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The Backup Quarterback Debate – Did the Riders Get it Wrong?

Published: Friday, Feb 23rd 2024, 4:02pm

By Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)


If you know anything about Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, the most popular player on the team is QB2, the backup quarterback. It’s puzzling to me why we tend to dismiss the starter and jump right to his backup(s), but for some reason here, we do it. And this year, it’s not even the backup that’s the most popular, it’s the backup’s backup’s backup, tentative 4th stringer Shea Patterson


I get it, QB1 Trevor Harris is up there in (football) age. The Riders need to have a future plan in place. QB3 (on paper) Antonio Pipkin is a short yardage guy and someone who can play if your top 2 options go down in the same game. But QB2 Mason Fine just isn’t getting it done for fans. Or for me, for that matter.


Did the Riders keep the wrong backup?


photo courtesy CFL


New B.C. Lions QB Jake Dolegala had ups and downs last season with the Riders, but the ups really showed potential. I think with a proper pro playbook and a coach that has more than 2 pages of plays, he will be much better and turn into a reliable CFL option. He had 2,641 yards passing and had 11 touchdowns to 9 interceptions and also had two big time wins against the BC Lions and against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Labour Day Classic. The rest of the season, yes, he lost those starts, but the team put up a decent amount of points in those losses, so it’s not all on him. He actually kept the team in most of those games.


Mason Fine on the other hand, had 1,043 yards passing and a TD to INT ratio of 3:5. Granted, he got hurt, leading to Dolegala getting his chance, but he was never able to reclaim the job when he was healthy. In 2022, with the team clinging to a playoff chance, he was given the final two games over Cody Fajardo… and could only muster 364 yards and 1 TD in two games. After Trevor Harris’ injury last year, he put up okay yards, but only 1 TD in starting duty. Multiple times he’s had the chance to show he should be the next QB of this franchise and each time, he’s fallen flat.


photo courtesy Saskatchewan Roughriders


Going based on that, it’s obvious the team made the wrong choice, no?


Well, I’ll give GM Jeremy O’Day the benefit of the doubt on this one. Dolegala wanted to test free agency and see what was out there. I don’t think that O’Day wanted to go into free agency (and Training Camp for that matter) with just Pipkin and Patterson as backups and didn’t want to spend much money on a QB in free agency. I think THAT’S the reason we saw Mason Fine get re-signed before free agency opened, not because they necessarily prefer him to Jake Dolegala.


Backup Shea Patterson likely has the most upside out of anyone currently in the Riders QB room, but I’m not sold on him… at least not just yet. I hope he can win the #2 job and push Fine out, I’d actually have a lot more confidence with Patterson if Harris got hurt again, but more than anything, the Riders NEED Harris to be healthy all year.


But what I keep seeing over and over and over from fans is panic. “The Riders are going to lose to Dolegala this year, I just know it.” Well, if he was a starter, I’d understand your panic and I’d probably sarcastically say (and believe) the same thing. History hasn’t exactly been kind to the Riders with QBs they let get away. But we’re talking about a backup here. He didn’t go somewhere to start, he went somewhere to be a backup. He’s not overtaking Vernon Adams Jr. anytime soon… let’s pump the brakes here a bit.


Did O’Day and company make the wrong choice? Maybe. But I think they were just playing the cards they were dealt. I think if they had the final choice, Dolegala would still be in green and white. Remember, it takes two sides to sign a contract and if one of those sides isn’t willing, you have to have another plan in place. I just hope that in 2025, there is a different plan and we DO get the next franchise QB under contract sooner rather than later.


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