Inevitable Controversy

We know what awaits come training camp

As the days count down before the Riders first Pre-Season tilt May 27th vs. the Edmonton Eskimos, all eyes will be on the battle at quarterback between the young Brandon Bridge and veteran Zach Collaros. Both will be looking to prove themselves but for different reasons.

Brandon Bridge

Bridge is coming off a season where he threw for the most attempts in his career, often in relief for the often pulled Kevin Glenn. During this time Bridge was able to go 92 completions on 138 attempts for 1236 yards and passing for 10 touchdowns with 4 interceptions tacked on. However, what really grabbed the attention of Ridernation in his time doing spot relief for Glenn was his legs and ability to get outside the pocket when protection broke down. Bridge was able to muster up 127 rushing yards for an average of 6.4 yards-per-carry and a touchdown to boot. With question marks looming on the Offensive Line once again, Bridge may have to rely on his running abilities again out of necessity and not necessarily choice.

Zach Collaros

Collaros on the other hand is looking to return to his 2015 MOP-like form before tearing his ACL, a level of play he has not been able to live up to since the injury. Before his unfortunate injury, Collaros lead the Ticats to an 8-3 start leading the way with 25 touchdowns, 3,376 yards and passer rating of 113.7 the highest of his career (minimum 8 starts). The CFL was exposed to a Collaros they had never seen before in 2017, one that was indecisive under pressure and could not lead his team to a win, after an 0-8 start, Collaros was benched in favour of Jeremiah Masoli. Collaros would finish the 2017 campaign with a career low passer rating of 81.1.

The Skinny

Based on the numbers alone, both Bridge and Collaros have much to prove to themselves, their coaching staff and the 13th man, and if it was based on that alone, this competition would be wide-open and perhaps subject to a coin flip. However, one cannot discuss this competition without mentioning Zach Collaros’ contract, prior to restructuring he was scheduled to make $540,000 with up to $200,000 in bonus’. 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk reported back in January that the restructured deal is worth $430,000 with $225,000 included as a bonus. While Head Coach Chris Jones maintains that this will be a pure competition, it is easy to wonder if that will be the case with so much of their $5.2 million in cap space tied up into Collaros.

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Needless to say, expect this story to start to dominate the headlines from the start of training camp all the way until the end of the season. Similar to last season, when one slips up the pitchforks will come out and demand the other start. That may just be the price to pay for the Riders in having two starter-quality quarterbacks under 30. Time will tell if Bridge makes the turn from fringe starter to franchise quarterback or if Regina is the place for Zach Collaros to revive his career.

Thank You, Doubles

It’s hard to find a common consensus to sum up Durant’s tenure in Saskatchewan, ask 5 fans on the street on how they felt about Durant as a starting quarterback you may get 5 different answers.

Recap

Buried in the depth chart during the 2006 and 2007 seasons Durant finally burst on to the scene in 2008 after the Riders traded Grey Cup Champion from the year prior, Kerry Joseph, to the Toronto Argonauts. Durant made the most of his opportunities in a crowded QB room among the likes of Marcus Crandell, Steven Jyles and Michael Bishop, throwing for 7 touchdowns and rushing for 1 more before a rib injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. 2009 saw Durant beat out Steven Jyles for the starting QB job throwing for 24 Touchdowns and 21 Interceptions, leading the Riders to a Grey Cup appearance (we won’t talk about that ending though). The following year saw much of the same in Durant surpassing his TD total from the year prior with 25 touchdowns, along with 22 Interceptions to boot. However the 2010 Season saw him throw for a career high 5,542 yards and led the Riders to yet another Grey Cup appearance.

The 2011 and 2012 campaigns Durant’s production took a dip as the team around him began to age and coaching changes were taking place at a rapid clip as the Riders went from Ken Miller to Greg Marshall, back to Miller to finally hiring Corey Chamblin before the 2012 season. After missing the playoffs (2011) and yet another heartbreaking playoff loss for the 3rd time in 4 years (WSF 36-30 loss to Calgary), questions began to loom if Durant would ever be able to win “the big one”.

Our Finest Moment

In 2013, Rider fans saw what might have been the greatest Rider team ever assembled along with some of the best quarterback play we have ever witnessed. In knowing that Saskatchewan was going to be hosting the Grey Cup that season and seeing the Lions and Argos hoist the trophy on home soil each of the last two seasons, GM Brendan Taman went all in bringing aboard Geroy Simon, Dwight Anderson, John Chick, Ricky Foley and Weldon Brown. This on top of Korey Sheets, Dressler, Craig Butler, Chris Getzlaf and Robb Bagg. Durant would put up career numbers in touchdowns (31) and passer rating (95.7) capped off with 4,154 yards passing. But perhaps his finest moment came in the Western Semi-Final when facing a 25-16 deficit, Durant literally put the team on his legs, rushing 6 times for 97 yards, killing the clock and marching the Riders into scoring position. The end of the 2013 playoff run capped with Grey Cup victory on home field saw Durant post 8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 795 yards passing while rushing for 141 yards in three games, absolute domination.

While Rider fans will be left wondering what could’ve been in 2014 and beyond as injuries grinded Durant’s run to a halt before being traded shortly after the 2016 season, we should take solace in the fact that Durant helped build something special in Riderville (including a new stadium). I shudder to think what this last decade could’ve looked like if we gave the keys to Michael Bishop or Steven Jyles all those years ago. Summing it up, Durant led the Riders to 3 Grey Cup appearances, 1 win and only missed the playoffs once as a full time starter (2011). What could’ve been another 18 year Grey Cup drought, was much less and regardless if you feel that the team surrounding Durant that Grey Cup season was the main reason for it, without Durant’s brilliant playoff performances, 2013’s magical run would not have happened.

When It’s All Said and Done

Despite the rollercoaster of a ride, the inconsistent play during the regular season and some disappointing playoff endings, Durant helped keep this team relevant after their 2007 Grey Cup win, when the wheel realistically could’ve came off after trading Kerry Joseph. I hope all Rider fans take today to thank Darian and his contributions and let this be a day of remembering what he brought to the team, city and the community.

Thank you, Darian.