“We don’t have the right mix.” Riders GM Jeremy O’Day speaks on team’s decision to make a coaching change

Changes have begun for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but they won’t be making wholesale changes.

The team announced on Monday that they would retain Jeremy O’Day as General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations, with him agreeing to a new three-year contract.

However, Craig Dickenson will not return as the team’s head coach after holding the position over the last four years.

O’Day and President & CEO Craig Reynolds spoke to the media following the announcements.

The Roughriders General Manager thought a sign that a change was needed at Head Coach when the team was unable to turn the corner in the second half of the season after wins against the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“When we looked at our schedule for the second half, it appeared that certainly had the opportunity to make a run at it.”

Riders GM Jeremy O’Day. Photo: Blaine Weyland

O’Day added with the Roughrider’s seven-game losing skid at the end of the season, “becomes more clear, we don’t have the right mix.”

On the field, one area of the game that O’Day felt the Roughriders weren’t good at in 2023 was turnovers on both sides of the ball.

“If you look at our turnover ratio, we were the worst in the league in turnovers, it’s a pretty critical statistic for any football game.”

He also noted Saturday’s regular-season finale against the Argonauts was a snapshot of the team’s struggles this year.

“When a bad thing happens, we didn’t respond, when something bad happens, you have to bounce back. “

Reynolds explained the organization kept O’Day because they feel he’s an outstanding general manager in the CFL.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to talk through with players in our league, players on our team, coaches, our coaches, other personnel in the league and the one thing that comes through over and over and over again is the amount of respect that Jeremy has, how they respect him as a leader, how they respect him as a general manager.”

President & CEO Craig Reynolds. Photo: Blaine Weyland

The Roughriders President and CEO believes O’Day has done a good job constructing the team.

“I think Jeremy has built a very talented roster that can win games in our league.”

Reynolds pointed out the recent draft picks from O’Day, including 2022 1st round pick WR Samuel Emilus and 2023 picks DE Lake Korte-Moore and DB Jaxon Ford, along with the additions the team made during this past off-season, including QB Trevor Harris, WR Shawn Bane Jr., OL Peter Godber and OL Philip Blake as evidence of O’Day being a good evaluator for football talent.

Heading into the off-season, O’Day believes the Roughriders don’t require a rebuild and a solid foundation is already in place, but improvements are needed.

“We have work to do, we finished 6-12, and that’s the reality we weren’t good enough.”

The seven-game losing streak for the Roughriders began when they were crushed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Labour Day rematch on September 9 at IG Field. Looking back, O’Day said Saskatchewan was unable to recover from the loss.

“It’s a situation that’s surprising winning an emotional Labour Day game, and then you go there and it felt like we didn’t compete. “

O’Day felt there were times the Roughriders would snap their losing skid, but in the end, he thought the team wasn’t consistent enough.

Troubles at making in-game adjustments was an area where Saskatchewan struggled, according to O’Day.

“I felt like we were being attacked more than we were attacking them.”

The assistant coaches and coordinators of the team’s coaching staff were all under one-year contracts, which will give the new head coach of the team the freedom to choose his staff.

A search for Dickenson’s replacement will begin, and with the lack of success on both sides of the football, O’Day says he’s open to hiring either an offensive or defensive coach to take over.

“If you look at the spread between points scored on offence and defence, it’s not something I’m proud of.”

Understanding nature is something that he will look for in the new head coach.

“The part of a good head coach is to understand what the players are going through and being able to feel what they’re going through and that means a lot to the players and players have to want to win for their head coach. “

Reynolds is confident that O’Day will have a lot of quality options to choose from when he’s hiring the next head coach.

“I think I have a lot of confidence that a lot of people want to work with Jeremy.”

With a week left in the CFL regular season and the league’s playoffs, it will likely be a few weeks before the Roughriders can begin interviewing prospective candidates as they begin to find the replacement for Dickenson as the team’s head coach.

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