The 2018 CFL West Division semi-final is still a few days away, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders are already playing games.

The games before the game have begun. Cue canned laughter.

With a straight face, Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones told the salivating media mob Wednesday that quarterback Zach Collaros‘ status is “day-to-day” for Sunday’s CFL West Division semi-final against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Knee-slapping material, this.

Jones added that Collaros cleared concussion protocol “days ago.” So ignore the smokescreen.

Collaros will start on Sunday. Now, will he finish? Or, how will he finish?

On three occasions this season, Collaros has been forced to leave a game after absorbing a hit to the head. With intensity reaching a peak during the playoffs, and with frozen fields not being the comfiest landing spots, it is reasonable to wonder how Collaros will fare.

His arrival, remember, was supposed to answer more questions than it created.

Jones found last season’s starting quarterback, Kevin Glenn, to be wanting — even though he and Brandon Bridge had combined for a league-high 35 touchdown passes in 2017.

The last straw was the East Division final, in which Jones made three quarterback changes — going from Glenn to Bridge to Glenn to Bridge — during a 25-21 loss to the host Toronto Argonauts.

The legitimate indecision of Nov. 19, as opposed to Wednesday’s valiant attempt to manufacture a degree of doubt, led Jones to pursue someone who could be the uncontested starting quarterback.

That someone was Collaros, who was acquired from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Jan. 3. Glenn was released the following day.

And now, the quarterback equation of 2017 looks like Joe Montana and Steve Young by comparison.

This year’s Roughriders are as likely to score on defence as they are through the air. The TD-pass total has plummeted from 35 to 11.

In the case of Collaros, the interceptions (13) outnumbered the touchdown passes (nine).

A good omen, perhaps?

The mind rewinds to 1997, when the Roughriders entered the playoffs with Reggie Slack at quarterback.

Slack wore the No. 17 that is now donned by Collaros. And Slack, like Collaros, had the 9-to-13 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio as the post-season loomed.

Their teams, however, were of different calibre. The 1997 Roughriders posted an 8-10 record before catching fire in the playoffs and advancing to the Grey Cup game.

Employing an option package that had not previously been used that season, Slack and the Roughriders confounded the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos in back-to-back West playoff games.

Then reality hit, in the form of the Doug Flutie-quarterbacked Toronto Argonauts, and the Roughriders were eviscerated 47-23 in the Grey Cup.

That game was held at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, by the way, where the 106th Grey Cup is to be played Nov. 25.

This much can be written with certainty: If the Roughriders advance to another Grey Cup, they will not surrender 47 points. The Jones-coached defence, the nucleus of a 12-6 team, is too good.

The only question about the 2018 Roughriders pertains to the state of the offence as a whole, as opposed to whether Collaros will play on Sunday.

Until then, we wonder: Can the Zach Attack resemble the Slack Attack?



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