There are many great battles currently going on in CFL training camps, but none more intriguing or more important to an organization, than the competition at quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos.
After the first week of camp, Kavis Reed feels that the race between former BC Lion Mike Reilly and Matt Nichols, who got playing time in eight games for the Eskimos last year before being sidelined with an ankle injury, is a dead heat.
When asked to examine a hypothetical, as to whether or not, if the tie continued, the coach would consider a two quarterback system. Reed's response was matter of fact, and to the point, when he said, "I hope that (the two QB system) is not the case for the health of this franchise." he went on to say, "With free agency, and contracts the way they are, this franchise needs to find the next franchise quarterback."
So there you have it, a two quarterback system in Edmonton would be an absolute last resort and not something the coaching staff wants to have to experiment with, so the race at the most important position on the field for Edmonton between Mike Reilly and Matt Nichols is on.
The Edmonton coaching staff is watching the every move of the two players, who have more in common than you might imagine, and tracking their every stat.
As of day five of camp, Reed said, the rep count was within five snaps of each other, and there was just .5% separating the two when it came to their completion percentage.
Matt Nichols, who played his college ball at Eastern Washington and Mike Reilly, who played at Central Washington, are both saying the right things.
When asked about the competition, Nichols said, "we both want this team to win and we both want to be the starter."
Which was almost identical to Reilly's response when he stated, "everybody wants to play and if you win the job the starter does not want to do all that work to come off the field," then mentioned last year and finished his thought saying, "but we needed two quarterbacks last year in BC when Travis got hurt."
What Reilly gives up in knowledge of Edmonton's offense as a newcomer, he makes up with his study habits, and said he spends every waking moment with his head in the playbook.
"I'm studying my butt off, but it feels good and I'm happy with my placement and accuracy so far."
Nichols says he has completely recovered from that ugly ankle injury last year and stated, "I don't even get treatment on it after practice," and in fact, he has been training full out since March.
Both quarterbacks, worked with their teammates in the off-season in the new indoor facility in Edmonton to develop chemistry with the receivers, both are pocket passers with the ability to extend plays and run when needed and, both, according to Kavis Reed, have shown great leadership abilities.
But the similarities don't end there, both Nichols, in four out of his five years in college, and Reilly, for one year at Central Washington, give most of the credit for what they know about playing the quarterback position to the same guy, their college head coach Beau Baldwin.
Baldwin transferred from one school to the other and back again, while the two were first learning the position, and sounded like brothers talking about their father, when praising their former college coach.
They are also benefiting from the experience of veteran quarterback Kerry Joseph, who understands his roll and will be ready if needed, but in the meantime is acting as a mentor for the two pivots.
The competition in Edmonton means that the Eskimos, at least early in the year, may be playing catch up with the rest of the league.
Every other team in the CFL have an established starter in camp taking first team reps, while Reilly and Nichols are splitting the first unit snaps.
However, as Kavis Reed said, this is a very important decision for the organization, for not just this year, but the foreseeable future and Reed needs to find the right guy, or as he puts it, "the guy the team can believe in."
The pre-season games will be important but, according to the head coach this very difficult call will not be based on the stat lines alone. In fact Reed said he won't even be making the decision. That will be in the hands of Mike Reilly or Matt Nichols.