CFL Pass

Vanstone: Fajardo's presence is something to savour

During the lost autumn of 2014, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ notion of a balanced offence was having an equal number of passes caught by one of their players and a member of the opposition.

Such was the Green and White’s plight in Week 15 of that season, when then-head coach Corey Chamblin somehow decided that it was a good idea to have untested Seth Doege start at quarterback against the formidable Calgary Stampeders.

Doege went 3-for-9, completing passes to Weston Dressler (for a loss of three), Anthony Allen (nine yards) and Rob Bagg (22) before being intercepted by Keon Raymond, Fred Bennett and Jamar Wall on Taylor Field.

It wasn’t the first time, quarterbacking-wise, that the Roughriders hit the Wall.

Consider the periods in which the Roughriders attempted to find someone — anyone! — to replace Frank Tripucka, Ron Lancaster, Kent Austin, Henry Burris and Darian Durant.

There were auditions, followed by subtraction.

The gory years are rehashed simply to remind Roughriders fans how fortunate they truly are at the present time.

Saskatchewan’s No. 1 quarterback is congenial Californian Cody Fajardo — who, according to a report by CKRM’s Derek Taylor, is to be named the CFL West Division’s most outstanding player on Thursday.

Fajardo’s understudy, Isaac Harker, recently piloted Saskatchewan to one of the biggest regular-season victories in franchise history.

Harker went 23-for-28 for 213 yards, with a quarterback-efficiency rating of 102.2, on Saturday to help the Roughriders defeat the Edmonton Eskimos 23-13 at Mosaic Stadium.

That result gave Saskatchewan 13 victories — its highest total since 1970, when Lancaster called signals for a 14-2 team — and first place in the West.

Post-Lancaster, the Roughriders began a protracted (and generally futile) search for an heir apparent.

Future Canadian Football Hall of Famer Tom Clements was acquired from the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1979, but even someone of his calibre was helpless behind a porous offensive line.

Larry Dick had been signed, amid considerable fanfare, in 1978 in the hope that he would succeed Lancaster in fine style. Alas, Dick suffered a career-ending knee injury in the first game after Clements was mercifully traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats midway through the two-win season of 1979.

Cue the quarterback carousel.

Craig Juntunen … Lloyd Patterson … Danny Sanders … John Hufnagel … Tom Rozantz … Joe Barnes … Scott Burger … Joe (747) Adams … Homer Jordan … Nickie Hall … Steve Clarkson … Joe Paopao … John Bond … Harold Smith … Bernard Quarles … Mike Kelley … Jeff Bentrim … Jeff Tedford …

Tom Burgess!

Kent Austin!

The latter two quarterbacks, both of whom arrived in 1987, helped Saskatchewan win a Grey Cup in 1989.

Over the following four seasons, Austin threw for 125 touchdowns and 20,720 yards. And then …

Burgess (not quite the earlier version) … Warren Jones … Michael Payton … Jim Kemp … Kevin Mason … Heath Rylance … Marvin Graves … Reggie Slack … Steve Sarkisian … John Rayborn … Mike Cawley …

Henry Burris!

Graves (again) … Keith Smith … Kevin Glenn (who emerged as a star after leaving Saskatchewan) … Jonathan Beasley … Nealon Greene … Rocky Butler  … Henry Burris!! (who should have been re-signed in 2005) … Marcus Crandell …

Kerry Joseph!

The year after Joseph led Saskatchewan to the 2007 Grey Cup title, while earning CFL most-outstanding-player honours, the revolving door was once again spinning dangerously out of control.

Crandell was the opening-day starter, only to injure a hamstring in Week 2. In came Steven Jyles, who faltered. Next man up: Durant, who looked every bit like the franchise quarterback that he eventually became. But he got hurt. Crandell returned. Michael Bishop was added. Crandell was cut. Jyles started again. So did Durant. Back to Bishop.

It was chaos … on a good day.

Leading up to the 2009 season, head coach Ken Miller wisely named Durant the starter. Durant went on to lead the Roughriders to three Grey Cup appearances, including a home-field championship-game victory in 2013.

The following year, however, Durant suffered a torn tendon in his right elbow in the Roughriders’ 10th game.

Hello there Tino Sunseri … Seth Doege … Kerry Joseph (41-year-old version) …

From that point onward, instability reigned.

Beginning in 2015, the list of actual or prospective Riders quarterbacks included Durant, Glenn, Sunseri, Brett Smith, Keith Price, Mitchell Gale, Jake Waters, G.J. Kinne, Bryant Moniz, Vad Lee, Vince Young, Phillip Sims, Marquise Williams, Maty Mauk, B.J. Coleman, Vernon Adams Jr., Brandon Bridge, Zach Collaros, B.J. Daniels, Jacob Huesman, David Watford and … (drumroll, please) …

Cody Fajardo!

All rejoice.