Saskatchewan Roughriders Quarterback Dilemma

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Quarterback
REGINA, SK - OCTOBER 08: Zach Collaros #17 of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is sacked in the first half of the game between the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on October 8, 2018 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

One week in and the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback dilemma is well underway. Which, if you’ve been following for the last decade is par for the course. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After testing the waters on Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly, the Riders turned back to Collaros and made him the starter.

This was a smart decision for a few reasons, after battling it out with Brandon Bridge last season, Collaros now didn’t have to look over his shoulder and could assume the role as QB1 with confidence. Secondly, with coaching turnover and a degree of roster turnover, Collaros’ leadership was desperately needed. Now, after being placed on the six-game injured list, the Riders find themselves at a crossroads. Do they sign a veteran quarterback like Kevin Glenn? Or do they see what they have in Cody Fajardo, Isaac Harker and now Bryan Bennett? Who will be the next Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback?

Option One: Bring in a Veteran

Why it’s a good idea

As mentioned plenty of times leading up to the 2019 season, the West Division is loaded. To stay competitive, the Roughriders will need to be efficient on offence and not rely on the defence to carry the weight as they did in a 12-win campaign in 2018. Luring Glenn out of retirement provides that option. In 2017, Glenn was able to put up more than respectable numbers with 25 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and 4,038 yards. That season also saw three Roughriders receivers go for over 1,000 yards.

Craig Dickenson would ideally like to start his first head coaching gig on the right foot, by being a competitive football team in a tough division and potentially vying for a home playoff date, one year before hosting the Grey Cup. By signing Glenn, the Riders would likely be in the thick of the race well past labour day. However, long-term it doesn’t set them up for success.

Why it’s a bad idea

It’s quite simply too short term thinking. By bringing in a veteran “stop-gap” quarterback (we’ll stop picking on Glenn though Saskatchewan reached out to him), the Riders are merely pushing the problem into the next season. Let’s assume a veteran quarterback swoops in and saves the day for the Riders, hauling them to a crossover spot in the gauntlet West Division. Is one playoff appearance enough to compensate a complete lack of contingency plan going into the 2020 season? Many would be wise enough to say, no.

Option Two: Roll with Fajardo and Harker

Why it’s a good idea

By sticking with Cody Fajardo (27), Isaac Harker (23) and Bryan Bennett (27), the Riders can properly evaluate what they have now and for the future. Fajardo hasn’t had much of an opportunity to display his talents in his three years in the CFL. With Toronto and BC, Fajardo was used primarily as a short-yardage specialist. That didn’t stop him from rushing for 437 yards and 13 touchdowns over his first three seasons. By sticking with Fajardo, he can fully display his mobility in the offence (Fajardo ran a 4.63 at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine).

Harker, on the other hand, enters the league as an even bigger question mark. The 6’0 Indiana product attended Colorado School of Mines College in 2018 having prior went to Indiana State from 2014-2017. With Colorado, he threw for 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3,858 yards and 67% completion.

It’s not often we see quarterbacks come straight from US programs and have immediate success but it appears as though he has earned his spot, beating out former Saskatchewan Roughrider quarterback David Watford for the third string spot in training camp.

Why it’s a bad idea

For all the upside, these two players could end up being Brett Smith 2.0 (no disrespect to Brett). Smith showed flashes in his 2015 campaign, throwing for 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Many thought he was a lock for the backup spot in 2016. However, a poor showing in pre-season led to his release. The difference in Smith receiving those meaningful snaps in 2015 was that the Riders were 0-5, the season was already looking like a write-off. Glenn and Darian Durant were both injured as well. The Riders were able to afford to see what they had in Smith as there wasn’t much to lose.

2019 is different, the Riders are 0-1 with 17 games to play in the regular season. There are players on the defensive side of the ball who are either in their primes (Micah Johnson, Ed Gainey, Loucheiz Purifoy & Zach Evans) or the twilight of their careers (Charleston Hughes, Solomon Elimimian). Is it in Saskatchewan’s best interest to start one of two inexperienced quarterbacks with these players on the roster? The Riders aren’t exactly a rebuilding team as they boast the oldest average age in the CFL.

Flip a coin

It appears as this article was being written, the Roughriders have elected to go with the two-quarterback system for Thursday’s game in Ottawa. This same formula drew the ire of Rider Nation last season when Chris Jones deployed both Bridge and Watford throughout a series of games with little success. Depending on how this version of events goes, the Riders will have a decision on their hands. To try and save their season with a proven veteran or roll the dice with the young guns.

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