Saskatchewan Roughriders: The Agony Is Over for Greg Marshall
Everybody was pulling for Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Greg Marshall. He had waited 17 years to get a head coaching position and now he was finally going to get his dream come true.
But after seeing what had happened, most people wished it had remained a dream. What happened was a living nightmare, a living hell.
It's tough enough being the successor to a coach that either has won the championship or at least been to the finals because there are high expectations to live up to and any failure automatically gets compared to the past.
This was the position Marshall was in, having succeeded Ken Miller who had taken Saskatchewan to two unsuccessful (though close games) appearances in the Grey Cup.
Less than halfway through Marshall's first year, the Roughriders are last in the CFL, a deep drop from the heights of the past half-decade.
A horrible loss to the second-worst team, Toronto, last week, sealed Marshall's fate. Offensive coordinator and ex-Winnipeg coach Doug Berry joined him. Actually, the team was horrible in every phase of the game, so a sickle through the entire coaching ranks would have been just as appropriate.
Not much can be said in Marshall's defense. He can say that a lot of players, the general manager and coaching talent has left the team. There were a few injuries.
But the more fans watched the Roughriders this season, the more it seemed that Marshall and his staff were out of their element.
The real indictment was not that the Roughriders lost, it was how they lost.
This was not a team that got bad breaks or just failed to win a few close games like Winnipeg did last year.
Under Marshall, the Roughriders played bad football and didn't belong on the same field as anybody.
And just as Marshall was bewildered how it all came to pass, he was equally clueless on how to fix it.
It was only the fact that Marshall was a sentimental coaching choice, and everybody was hoping that he would turn around the team, that stopped management from firing him earlier.
Marshall gave a stoic, "It's a business" comment, but inside it must have been devastating.
How many times before this year did he dream if he ever would become a CFL head coach?
How many times did he imagine his team playing inspired, flawless football?
How many times did he dream of being doused with Gatorade after a victorious game?
How many times did he dream of being carried off the field after winning the championship?
As stated before, Marshall entered a precarious situation where there was more likely a chance for a descent season rather than a continuation or a championship. But it is not impossible.
Former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert inherited a three-time Super Bowl champion from Bill Walsh and managed to win a couple of titles himself.
But even making allowances for Marshall, his team played horrible, uncompetitive football. They were consistently making mental mistakes that are supposed to be minimized by the end of training camp.
When the worst team in the league doesn't even belong on the same field as the second-worst team, you know there is more than bad breaks, injuries, loss of talent and other intangibles present.
Marshall's Roughriders weren't ready to play anybody in the CFL. An expansion Ottawa team would have a good chance of getting their first win against them.
Now Ken Miller comes back from the management ranks to coach the team again. If he manages to turn the team around, it will be an even more damning verdict on Marshall's tenure.
Marshall waited 17 years to get a break, only to see it become a nightmare in a few weeks. Sadly for him, there probably won't be any more chances in the future.
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