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Is the Roughriders’ anarcho-syndicalist commune failing?

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are pretty clearly a team in crisis. After an initially promising turnaround under new (old) coach Ken Miller, they've lost two games in a row by a cumulative score of 82-8 and are all but out of the playoffs at 4-9. That's prompting lots of criticism in Saskatchewan, and some of it has focused on the unusual organizational structure the Riders entered this season with.

Saskatchewan made some curious moves this offseason, including bringing back general manager Brendan Taman while promoting Ken Miller(seen at right on the sidelines during a 2010 game) to a not-particularly-defined vice-president of football operations role, and hiring new head coach Greg Marshall, but presenting him with an already-in-place offensive coordinator in Doug Berry (also a former head coach), a new defensive coordinator in Richie Hall (also a former head coach) and an ill-defined "effort coach" in former defensive coordinator Gary Etcheverry (also a former head coach, and he quit just before the season started). As The Regina Leader-Post's Rob Vanstone remarked in a live chat Wednesday, that kind of organizational structure may wind up keeping some promising candidates from pursuing the Riders' coaching job this coming year (presuming Miller doesn't intend to keep it himself). Here are the key parts of what Vanstone had to say:

This team, as composed, is a failure. There needs to be direction from above -- and order in the hierachy -- to repair this. ... Under the present hierarchical structure, the Roughriders won't get anyone but a wanna-be as a head coach. This could be a plum job that can attract premier candidates, but not with the front office as it is currently constituted.

"The present hierarchical structure" is an awesome line, and it made me think of a very famous scene from involving a complicated system of government that seems great in theory, but incredibly problematic in execution. Here it is, from 1975's Monty Python And The Holy Grail:

And here's how that scene might sound if you rewrote part of it as an exchange between a sportswriter who knows nothing of the CFL and a Roughriders' employee:

Sportswriter: "Please, please, I am in haste. Who runs your front office?"

Employee: "No one runs it."

Sportswriter: "Then who is your general manager?"

Employee: "We only sort of have a GM. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune, we take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week but all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting, by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs but by a two-thirds majority in the case of trades."

Ken Miller may not have derived supreme executive power from a farcical aquatic ceremony, but the complicated structure of the Roughriders' front office certainly isn't making things easy. They have a coach who's also heavily involved on the football operations side, and that's far simpler than it used to be when they had Marshall both reporting to two bosses and overseeing a staff of former coaches he didn't chiefly select. At the start of the year, this didn't seem like such a terrible idea, as Miller, Taman and Marshall are all smart football guys with seemingly-compatible visions. It hasn't worked out, though, and perhaps that suggests that the conventional model of GM-as-king may work better than Saskatchewan's unconventional anarcho-syndicalism.

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