55 Yard Line - CFL

Greg Marshall, the Roughriders and “lipstick on a pig”

The CFL always delivers in terms of memorable quotes (see our The Extra Yard recap for examples), but Saskatchewan Roughriders' rookie head coach Greg Marshall might have given us the analogy of the year so far. Marshall's first game as a sideline boss was the Edmonton Eskimos' surprising 42-28 victory over his Riders Sunday, which has inspired some hope in Alberta and stirred up plenty of questions in Saskatchewan. Thus, Marshall (seen above on the sidelines during a June 22 preseason game) had good reasons to be in a bad mood this week. Apparently, analyzing the game film didn't make him much happier, as Global's Warren Woods tweeted Tuesday: "When asked if Edm game looked better on tape Marshall said you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig."

The lipstick on a pig analogy has been around for at least 35 years, but its largest prominence may have come during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, when Democratic nominee Barack Obama (who was eventually elected) described the Republican campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin's usage of "change" (a frequent theme of his own campaign) using the term.

"You can put lipstick on a pig," he said as the crowd cheered. "It's still a pig."

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink."

"We've had enough of the same old thing."

Oddly enough, many of those sentiments would seem rather applicable to the Roughriders' performance Sunday. The Roughriders were completely outclassed by the lowly Eskimos, one of the consensus picks to miss the playoffs this year. On Sunday, it was Edmonton, not Saskatchewan that looked like the reigning West Division champions. Eskimos' quarterback Ricky Ray completed 77.8 per cent of his passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers against a Riders' defence that seemed to forget to cover several receivers. The Saskatchewan offence was better, as quarterback Darian Durant threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns with a 73.0 per cent completion rate and running back Wes Cates looked solid, but Durant threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.

As I discussed on Corey Graham's show (MP3 download link) in Edmonton Monday night, part of Sunday's result was thanks to the Eskimos' improvement from last year, but another part of it was down to the Riders' failings, particularly on defence. They did do a reasonably good job of stopping the run, which was a major issue last season, but they were carved up in the passing game. Marshall and new defensive coordinator Richie Hall (who was the head coach in Edmonton last year) have a lot of work on their hands if they want this team to get back to the Grey Cup again, and the offence needs some improvement as well; they've got a lot of new faces they're still trying to work in. Keep in mind that this is just one game, so it's not a full-blown crisis in Saskatchewan yet. Still, on Sunday this team had plenty of moments that were bad and ugly. To fix them, they could use some hope and real change, not just attempts to cover up the pig with some lipstick.

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