Tough Day in Riderville

Jonathan HamelinCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2010

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have seen better days.

On Thursday the Riders lost two key members of their football club. Stevie Baggs, a defensive end, signed with the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals and Paul LaPolice, a former offensive coordinator, accepted the vacant head coach position with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The Baggs move shouldn’t have been too shocking for the Rider faithful. After a reported conflict of interest with the Riders, it was expected that Baggs would become a free agent in the off-season and sign with the highest bidder. What did come as a surprise was the fact that this team happened to be in the NFL.

Though Baggs likely would have not stayed with the Riders, even if the NFL opportunity had not come up, it does not take away from the fact that this was a huge blow to the Green and White. Baggs is the second starting defensive end the Riders have lost this off-season to the NFL. John Chick signed with the Indianapolis Colts in January. Chick and Baggs had 23 of the Riders' 39 sacks last season. More than that, however, they were key members of the Riders' front seven.

While Baggs was certainly a vocal member of the Riders, LaPolice was mostly entrenched behind the scenes. Still, the Riders' former offensive coordinator was credited with helping create a potent offence last season. LaPolice’s offence scored 514 points on the season (tied for second in the league) while being led by an inexperienced Darian Durant at quarterback.

While there has been some criticism thrown at LaPolice during his two year tenure as the Riders' offensive coordinator, concerning the fact that the Riders offense has come out slow in the second half of games and lacked a killer instinct, many believed that LaPolice would succeed current head coach Ken Miller at the end of next season. LaPolice did become a head coach, but not with the team the Riders were hoping.

After falling 28-27 to the Montreal Alouettes in last season's Grey Cup game, it was believed that the Riders would be out for revenge this season. During a talk to Rider fans soon after the Grey Cup loss, Durant promised that the team would win it all next season. This may be the case, but with two key members of the Riders defensive and an offensive coordinator gone, the team will have some work to do this off-season to even get back to the Grey Cup game next season.

A bad day indeed.