What is going on with our starting quarterbacks? Over the last two weeks, four starters have gone down, and two are probably lost for the season.
Two weeks ago, the Lions lost Travis Lulay in Ottawa when he suffered the fourth injury of his career on the same shoulder late in the game. In the Banjo Bowl between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, the Riders' Darian Durant took a legal hit from Bryant Turner and is gone for the season with an elbow injury.
A week later, Drew Willy of the Bombers was running the ball and he was rolled on by a Lions D-linmen when tackled and suffered a shoulder injury, the severity of which has not yet been released by the Bombers. And finally in Calgary, Bo Levi Mitchell was hit by Shea Emry and has ankle and knee injuries, and according to the latest reports, will be week-to-week.
Four starters, four stars gone and in the case of two of them, likely for the season. Now the question is, are all these injuries to star quarterbacks just a case of bad luck/coincidence or is there a reason for them?
There is no question that defences are winning this year and the strength of the defences has been the front sevens which has to be factored in to the QB injury discussion. However, Lulay has a history of the shoulder issues, and was involved in a strange play where the ball slipped out of his hand as he was trying to throw. When he scrambled to recover the fumble, the shoulder buckled again.
Durant was in the act of throwing when he was hit, and like Lulay, it was a strange play but for a different reason. On Durant's injury, the official tried to blow the play dead but no one heard it and the play continued. More on that later.
Drew Willy was injured in BC when he was tackled trying to run the ball, which is a very different situation to that of Lulay or Durant, but similar to how Mitchell was hurt. Mitchell was scrambling for a first down and was trying to go down in a crouch position when he was hit by Shea Emry.
Two QB's hit in the act of trying to throw, and two in the act of running, which means there is no specific trend or reason that connects all four.
Lulay and Durant were situations that could happen on any passing play; they were vulnerable in the pocket, got hit legally and were injured. It happens. However, Willy and Mitchell are injuries that could have been avoided.
It is certainly not the quarterbacks' fault, because they are caught in the middle between being tough, team-first guys that will do anything for the first down, and being smart and picking up what they can and then protecting themselves. Everyone admires and raves about the QB that puts it all on the line for the first down, but what is the cost? Coaches have said that they can't take the 'fight in the dog' out of their leaders who want to do what ever it takes, but maybe it's time they try and tame that dog just a bit.
The quarterback is the player that gives the entire team hope; if he isn't capable, hope is lost. Now all wins are important, and football players are wired to give it all on every play but if Calgary or Winnipeg don't get the first down in Week 10 of the regular season, are their seasons lost? Obviously not, the franchise players are taking too many risks in the game today. Maybe it's time that coaches start saying to their star QB's "run if you want but NEVER take a hit you don't have to take! "
Let's be clear, this is not a critique on Willy or Mitchell. Everyone admires their courage and leadership abilities, but the risk when a quarterback elects to take a hit rather than hook slide for an extra yard or two outweighs the reward in the regular season. Coaches hold players out of the lineup when they are injured and begging to go back before they are ready. It's time those same coaches start instructing their franchise players to avoid taking unnecessary hits!
Now to the Durant hit. According to the head of officials Glen Johnson, the correct protocol was carried out by the crew in the Banjo Bowl. One ref tried to blow the play dead by blasting his whistle four times. However no one, including the other officials on the field and all 24 players, heard it due to the unbelievable crowd noise in Winnipeg's new Investors Group Field. Johnson has since reminded all the officials to be as animated as they can when trying to stop the play once the ball has been snapped and to make sure that one official's whistle is backed up by the rest of the crew.
However, there will be no discipline handed out to any of the officiating crew because there was really no mistake made, which is the right decision. Also, good for Riders offensive guard Dan Clark who was beat on the play but didn't try to use the whistle issue as an excuse. Right after the game in front of a sea of cameras and microphones, he said he didn't hear any whistle and he just got beat. That couldn't have been easy when an excuse was on the tee for him. That is a sign of true character.