Chris Jones says tough to blame crossover when 0-2 start left Riders in a hole

Saskatchewan head coach and GM Chris Jones said Monday that there’s no point blaming the CFL playoff structure for the Roughriders’ exit from the post-season.

The Roughriders were eliminated Sunday after dropping a 25-21 decision to the Argonauts. Saskatchewan finished fourth in the West Division and crossed over to play both Ottawa and Toronto on the road.

Jones said if Saskatchewan took advantage of missed opportunities at the start of the campaign, then the Roughriders may have had a better seeding and maybe even a home playoff date.

“We had a chance to win two football games and start the season off hot,” he said Monday. “It ended up we were 0-2 and had to dig ourselves out of a hole, and then we were up and down, up and down, for the rest of the year.”

Montreal edged Saskatchewan 17-16 in the season opener and Winnipeg outscored the Roughriders 43-40 in Week 2.

Saskatchewan went on to finish 10-8, a record that would have been good enough for first place in the weak East Division. However, as a crossover team, the Roughriders had to hit the road to play the 8-9-1 Redblacks in the East semifinal before visiting 9-9 Toronto with a Grey Cup berth on the line.

The Roughriders were attempting to become the first crossover team to reach the Grey Cup since the rule was adopted in 1996. Rather than returning home after their win in the nation’s capital, the team stayed in the East to prepare for the Argonauts.

“We knew the deal,” Jones said at his season-ending availability. “If we didn’t want to go cross over and stay in a hotel for 10 days, then we should have handled our business at the first part of the year.”

Saskatchewan nearly pulled out the victory on a chilly, wind-swept afternoon at BMO Field. The Roughriders pulled ahead in the fourth quarter but Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray led the Toronto offence on a 67-yard drive, capped by Cody Fajardo’s one-yard TD run with 23 seconds left.

“We played a very good football team,” Jones said. “We fell a little bit short.”

The Argonauts will meet the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup on Sunday in Ottawa.

Given that it had been less than 24 hours since the defeat, Jones said it was premature to provide details on plans for the team’s free agents and potential changes to the 2018 roster.

“I love this group,” he said. “I think the character in the room is comparable to some of the best teams that we’ve ever been around. I know that they’re going to work, I know that. I know that they’re not going to quit.”

Saskatchewan made strides in a number of areas over the last year, and the Roughriders doubled their regular-season win total from 2016.

“I think we’ve evolved from a team that just wanted to try to win a game last year to a team that can beat anybody on a given day,” Jones said.



22 Comments on Chris Jones says tough to blame crossover when 0-2 start left Riders in a hole

  1. Pay attention Kyle Walters. On 2nd thought don’t, your excuse making and blame-the-CFL attitude will help keep the Bombers’ streak of futility alive #1990

  2. Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm //

    He’s being nice. CFL needs to go to a top 6 make playoffs, top 2 get bye, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5 then reset. Long talked about by many; the current system stinks, resulting in teams with losing records winning Grey Cup or nearly so, remember the god-awful 5-11 Ottawa Rough Riders nearly beating 14-1-1 Edmonton in 1981? Regular season needs to count from something but such is the ‘reduce everyone to mediocrity’ nature of North American sports, alas.

    • Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm //

      I don’t think Walters is a particularly good GM or qualified to be one, but on the playoff system he’s right.

    • Repeat after me: runner up is not second place.


      The Grey Cup has never been designed as, and is not supposed to be, the meeting of the top two teams. Winning the divisional final means you were the best team in the division (or in the case of the crossover, better than the top team in the other division), not that you were the second-best team in the league. You could easily design a double-elimination format that ensures the top two teams play one another, but you’d lose the win-or-go-home intensity of single-elimination, it would take longer, etc.

      My recommendation for change would be to keep the crossover as-is, but offer the crossover spot to second and third place instead of assigning it to fourth place. You’d have something like this:

      Possibility 1:
      *Call to Winnipeg*
      Ambrosie: Would you prefer to host the Western Semifinal or travel to play in the Eastern Semifinal?
      O’Shea: Having a home game would be really nice. We’ll host the Western Semifinal.
      *Call to Edmonton*
      Ambrosie: Would you prefer to travel to Winnipeg for the Western Semifinal or to Ottawa for the Eastern Semifinal?
      Maas: Ottawa looks like a much more beatable team. We’ll take the crossover.
      *Result* Saskatchewan at Winnipeg, winner to play Calgary; Edmonton at Ottawa, winner to play Toronto

      Possibility 2:
      *Call to Winnipeg*
      Ambrosie: Would you prefer to host the Western Semifinal or travel to play in the Eastern Semifinal?
      O’Shea: Calgary isn’t that intimidating since they dropped their last three games of the season. We’ll host the Western Semifinal.
      *Call to Edmonton*
      Ambrosie: Would you prefer to travel to Winnipeg for the Western Semifinal or to Ottawa for the Eastern Semifinal?
      Maas: The Eastern Semifinal starts at 11am Edmonton time; I think we’ll do better with the later game. We’ll stay in the West.
      *Result* Edmonton at Winnipeg, winner to play Calgary; Saskatchewan at Ottawa, winner to play Toronto

      Possibility 3:
      *Call to Winnipeg*
      Ambrosie: Would you prefer to host the Western Semifinal or travel to play in the Eastern Semifinal?
      O’Shea: Not a single Eastern team had a winning season; that looks like a much easier path to the Grey Cup. We’ll take the crossover.
      Ambrosie: Okay, thanks.
      *Result* Saskatchewan at Edmonton, winner to play Calgary; Winnipeg at Ottawa, winner to play Toronto

  3. Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 5:24 pm //

    and I doubt too many still think East-West thing is relevant; have been many West-West Grey Cups during the years when Wpg was in East.

  4. Eddiefelson // November 20, 2017 at 5:29 pm //

    Are we going to keep beating a dead horse?
    Are the writers going to keep advocating for the death of the league?
    Why is this sensationalized headline allowed to exist?

    No…having an opportunity to play did NOT cost them. Not playing well enough to win (in the first half) cost them.

    We could go back to the days where they wouldnt be allowed to play while the 3 teams from the east battled it out.
    As a matter of fact- lets do that..get rid of the crossover so the issue will be solved.

    Dont whine about be given a chance…

    Hows that,

    • Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 5:35 pm //

      I have no rooting interest but Jones isn’t whining. He was asked a question about the playoff format and replied by actually not blaming it. That said, it should be blamed. It’s a ridiculous system as are most conference setups that can result in not the best teams meeting in championship game. Bottom line is, it’s not right. In the CFL the West regularly dominates the East yet via crossover (with a home game, yet, despite worse record) or otherwise regularly gets a Grey Cup berth. Yeah, you have to win on the day, but…it’s grossly unfair and absurd. And I live near Toronto.

    • true green // November 20, 2017 at 6:41 pm //

      Im not sure how you interpret Jones’ comment as whining, he is placing the blame on himself/riders for not winning earlier in the season which could have given them the record necessary to play in the west playoffs.

      Hate Jones all you want (i sure didn’t like him when he traded away players throughout 2016), but he doesn’t blame refs or rules, he is accountable to his results and expects the players to be as well.

      • Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 6:46 pm //

        hope you don’t think I’m interpreting Jones’ comments as whining, true green. probably you are directing comment at others. anyway clearly I’m not, nor obviously is he, he’s saying exactly what you just said. I’m going beyond and merely pointing out how unfair the CFL playoff system is.

      • Eddiefelson // November 20, 2017 at 8:59 pm //

        Perhaps more clarification is necessary.
        Nobody has suggested that jknes was whining.
        The whiners that I refered to are those that constantly state that we need one division in order to get the 2 beat teams in the cup.
        If a team crosses over- and loses- they aren’t the best team!
        The fact that the west “dominates” the regular season is inconsiquential.
        The cup gets handed out in the playoffs- not the regular season.

  5. Stallion in grey saddle // November 20, 2017 at 6:34 pm //

    WHAT!!! Chris Jones, thanks for being so graceful in defeat and not blaming the crossover as the reason of your demise. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! The crossover was the only reason you made the playoffs! No one benefited more from it than you did!

  6. Enough already……. NOT GONNA HAPPEN…….while yes the current format does allow for weaker teams to get to the cup…….(although I doubt anyone in Saskatchewan would be complaining today if the riders had taken care of their business against an “inferior opponent”)……the CFL is first and foremost a BUSINESS. Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal will never agree to this… let it go people.

    • Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 6:47 pm //

      Jones never blamed the crossover. He said Riders should have done better earlier to AVOID the crossover.

  7. Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm //

    Can’t believe how some folks are reading/misinterpreting this story. Nowhere does Jones complain about the crossover. He blames himself and his team. I may have been the one bringing up the issue of the unfairness of the CFL playoff system, which is clear and should be obvious to anyone, has been raised by many over the years, not just now or this year.

  8. Bill dehoog // November 20, 2017 at 8:04 pm //

    No reason to change east/west format. I would suggest a wild card game between and fourth place teams if record are better than the other division’s third place team

  9. I like Jones but please I beg of you do not bring Glenn back!

  10. Great to hear some intelligent feedback for a change! Sure beats the
    disgusting,fowl-mouthed,immature babble that has,more often than not,
    showed up in previous posts.Some people sure have a gut full of hate!
    Great comment by coach Jones .Plain and simple no excuses! I love the c.f.l.and push for a strong ,competitve,league,first and foremost.Am sure there are many of the same mindset.The c.f.l.will iron out the issues am sure thats best for all concerned.I for one
    have no complaints about the Riders this year.Fantastic progress has
    been made and will only get better!Its been a rollercoaster ride since the 60s though. Go Stamps bring the cup back west!

  11. Playoff matches in every league are “flawed” if you choose to look at it that way. Look at NHL & NFL same things happen every year. Anytime you have “divisions” or “conferences” there is the chance (probibilty) that records will not mean playoff births. Only way to avoid this is to have one league where all teams are in one “division”. This does not really work as some teams will fall out way to early.

    • Karlo Berkovich // November 20, 2017 at 11:08 pm //

      Completely agree, Mike U. Just that unlike other leagues with 30-plus teams, the CFL is small enough that you could do a one-division setup. There’s no perfect system. Well, actually, Euro soccer has that, top of the table and that’s it, you’re champion. Not saying that’s the answer, either, and it wouldn’t fly anyway because North American sporting culture includes playoffs, flaws and all. Cheers, all. Good discussion.

  12. Bill deHoog // November 21, 2017 at 7:19 am //

    Interesting discussion. I get that the west wants more playoff teams since they have dominated during the regular season for the last few years. But the East always plays a competitive game in the GC.
    No crossover team has made it so:
    No cross overs
    If the 4th from West has better record than 3rd from East they plan the West 3rd place team in a “wild card”. Winner advances to semifinal against West #2.
    If you finish in last place in either division you are out regardless of record

  13. pantsonfire // November 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm //

    Why go to 0-2? You could say all he had to do was beat Edm in the last game to avoid the crossover. Jones isn’t whining nor should he. After 17 games the Riders @ home had it in their hands to decide where they wanted to go, as did the Esks. Not too many Rider fans were complaining they had the crossover. As for Walters, if 1& 2 have the bye, Edm (3) gets Ott & Sask gets Argos 1 game earlier. So Bombers 1st game is Esks again. There’s a lot of parity in the league. Ottawa was an 8 win team but was in a record # of close games. In the playoffs, 1 loss & you’re out. You know that going in. Esks weren’t bitching that their 12-6 team had to face another 12-6 team on the road. They won the final game for the opportunity to do that.

  14. Ottawa REDBLACKS and Toronto Argonauts should have been the teams to travel to Saskatchewan for the playoffs with their season win/loss record inferior to the Roughriders 10-8 record. League rewarding home playoff games with a less than stellar win/loss record than their opponents just wrong. End of subject.

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