In sports, as in life, change is inevitable, and one of the only constants that a fan can always count on as they follow their favourite sport through the rigors of another campaign. Sure, seeing Favre in a Vikings uniform or Jordan suiting up for the Wizards or Gretzky in St Louis blue is a shock to the system, but once the ball is snapped or the puck is dropped, it’s time to move on. Your most trusted hero has now become a most dangerous foe determined to beat your home team any way they can. So you celebrate the time they spent with you and you’ll see them at the retirement ceremony. But for right now, you have new faces to bond with. Like I say, it’s time to move on.
To that end, this is probably the most transitional season in the history of the Canadian Football League when it comes to the most important position of them all: quarterback. While some teams have maintained their stability, most are trying something new, either through choice or attrition. Outside of Zach Collaros in Saskatchewan, CFL MVP Bo Levi Mitchell in Calgary, the Tiger-Cats Jeremiah Masoli, and Mike Nichols in Winnipeg, the pivot position in the CFL has scrambled like a young Doug Flutie. It’s going to get wild in all likelihood, so hang on to your programs.
Out west, the Edmonton Eskimos lost their franchise guy, Mike Reilly, to BC to begin the migration of assets after Lions QB Trevor Lulay retired. Not to worry, because the Eskies turned right around and signed Trevor Harris as his replacement. Not bad, considering Harris’ pedigree as a big-time performer in Ottawa, including substantial experience in the playoffs. At first glance, looking only at the quarterback position, it sure seems like the Western Conference has a vulgar display of wealth when positioned against the East with Collaros, Mitchell, Nichols, Reilly and Harris as the starting five. The side story will be how long it will take Reilly and Harris to catch fire with their new teams. If they both come out hot, it certainly looks as if the West will be sending four teams to the playoffs in the cross-over scenario yet again.
In the East, we did mention Masoli, and he’s a special player on most nights, so the Ti-Cats, barring injury, should be the most confident team when it comes to quarterback. Outside of that though, it’s a lot of wishing, hoping and praying. Ottawa jumped in early and declared Dominique Davis as their starter, but those are big shoes to fill with Harris’ departure. Bad boy Johnny Manziel flamed out of both Montreal and the league, so the resilient Antonio Pipkin is getting a shot as the number one guy again for the Alouettes. And in Toronto, with Ricky Ray retired, the Argos will start this season the way they ended the last, with James Franklin starting ahead of McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Every season brings with it a new surprise and I anticipate that this campaign will be no different. We can easily look to Masoli or Mitchell or Reilly and predict big things for the player and their team. But you never know, do you? We could be anointing a Pipkin or a Franklin or a Davis as a franchise savior when it’s all said and done. Question marks do abound with the quarterbacks in the East when you play the game on paper. Guess what? You don’t play the game on paper.