. Lions vanquished the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34-23 before a sellout crowd of over 54,000 fans at B.C. Place.
And that was the feeling I got from a Roughrider perspective; finally it's over. In a year that felt like two seasons in duration, this 5-13 campaign for Canada's Team is finally behind us. It's time to look ahead.
The next news you'll hear from Riderville will be the hiring of a new head coach. There was a moratorium on any team announcements during Grey Cup week, but the stadium was barely empty on Sunday when the news broke that the Toronto Argonauts have an agreement in place for Scott Milanovich to become their new sideline boss. You can scratch him off the Riders' list, and you can also be sure he was on it.
General manager Brendan Taman has been remarkably tight-lipped about the whole situation but his list of candidates is rumoured to be at seven or eight. The popular notion in CFL circles is that Corey Chamblin, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive co-ordinator, will replace Ken Miller, making him the youngest coach in the CFL at 34 years of age. However any time I've asked Taman if he has decided on a coach, he says no.
Taman and Chamblin worked together in Winnipeg and have a great deal of mutual respect for each other. And you can also be sure Taman won't make this decision on a whim. He has just one year left on his contract so this is a pivotal move for all involved.
It's not a slam dunk either. Taman said there will be no announcement until at least Christmas, adding that this is a thorough process that will also include talks with the Dickenson brothers, Dave and Craig, along with Richie Hall, Bomber defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke and a few others.
It's also a critical off-season for Saskatchewan. The club is eager to prove that this dreadful season was just a blip on the screen, and not a sign of things to come. There are a dozen free agents left to sign and the club also holds the number one pick in the CFL Draft. That needs to be a home run too.
It is not only Rider fans that are pulling for this team to return to glory. The 2012 Grey Cup in Toronto has been a tough sell, we're told, and organizers are hoping to see the Riders back in the big dance because that guarantees a successful Grey Cup.
The Roughriders are considered the heartbeat of the CFL and along with their struggles this season, TV ratings went down by as much as 30 per cent. However this franchise has a lot of things going for it, not the least of which is the greatest fan base in sports who stick with the team through thick and thin.
It will be very interesting to see how it all turns out.
Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on CKRM radio