It’s certainly getting more difficult for Saskatchewan Roughrider fans to gripe about Chris Jones. Since setting the CFL off upon the release of Duron Carter on August 11th, Chris Jones and the Riders have put together a four-game winning streak that has firmly placed them in the playoff hunt. It’s a difficult task unpacking the decisions that Jones makes for the Riders and the rationale behind them, I tried to do so myself. So what is it about Jones that drives Saskatchewan fans up the wall? Well, for one thing, he treats the game like a business.
Releasing Fan Favourites
Dating back to Jones’ early days in Riderville, he has not hesitated to release anyone he deems unnecessary to the future of the team’s success. Weston Dressler has seen his production drop in almost every category (minus receiving yards in 2016) since being released. Dressler has also seen the field less, battling a series of injuries over the last number of years. John Chick maintained his production for a year after his release from Saskatchewan. However, he would never play more than eight games in 2016 and 2017 before retiring this past off-season. Darian Durant was traded for a fourth-round selection in the 2017 CFL draft and a conditional pick in the 2018 draft. Durant would go on to post career-worst stats with Montreal en route to a 3-15 season. The release of these players drew the ire and criticism of Rider and CFL fans alike. Jones, however, appears to be on the right side of history.
That brings us to the latest of fan favourites to receive their one-way ticket out of town. Carter was brought in with much criticism and departed in a similar fashion. With career-highs in games-played, yards and touchdowns in 2017 many expected Duron Carter to soar to even higher peaks in 2018. However, in a move that had been increasingly difficult to defend, Jones insisted on playing Carter at cornerback. Whether this caused tension in the locker room with Carter and the coaching staff or Carter and his teammates we may never know. Needless to say, Carter was released in mid-August causing many fans to question Jones. Once again, this move had fans threatening to cancel their season tickets and give up their fandom.
Winning Cures All
Fast forward roughly a month later and the Riders are now riding a four-game winning streak, all against Western opponents and now everyone is silent. And well, this tweet about sums it up:
Remember a month ago when fans were demanding Jones’ head? Now we are alone in second, and on a 3 game Western winning streak. Hope those ankles recovered enough for people to jump back on the bandwagon 😉
— Stephen S (@Safimod) September 3, 2018
So what’s the deal with Rider fans and Chris Jones? He may not be the calming presence Ken Miller was on the sidelines or the beloved former-quarterback Kent Austin was. However, Jones to his credit has turned this team around and they find themselves in a pretty good spot. A lot needs to happen for the Riders to take over first place. However, he’s built one of the league’s most formidable units on defence and with a steady presence at quarterback, he’s finally seeing his vision come to life. Whatever qualms Rider fans still have with Jones, as valid as they may be (Carter on defence, quarterback rotation, offensive line issues early in the season) Jones and his staff deserve props for righting the ship in Riderville.
The Last Word
So what’s this all mean? No, the intention of this article is not calling for all Rider fans to bow at the feet of Chris Jones. He doesn’t come without his faults but taking a look around the league, who else would Rider fans rather have? If we are going to call out Jones at every loss (looking at you, Week 3 loss vs Montreal) then it should be time to give him his due when things are looking up. With a Week 14 matchup at home against a sliding Ottawa Redblacks team, Jones and the Riders have the opportunity to put the league on notice if they haven’t already. It’s a long season and knowing the CFL this article could very well be panned if the season goes south. For the time being, however, let’s look at the big picture on how far the Riders have come.
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