The Canadian Football League is down to its final four in the running for the 2011 Grey Cup but the Saskatchewan Roughriders got a head start on all of them in the news this past week.
While the Blue Bombers, Tiger Cats, Lions and Eskimos all battle for the right to play in the CFL title game in two weeks in Vancouver, the Riders took a major step towards cleaning up the franchise's murky future.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Rider president Jim Hopson announced vice-president of football Ken Miller will not be replaced and that general manager Brendan Taman has been given full control of football operations as he enters the final year of his contract.
It was a major step forward for the franchise and also a point of clarification. It was admitted that Taman never had much control of the team while having to answer to Miller for the past two seasons, and now it's up to him to chart the course that includes hiring a new head coach.
It had been suggested that Taman was due a contract extension because no top-notch coach would want to come here with a GM in such a precarious situation, but that notion was quickly swept aside.
Taman was confident as he addressed the room full of media and also announced the promotion of Jeremy O'Day to assistant GM.
A Saskatoon product, Taman has plenty on his plate as he attempts to clean up the mess left behind from a 5-13 season. There are 14 free agents who need to be dealt with and they will be - but on a priority basis.
First and foremost is the matter of a coach. Right now there are four or five candidates, but that list will swell as more coaches become available (some are currently under contract to teams still alive in the playoffs).
Rider assistants Richie Hall and Craig Dickenson have made it known they'll apply for the job, as has Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Corey Chamblin. Offensive co-ordinators Dave Dickenson (Calgary) and Scott Milanovich (Montreal) will be approached as well, and interviews will begin this week.
This will be a crucial hire for Taman. For all intents and purposes, this is his first real shot to prove himself. He reportedly had no real control during his 10 years in charge of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and he certainly didn't have it here the past two.
It's a one-shot deal to turn this thing around and get a new contract for himself, and to restore credibility to this franchise. He welcomes the challenge.
(Rod Pedersen is the voice of the Riders on CKRM radio)
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