Taman’s Take: Ultimately, it’s all about the quarterbacks

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As the dust slowly settles on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ very troubling loss to the Montreal Alouettes, the reality is that this result was starting to take shape in the second quarter of the previous week’s game in Ottawa.

When the starting quarterback of your team goes down to injury, it changes everything. There is immediate concern.

You often hear coaches or general managers say that every player is as important as the next, and that “no one guy” can change a team’s fortunes.

Fair enough, but have you ever heard a defensive back, a linebacker or a lineman deemed a “franchise player”?

Zach Collaros was identified as the Riders’ “franchise quarterback,” only to suffer a concussion June 21 in a 40-17 loss to the host Ottawa Redblacks. Six days later, with Collaros on the six-game injured list, the Riders lost 23-17 to the visiting Alouettes.

When the player who controls your offence goes down, it ignites a series of meetings and discussions inside the football-operations offices.

The first step is reviewing the injury with your medical team, and attempting to see if you can gauge the length of the quarterback’s absence.

This isn’t as easy as one would think. Injury timetables are not set in stone and can vary from one player to the next.

Once you have somewhat of an idea of how long the absence may be, personnel discussions begin. This next meeting with your football-operations staff may very well be the most critical conversation you’ll have as an organization.

Coaches will be asked what they think of the current stable of quarterbacks and evaluations will be provided. The personnel department will be called in to review the endless names of prospective replacement quarterbacks.

The interesting scenario pertains to which quarterbacks are actually available. And the evaluation is not based solely on ability. Depending on how long your starter may be gone, the questions being asked in these meetings include:

• If we bring in (insert name here), how long will it take for him to pick up the offence?

• Is he an upgrade, talent-wise, over what we already have here?

• How much CFL experience does he have? How much starting experience does he have?

• Is he cap-friendly?

• How quickly can we get him here?

Urgency is needed. You saw that last week when Devin Gardner was rushed to Regina to give the Riders a No.3 quarterback to dress against Montreal.

From the off-season until final cutdown day, I’m not convinced anyone on the planet could have foreshadowed these three names — Brandon Bridge, David Watford and Gardner — on the Riders’ depth chart for the game versus Montreal.

When major issues have developed at the most important position on your team, there’s one honest question you HAVE to ask yourself and your staff: Are we good enough?

If the answer is “no,” the next step is how to turn that into a “yes.”

I learned a painful lesson in 2014 after Darian Durant’s injury at the 10-game mark. We tried to roll with the guys we had, but it just didn’t produce the results.

Going into 2015, we knew this couldn’t be repeated. Darian and Kevin Glenn were the answers to solidifying our quarterbacking depth. Eventually, both of them were hurt.

As we discovered, for most if not all teams that have to play the third-string quarterback, the chances of success are minimal at best.

Going into the Roughriders’ game Thursday against the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats, both Bridge and Watford could end up playing.

Regardless of who starts, it’s who finishes with success that is paramount.

When the clock strikes zero after that game, a bye week begins for the Roughriders.

After the post-game medical meeting, the Rider faithful better hope the next sit-down isn’t held to urgently review the quarterback talent, or lack thereof.

Duron Carter’s position can be receiver, defensive back, kicker, holder or president of the Mitchell Blair fan club. It’s irrelevant in the larger scheme.

If your quarterbacking isn’t good enough, your team isn’t good enough.

• • •

And now for the weekly predictions, along with the prognostications of Rob Vanstone. But don’t bother reading those.

HAMILTON at SASKATCHEWAN (Thursday, 7 p.m.)

Taman: The revenge game for Zach Collaros. Wait. The next start for Brandon Bridge. Wait. Paging David Watford. Can the defence stop Jeremiah Masoli? The Riders will hang in, but Tiger-Cats by five.

Vanstone: Roughriders always win after I rip them. Roughriders by two.

OTTAWA at MONTREAL (Friday, 5:30 p.m.)

Taman: Ottawa will be driven to get on track. Redblacks by 11.

Vanstone: Montreal has its token win for the season. Redblacks by eight.

EDMONTON at TORONTO (Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)

Taman: Mike Reilly versus former Edmonton quarterbacking cohort James Franklin. Eskimos by seven.

Vanstone: No Ricky Ray, no ray of hope for Argos. Eskimos by six.

B.C. at WINNIPEG (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)

Taman: Tough game with big early-season ramifications. Bombers by five.

Vanstone: I am making this prediction to give Brendan a chance to catch up. Lions by three.

Records after Week 3: Vanstone 10-2 (3-1 last week); Taman 7-5 (2-2).


Taman: Winnipeg tailback Andrew Harris. Frustrated by last week’s performance, he will be on a mission to set a tone against his former club. ‎The Bombers’ young quarterback (Chris Streveler) needs this production from the running back for Winnipeg to win.

Vanstone: Don’t ask. I picked Saskatchewan tailback Marcus Thigpen last week. He did impact the game, mind you — by dropping a sure touchdown pass on Saskatchewan’s first play from scrimmage. As for this week, how about Hamilton’s Brandon Banks? If he is lined up opposite Duron Carter, a la Chris Williams, it could be another rough day for the receiver-turned cornerback.

Review of Week 3 fantasy picks: I picked the Saskatchewan defence, which actually performed quite well when Montreal wasn’t throwing to Chris Williams. And we already know how poorly Vanstone fared. He dropped the ball, too.

(Taman’s Take appears weekly.)


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