The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be looking for a new head coach in the off-season after another disappointing end to their CFL campaign — finishing second to last in the West division.
The Roughriders announced Monday that Craig Dickenson’s contract will not be renewed. The news came two days after the Riders dropped their seventh straight game and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“I want to thank Coach Dickenson for all of his hard work, dedication. He really worked his butt off the last number of years he gave to the Roughriders,” Jeremy O’Day, the Roughriders’ general manager and vice-president of football operations, said in a media briefing on Monday.
“Ultimately, I thought the best decision to move our team forward was to make the decision to not bring coach Dickenson back.”
The Roughriders’ search for a new head coach will start immediately and continue for the next number of weeks, but O’Day didn’t give a definite timeline. The new coach will then hire new staff, O’Day said.
O’Day returning as GM
O’Day will be staying on after he received a three-year contract extension.
President and CEO Craig Reynolds said O’Day is the right person to lead the front office.
“Jeremy has an excellent track record of identifying and bringing in quality talent to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, with many players having gone on to have successful seasons including two 1,000-yard receivers in 2023,” Reynolds said in a news release.
“I am confident in his ability to find the next great head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and to put together a team Rider Nation can be proud of.”
Next year will be O’Day’s 26th year with the organization. He joined the team as an offensive lineman back in 1999, then joined the team’s football operation staff in 2011. He was named the Roughriders’ general manager and vice-president of football operations in 2019.
O’Day won a Grey Cup as a player in 2007 and won another as an assistant general manager in 2013.
“The confidence that they’re showing in me as a general manager, means a ton,” O’Day said Monday.
As he began his renewed term with the team, O’Day said asking Dickenson to step down as the head coach wasn’t an easy call to make.
“These are obviously not easy decisions when you’re dealing with people that are part of an organization for a long time, so it was a challenging last 48 hours and conversations that you don’t really enjoy having,” he said.
Build-up to Dickenson’s exit
The Riders had a near-identical finish this year compared to their 2022 season.
In 2022, the Riders finished the year at 6-12 following a promising 4-1 start, losing their final seven consecutive games. In 2023, the team kicked off 3-1 before finishing 6-12, again, with a seven-game losing streak.
The Riders had an opportunity to make the playoffs until the last minute of their last game of the season against the Toronto Argonauts. However, the curtains fell on the season with the 29-26 loss. Dickenson, after the game, was unequivocally critical of himself.
“At the end of the day, it’s all on me. It was a different team, but we didn’t win any more games — just didn’t do enough this year, didn’t coach well enough, didn’t play well enough at times and it just didn’t turn out like we’d hoped,” Dickenson said.
Reynolds, in the media briefing on Monday, said he is “deeply” committed to making improvements that can bring Rider Nation back to its cheering ways.
“I know we let our fans down. That weighs heavily on me. It weighs heavily on everyone in our organization. I know it weighs heavily on Jeremy O’Day. We are committed to getting this right and moving forward and building a team Rider Nation can be proud of,” he said.
Dickenson’s Roughrider legacy
In 2019, Dickenson was elevated from special teams co-ordinator — a position he had held since 2016 — to head coach.
During the following four seasons, Dickenson’s side lost in the West final twice and missed the playoff spots in the other two.
The Riders’ stint was Dickenson’s first CFL head-coaching opportunity.
Before joining the Riders in 2016, Dickenson spent time coaching with the Calgary Stampeders (2002, 2004-2009), Montreal Alouettes (2003), Saskatchewan (2011-2012), Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2013) and Edmonton Eskimos (2014-2015).
He also coached for a season in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders in 2010.
However, he found silverware, the Grey Cup, only twice — once, during his time with the Calgary Stampeders as the special teams co-ordinator in 2008, and then with the Edmonton Eskimos (as they were then named) in 2015 in the same role.
WATCH | (From 2019) Craig Dickenson announced as Riders head coach:
In the Riders’ 2019 announcement of Dickenson’s new role, Dickenson said it was an opportunity to “really build something great here,” describing the Riders as a “special organization” with strong fan support.
”Football means something out here — it means something more here than it does in other places,” he said at the 2019 media conference.
Dickenson departs the Roughriders with an even count of wins and losses, 34-34.
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