Published on August 25, 2008 7:58 PM by dbo.
This weekend’s trade between the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders of quarterback Michael Bishop for a 2011 conditional draft pick has become curiouser and curiouser. This deal may prove larger in the way each of these teams finish than their earlier off-season trade of last year’s Most Outstanding Player and Grey Cup champion QB Kerry Joseph. Toronto is rid of Bishop, whose popularity in the locker room in Toronto was a distraction while in Saskatchewan, the arrival of Bishop may result in the release of veteran QB Marcus Crandell, upsetting the loyalties of players in Regina.
The move on Toronto’s part appears to be in order to save-face, eliminating the split in the locker room over the two quarterbacks. It remains to be seen whether the Toronto offence will now snap out of their doldrums with Joseph firmly entrenched as the number one QB. Toronto GM Adam Rita certainly couldn’t have shipped Joseph back to Saskatchewan, not only because it would send the signal he was wrong, but likely because Saskatchewan would not be prepared to participate in that deal and offer players in return for a QB they said was too expensive for them six months ago.
In Regina, the QB controversy has followed Bishop to his new home. The ‘Riders are discussing the options with incumbent QB Marcus Crandell, but releasing him outright seems the most likely scenario. This has placed the ‘Rider locker room in shock and backup QB Darian Durant expressed on the local Regina news that this change will affect his decision when becoming a free agent this off-season. The Roughriders are attempting to get Bishop ready to start this Sunday in the Labour Day Weekend Classic against their rivals the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Most shockingly, the ‘Riders actions appear to be more of a club which is under performing rather than sitting atop their division with a 6 - 2 record.
Interestingly, both organizations emphasize their football families. With that is an assumed loyalty amongst players and coaches. However, it is a dangerous situation for coaches and GM’s to be loyal until the end as many coaches have lost their jobs when teams were allowed to get too old for the sake of loyalty. In Toronto, the arrival of Joseph split the locker room. Not only was it a slap in the face of Michael Bishop, but the performance of the whole offence who had a loyalty to Bishop. In Saskatchewan, last year’s turnaround came as the result of a new regime that established a tight locker room. The team has reaped the benefits of empowering its players as all critical parts of the team by relying on backups through a wealth of injuries. The dumping of a veteran at this time of the season when his performance would hardly warrant it seems risky in the damage that it can do to the team’s psyche.
Some questions I ponder going forward:
It will be interesting to watch the last half of the season to see if Toronto turns around their record and challenges for first and if Saskatchewan can maintain their great start and finish strong despite these shakeups. If they each do, no one will be able to question the moves as winning heals everything.