The Saskatchewan Roughriders are winning the turnover battle.
Despite unexpectedly turning over most of their highest-ranking football-operations personnel early this year, the Roughriders have been able to field a highly competitive team — a 5-3 squad that boasts a four-game winning streak.
And they have been able to make winning a habit even though their No. 1 quarterback, 27-year-old Cody Fajardo , had never started a CFL game until Week 2 of this season.
Consider, too, that Fajardo has yet to enjoy the luxury of being protected by perennial all-star guard Brendon LaBatte, who has missed the first eight games due to injury.
Zach Collaros , who began the season as Saskatchewan’s first-string quarterback, lasted only three plays before being concussed and joining LaBatte on the shelf.
Major injuries, combined with upheaval in the front office and on the staff, could have destroyed a team that wasn’t as resourceful or resilient as the 2019 Roughriders have proven to be.
Yet, Saskatchewan finds itself tied with two other 5-3 teams — the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos — for second place in the West Division. Those three clubs are only one game behind the front-running Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-2).
The toughest battles await, obviously, but the Roughriders’ accomplishments to date are worth lauding, especially when they are contextualized.
At the beginning of the 2019 calendar year, Chris Jones was the Green and White’s (inhale) head coach, defensive co-ordinator, general manager and vice-president of football operations (exhale).
The Roughriders’ Jan. 8 announcement that Jones had signed a one-year contract extension, carrying through 2020, did not portend the major changes that would soon follow.
Only a week after the extension became public knowledge, Jones bolted to become a member of the Cleveland Browns’ coaching staff.
The sudden departure of one man, Jones, quickly created three voids — which were filled by an equal number of in-house promotions.
Dickenson did not enjoy the luxury of hand-picking his own coaching staff. After all, Jones had signed his assistants to extensions shortly before leaving. The CFL’s newly enacted football-operations salary cap left Dickenson with little flexibility.
The circumstances surrounding the introduction of the Roughriders’ new regime were far from ideal.
Complicating matters, Jones left Saskatchewan without ensuring that a long-term solution was in place at quarterback.
Collaros was re-signed shortly after O’Day unsuccessfully wooed star signal-caller Bo Levi Mitchell, who re-signed with Calgary. With less fanfare, O’Day signed Fajardo — formerly of the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts — as a free agent.
Mitchell was Plan A, considering that the Roughriders offered him in the vicinity of $700,000 per annum.
Collaros, now of the Argonauts, was Plan B — as in Brittle — with Fajardo next in line.
And then Plan B fell apart mere minutes into the regular season — which followed an irregular off-season.
Honestly, there was every reason for the Roughriders’ 2019 campaign to become an utter disaster, considering all the sudden, unpredictable and high-profile personnel changes.
A 1-3 start hardly buoyed optimism that the Roughriders would enjoy a prosperous season.
Look at them now.
O’Day, Dickenson and associates should take a bow.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019