You’d think Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Brendan Taman would be able to relax a bit heading in to the 2014 season. After all, his team finished last year with a blowout Grey Cup victory – just the fourth in the organization’s 100-year history and its first at home in Regina. But one of the perils of managing a team with the most rabid fans in the Canadian Football League is that the pressure is as intense as ever – maybe more so. “Everybody now expects us to win back-to-back,” says Taman wryly.
If you’re not a CFL fan, you might not fully grasp the passion of Rider Nation. In a province with no other professional sports teams, Taman’s every move is dissected ad nauseam in the press and on barstools province-wide, year-round. “It’s fun to be in a market where they care about football, but you’re under more pressure then anywhere else in the league,” says Taman, who’s one of a handful of Investors Group clients to win a Grey Cup. “Technically, I’m the GM, but I think most people in this province think they are too.”
As a Saskatoon native, Taman grew up a Riders fan, but he never dreamed he’d one day be running the team.
As a Saskatoon native, Taman grew up a Riders fan, but he never dreamed he’d one day be running the team. When he finished high school in 1984, he landed a data entry job with CN Rail. Two years later he met Dan Rambo, then the Riders’ director of player personnel, who ended up hiring the then 21-year-old to do odd jobs. “That’s how football works – it’s who you meet,” says Taman.
He worked his way through increasingly senior positions at various clubs, and was named assistant GM of the BC Lions in 1999. A year later, he became GM of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After 10 seasons, he quit and took the winter off. Then Saskatchewan came calling. The Riders had made it to, and lost, the Grey Cup game in 2009 so, needless to say, expectations were high when Taman took over.
This season, everything clicked, thanks to the many hours of work that Taman and coach Corey Chamblin spent trying to create a championship team. They were constantly tweaking the team’s roster to ensure they had the best mix possible. He also spent the winter before the big win – and this past winter too – managing the team’s salary cap, recruiting new players, setting up training camps and trying to hang on to all of his free agents.
Will all this hard work pay off with another win? That’s what Rider Nation’s hoping for, but Taman’s just thrilled to have gotten his first. “Now that I’ve won,” he says, “they could fire me today and I’d be okay with it.”