I'm not sure which was a bigger accomplishment last Friday night, the Calgary Stampeders moving to 9-2 and taking sole possession of first place in the west or Henry Burris reaching 50,000 career passing yards?
For Calgary it was a significant and unique win. It was “come from behind" against a team in Hamilton that was playing very well and is improving. After the first four plays it was 7-0 Ticats, but the Stampeders battled back.
Of all the quarterbacks Calgary has on their roster, I would be surprised if Bo Levi Mitchell was not the one they protected come December when the Ottawa Redblacks begin picking and choosing talent in the league's expansion draft. Mitchell is young, only 23, and with a support system of John Hufnagel and Dave Dickinson, who both played quarterback very successfully, the Stampeders have a chance to mould him into CFL perfection over time.
Kevin Glenn has the experience, Drew Tate the competitive intensity, but Mitchell has one thing the others don't: a great passing arm. When you can throw with accuracy to all areas of the football field it opens up all areas of your offence.
It is also one of the reasons that Henry Burris is now fifth all-time in yards thrown in a 101-year-old league. Even at 38, he has a velocity on his passes that many 10 years younger do not have. I think the greatest accomplishment for Henry is that he the never gave up. I say that in reference to the fact that two years ago, Calgary gave up on him.
There he was, a 36-year-old player at the crossroads, traded to another team for another quarterback in Glenn. Now time will humble everyone, and in football time goes by exceptionally fast. For Henry Burris to remain confident and continue to perform is an accomplishment. Achieving the 50,000 yard plateau would not have happened if Henry had not re-grouped and moved forward. Congratulations.
With Winnipeg and Edmonton, the question is, ‘when do you abandon this year and prepare for the next?' Both teams are 2-9, but the attitude must be to try and get into the playoffs until you are mathematically eliminated.
One of the criticisms of the CFL is that you can have a horrendous regular season, sneak into the playoffs and win it all. However, that is also one of the compliments of the league - it is never over until the numbers, in their simplest form of wins and losses, say it is.
It all depends on how you perceive this reality as a football fan. When you compare Winnipeg to Edmonton I don't see much of a comparison. Edmonton has about six losses that, if not for one or two plays, could be six wins. That's not the case in Winnipeg. Many of their losses were because the opponent was better. Edmonton also has a future quarterback in Mike Reilly, Winnipeg has to develop one in the present or find one in the future.
Saturday night, Toronto beat Saskatchewan 31-29. Not sure how they did it, but they got it done and improved to 7-4. Toronto has a solid track record of maintaining focus and playing to the end. The most significant part of the game to me was how, with five minutes to go, the Argos ran the ball and took the game clock down to one minute. And the Riders knew it was coming.
Jerious Norwood is a good running back and, depending on the health of Chad Kackert, can start for Toronto when needed. Zack Collaros has also transitioned from a quarterback that is just there until Ricky Ray gets back to a quarterback you can win with. With seven games to go, Toronto controls its own destiny.
And so do the BC Lions. Sunday was an important win for the Lions and they looked good doing it 36-14 over the Alouettes. The Lions had better balance on offence, Tim Brown on special team returns and more energy on defence. All of a sudden BC is just one game behind Saskatchewan with the Riders on the horizon next week.
For Montreal, 4-7 sounds bad but on the positive side they are just one game out of second in the East behind Hamilton. And in Week 13 Montreal plays Hamilton at the University of Guelph. There are two goals for Montreal now. Make the playoffs and find the next Anthony Calvillo. The first goal may be easier than the second.
Finally, thank you CFL for putting the Bombers back in the West and for Ottawa's return. Part of me would prefer one nine-team league and part of me enjoys East vs. West come Grey cup. With Winnipeg back in the West, it makes Geographic sense.