Every Rider fan remembers the 2009 Grey Cup but many still don’t like talking about it. I admit I was one of those people for a long time. The thought of the 13th man costing the Riders the championship they were already celebrating, caused pain for many years. I’ve made my peace with it now but the tenth anniversary has me thinking.
The Grey Cup is once again in Calgary this year, as it was in 2009 and the Riders and Alouettes are both in the playoffs this season. Even though a Riders/Als Grey Cup is far from a guarantee, it’s still fun to think about a rematch in the very same stadium ten years later.
Back in 2009, the Riders and Als were kind of the juggernauts of the league. The Riders were two years removed from a Grey Cup and this was the first of back-to-back appearances against the Als in the big game. The Als were returning to the Grey Cup after having hosted but losing to the Stamps the year before and this was their first of back-to-back championships.
Fast-forward a decade and the Riders and Als were anything but favoured to even make the playoffs. In fact, there was much uncertainty surrounding both teams going into the season. The Riders lost their head coach/GM/defensive coordinator in Chris Jones to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns after signing an extension in the offseason and the Als were sold to the league during the pre-season, ending the Wetenhall family’s 22-year run.
Now it might be tough to call either of these teams underdogs as the Riders just wrapped up first place in the West after starting 1-3 and securing an important first-week bye. The Als themselves got a home playoff game, hosting the crossover Edmonton Eskimos after missing the playoffs last season and being owned by the league. There was no clear starting quarterback either for them, that is before Vernon Adams Jr. settled that debate. The Riders also lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros to a concussion on the first drive of the season and he never took another snap in green and white, being traded to the Argos and then the Bombers. Cody Fajardo quickly made it his team though and played himself into a new two-year contract.
Both teams have quietly had great seasons. After starting 1-3, the Riders won six in a row and nine of ten at one point in a division that included the defending champs and the Grey Cup favourite Blue Bombers. The Als have beat all the top teams in the league this year at least once (with the exception being Saskatchewan) and could easily take down an Eskimos team that has only won twice since week 10. The story almost writes itself, now let’s see if it plays out in reality.