The party is over but the cleanup has just begun. And it really wasn't much of a party to begin with.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders wrapped up their season Friday night with a 23-20 last-minute loss to the Eskimos in Edmonton. Kicker Derek Schiavone booted a 47-yard field goal with 42 seconds left to seal the win after the Riders valiantly fought back to tie it at 20-20 on the second of Chris Getzlaf's two touchdowns.
The Riders were planning on marching down the field in the final minute, riding the arm of starting quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie. However, kick returner Tristan Jackson fumbled the kickoff and the Eskimos recovered at the Saskatchewan 16-yard line to end the game.
And why would we expect a miracle finish in a 5-13 season that had no miracles? I suppose it's just our prairie optimism. Perhaps the Riders' stretch of nine straight years in the playoffs, or Grey Cup appearances in three of the last four seasons, spoiled us and made us expect more.
But no, the party is in fact over. The question is, is this the last party for a good long time or is another one right around the corner? The only thing we know is there will be a post-season party in 2011 but the Saskatchewan Roughriders weren't invited.
"Certainly when you don't make the playoffs, there are a lot of regrets," said Rider head coach Ken Miller, who coached his last game Friday night. "There's nothing that feels worse than that, not being included in the chase for the Grey Cup. It's a bitter disappointment."
And that's where we pick things up. Miller announced his resignation/retirement earlier in the week and a lineup quickly formed by those hoping to be his replacement. It includes current Rider assistant coaches Richie Hall and Craig Dickenson and Hamilton Tiger Cats defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin. The Riders would probably also like to talk to Edmonton offensive co-ordinator Marcus Crandell, but it appears unlikely the Eskimos will allow that to happen.
It's my belief Rider general manager Brendan Taman will be retained with a year left on his contract and it will be up to him to decide who replaces Miller. It's very early on in the process and the list of candidates will grow substantially.
As for the 2011 season, there's no use crying about it now. It was a disaster for the Riders but a boon for some other teams. Edmonton will host a playoff game for the first time since 2004 while Winnipeg finished first for the first time since 2001. The Riders accomplished all those things over the past few years.
It's time to miss a party for a change. Sometimes you feel a whole lot better the next morning when you do.
(Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on CKRM radio)
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