Written by Guest Blogger: Mitchell Blair Riderville.com
The tumble off the cliff from the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2011 is the story of the CFL season to this date as far as I’m concerned. The team’s 1-7 start has now cost Greg Marshall his job as Head Coach after just eight games. It’s a decision that is being debated heavily amongst factions of the Rider Nation with some believing the right move was made and others thinking the team hit the panic button and gave Marshall the pink slip way too early. Whether Rider fans are for or against the dismissal of Marshall, the one thing that became clear to me as the team continued to flounder is that the one loss they could not overcome was not Andy Fantuz, but the man who is coming back to take over for Marshall -Ken Miller.
Miller’s decision to step down as Head Coach of the football team shortly after their 2nd straight loss to Montreal in the Grey Cup may have been the catalyst to this team being where they are now. I have the utmost respect for Ken. I still call him “Coach” whenever I see him and so do many others. His relationship with the players or “the men” as he called them is something rarely seen in professional sport. There was a genuine connection between player and coach. This team would run through brick wall after brick wall for Miller because of the respect he has for them and vice versa.
I wondered when Greg Marshall assumed the whistle if he could somehow duplicate that relationship. It’s obvious that he didn’t. Right from the opening exhibition game of the season, something has seemed different when watching the Riders. One ingredient has been missing. That ingredient is the sight of the grandfather-like figure on the sidelines once again holding the clipboard.
Because of that, I wonder if Marshall or whoever else was considered for the job was destined for failure. Yes, losing Fantuz along with key leaders like Chris Szarka and Jeremy O’Day in the dressing room hurt the football club, but if the respect wasn’t there for Marshall or whoever like it was for Miller, things will go downhill in a hurry. It was interesting to hear Darian Durant tell reporters this week that a lot of the guys never wanted Miller to abandon his post as Head Coach and that they are so happy to see him back. It just seems as if Miller struck a chord with “the men” that proved to be disastrous once he left to occupy another position within the organization.
The return of Miller also begs this question. It is doubtful the 69-year-old will return in 2012 to coach this team. It means another search will begin for a Head Coach. Names like Dave Dickenson, Marcus Crandell and Scott Milanovich will likely come up. However, if I were interested in the job, I would have to ask myself how am I able to replace Miller if the guy in front of me couldn’t and if the Riders only gave that guy eight games, how many games will I get if my team is slow in coming out of the gate.
Time will tell if Ken Miller can get this football team back to where it should be and will determine if he was the missing ingredient. However, it may be prudent for the Riders brass when searching for a new head coach for next season to start looking in a different cookbook for the recipe that is needed.