2019: A Year in Review
Published: Tuesday, Dec 31st 2019, 4:12pm
By: Stephen Safinuk (@Safimod)
It was a busy year in Riderville, and for the crew at Piffles Podcast, so we decided to look at some of the big stories that happened over the past 12 months.
Chris Jones Leaves Ridernation
We would be remiss if we didn’t start off with what had to be the biggest story early in 2019. Twitter account CFL_News dropped a huge bombshell on the CFL when they broke the story that Chris Jones was leaving the Saskatchewan Roughriders to join Freddie Kitchens with the Cleveland Browns. A coach leaving in January isn’t a huge deal (unless you’re Winnipeg or Ottawa apparently) but your General Manager, Head Coach, and Defensive Coordinator leaving a month before free agency is kind of a big deal. Thanks to the Bombers and REDBLACKS refusing to let the Riders speak to their offensive coordinators, the Riders promoted from within, hiring Jeremy O’day and Craig Dickenson as GM and HC respectively. Its early in their tenure yet, but most Rider fans are happy with both decisions. Chris Jones, on the other hand, may be looking for employment again soon.
Riders make big splashes in free agency
The Riders made a big splash in free agency last offseason, landing some pretty big pieces to the puzzle that would help them get 1st in the West for only the 2nd time in 40+ years. AC Leonard, Micah Johnson, Manny Arceneaux, Solomon Elimimian, Cody Fajardo, and William Powell all played huge roles with the Riders in 2019. Wonder if we will be as big in free agency heading in to 2020 and a Grey Cup year.
Zach Collaros injury opens the door for a new franchise Quarterback
The Riders planned to go in to 2019 with Zach Collaros as our starting quarterback, but a headshot by Simoni Lawrence changed the landscape for 2 franchises, 3 plays into the season. Collaros would not take another snap in green and white, and Cody Fajardo would cement himself as the new franchise quarterback in Riderville. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers likely don’t win the Grey Cup if that hit doesn’t happen, as Zach Collaros eventually lands in Winnipeg, giving them a legitimate starting QB for their playoff run.
Jesus Sprinkles shirts
Speaking of Cody Fajardo, one of the biggest highlights of 2019 for us at Piffles Podcast was teaming up with the man himself on a charity venture. Thanks to a great design by Greg McCulloch, Piffles and Cody Fajardo launched the Jesus Sprinkles shirts in August, with hopes of raising a few bucks for the Hospitals of Regina Foundation (Cody’s choice). Instead, by November, we had raised $6,000 with a second run of shirts opening after the season ended (and going until January 31st).
Riders and the weather team up to beat Montreal
The week 9 battle between the Riders and Alouettes started like any other game. A back and forth battle that saw the Riders leading Montreal 16-10 at halftime. While 3 touchdowns had been scored by halftime, none of them were by the offense. The Riders had 2 defensive touchdowns, while the Alouettes countered with a return touchdown. A single point by the Riders with 9:25 to go in the in the 3rd would be the last points scored in this one as mother nature decided to take care of the final 17:41 remaining on the game clock. New weather protocol enacted in the offseason stated that any stoppage greater than 60 minutes after the midway point of the 3rd quarter would mean the end of the game. The Riders were leading 17-10 at this point and earned 2 points and many an asterisk from opposing fans.
This wasn’t the only long delay the Riders faced in 2019. Their Canada Day matchup at home versus Toronto was delayed with just under 2 minutes to go in the first half. This delay lasted over 2 hours, but because it came before the midway point of the 3rd, the game continued. Riders were leading 25-0 and went on to win 32-7.
Piffles Banjo Bowl Bus takes off again
Another fun experience for the Piffles crew was the 2nd annual Piffles Road Trip. The CFL schedule left us with 1 option, so we were Winnipeg bound for the 2nd straight year. While the game was not enjoyable (Bombers won 35-10), the trip was a great time. A sold-out bus for the 2nd consecutive year helped us raise another $550 for Hope’s Home in Regina. Look for details on the 3rd annual bus trip in the coming weeks.
Breakout Seasons and Award Nominations
Throughout 2018, many Rider Fans were wanting Shaq Evans cut. Fast forward to the end of 2019, and now we’re sitting on pins and needles hoping he comes back in 2020. Evans finished the season 4th in receiving with 1334 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. He wasn’t the only Rider to have a breakout year in 2019.
Cameron Judge solidified himself as a top tier Canadian Linebacker. The 3rd year player finished the season with 61 tackles, 11 special teams tackles to go with his 5 sacks, 2 interceptions and a fumble. He would end up losing out to Henoc Muamba for Most Outstanding Canadian.
Speaking of breakout players who were up for awards in 2019, what about Cody Fajardo? After spending 3 years in the CFL as a constant 3rd stringer, Jeremy O’day took a chance on Cody and it paid off in spades. After Collaros’ injury, Fajardo grabbed hold of the starting spot and had no interest in letting it go. 4300 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to go with 611 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, Cody lit it up in Ridernation. He may have lost the 2019 MOP award to Brandon Banks, but overall, I’d say he’d consider himself a winner in 2019. MOP nomination, new 2-year deal as a starting QB, and to top it off, he got married early in 2019 as well.
Craig Dickenson had himself a solid 1st year as Head Coach with Saskatchewan. A 13-5 record was good enough for 1st in the West and a Coach of the Year nomination for Craig.
Riders Lose West Final and Bombers end their drought
The Riders had a habit of turning it on late in the 4th quarter, leading to multiple victories this year. Unfortunately, they turned it on a little too late in the West Final and couldn’t quite get the job done. Combined with their inability to punch the ball in from inside the 10 on several occasions, and the Riders were sent packing 20-13 by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Bombers would go on to dominate the 15-3 Hamilton Tiger-Cats by a score of 33-12.
Riders replace Stephen MacAdoo
Following the 2019 West Final, Rider fans were unhappy with the playcalling of Stephen MacAdoo, especially inside the red zone. An improvement at the OC position was needed, and came with the hiring of recently fired Eskimos HC Jason Maas. One of the best offensive minds in the CFL, it will be interesting to see how Maas works with Fajardo in 2020.
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