Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

In the 2009-2010 offseason for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, GM Brendan Taman's staffing strategy seemed to be based largely on flipping through old league guides looking for former head coaches who were out of work. "Doug Berry? He can run an offence, right?" "I've always thought Jim Daley was special." "We need a substitute Gainer. What's Don Matthews up to these days?"

That can have its downside when it means that opponents have seen a team's schemes before. But it also sets a franchise up nicely when it's time to pick a successor to its head coach - and with former CFL head coaches leading all three phases of the game for the 'Riders, there would seem to be ample opportunity to replace Ken Miller internally.

But for some reason, the strongest candidate of the bunch based on last season's results is apparently well back of two other choices, and is still being mentioned only as an afterthought.

So let's ask the question: why wouldn't Gary Etcheverry be at the top of the 'Riders' list of potential head coaches?

After all, Berry's offence stumbled regularly following a hot start last season. And by all accounts it's still considered a work in progress - which would seem to offer reason to leave Berry in the coordinator position if the 'Riders think that Darian Durant and his receiving corps can be substantially tuned up for seasons to come.

In contrast, Etcheverry's defence struggled out of the gate due to the 'Riders' two most devastating player losses. But by the end of the season, he'd completely rebuilt his pressure schemes around a new set of players - to the point where the defence managed to hold the CFL's top two offences to 21 points or less in the two most important games of the year.

So if the main selling point for a head coach is his recent track record in maximizing the results from the talent at his disposal, Etcheverry would easily seem to be the better internal candidate. And it's hard to see what two mediocre seasons in Edmonton would have done to make Richie Hall a better choice now than he was when he was passed over in favour of Miller.

Of course, there may be good reasons to think that while Etcheverry's scheming is ideal in designing a defence, the broader responsibilities of a head coach might not be the right fit for him. But after his success last season, I'd at least think he'd be at the front of the queue unless there was some overriding reason not to consider him head coaching material. Which makes it surprising that at least based on the press' coverage of the decision, he hardly seems to be in the conversation at all.

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