The Golden Era for Quarterbacks

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 16: Ricky Ray #15 of the Toronto Argonauts looks to pass against the Edmonton Eskimos during a game at BMO field on September 16, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Toronto defeated Edmonton 36-24. (Photo by John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images)

The quarterback is arguably the most important position in all sports. They get to touch the ball almost every snap and if they aren’t at their best the team usually suffers tremendously, especially in the CFL.

Thanks to the rules, most of the time team’s only have two kicks at the can to move the sticks. This amplifies the importance of the pass and devalues the run. If an organization doesn’t contain a true star lining up under centre, the lack of production is displayed right away. It’s a problem some franchises go through each year, but 2018 opens new possibilities.

There is currently an embarrassment of riches in talented quarterbacks this league hasn’t been seen before. Come training camp next spring every CFL team could have a franchise QB. It’s difficult to remember a time in the league’s long history when all contained a truly viable pivot.

This is why the golden era for quarterbacks starts in 2018.

The Golden Era for Quarterbacks

If you go down the nine teams, some of them are already set at the position for the next couple of years. The Calgary Stampeders have Bo Levi Mitchell, the Edmonton Eskimos have Mike Reilly, Trevor Harris will most likely re-sign with the Ottawa Redblacks and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers recently found there’s plenty of hope with Matt Nichols. That leaves five teams with question marks at the position.

The Toronto Argonauts experienced a turn around that ended in a Grey Cup Championship thanks to a Most Outstanding Player type of year from Ricky Ray. The best campaign he had in over nine years. The down side is the Argo’s don’t know if he’ll be back or if they should find his replacement since he’s 38-years-old. If he does come back for what he said, one maybe two seasons, it would just add another impressive layer to the golden era.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders need to trim the two-quarterback system in Brandon Bridge and Kevin Glenn to one. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are at a crossroads. They hold the expensive contract of Zach Collaros through next season, while Jeremiah Masoli who helped steer the Ticats back in the right direction is a free agent. Lastly the dysfunctional Montreal Alouettes continue to search for a pivot since the retirement of the great Anthony Calvillo. It’s reported Montreal is allowing the next head coach to decide Darian Durant’s faith. The BC Lions do hold Jonathan Jennings under contract, but Jennings may head to the NFL and Travis Lulay is set to become a free agent. New Lions’ general manager Ed Hervey may have to bring another starter in as insurance for Wally Buono’s last season.

Either way, there are answers to these quarterback questions.

James Franklin

Eskimos backup James Franklin, who every year displays his potential when given the opportunity, is a free agent. His agent’s phone will ring consistently from teams trying to snag him. At 26, He has all the tools to be a starter. Height (6’2), big arm, athletic and thinks the game. Learning from league MOP Reilly, the Missouri is miles ahead. All he needs is live reps.

In 2015, the then-rookie started four games for the injured Reilly. Franklin showed flashes of superstar potential throwing for more than 350 yards against the Argos, but at other times he showed growing pains too. He showed enough during that short stint for TSN’s Matt Dunigan to say Franklin remains him of five-time Grey Cup champion and pro football/CFL Hall of Famer, Warren Moon.

He checks all the boxes and will get a chance to start somewhere in 2018. Former Eskimos head coach and Roughrider Chris Jones brought Franklin up north. So don’t be surprised if he lures the big free agent to Saskatchewan if his NFL aspirations don’t pan out.

Zach Collaros

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats hold two quarterbacks which means one will likely wear different colours next season. The return of head coach June Jones and removal of his interim tag means Zach Collaros’ time in steel town is probably over but he still carries value.

He was a catalyst for turning around a franchise when he arrived in Hamilton in 2014. Zach brought the struggling franchise to the 102nd Grey Cup and experienced a MOP season in 2015 before he tore his ACL. Even though he started 0-8 this past season, Colloras remains capable of piloting an organization to the promised land. He currently holds the most expensive contract until the end of 2018.

It’s been reported the Cincinnati product is willing restructure his contract. If available, it wouldn’t take Collaros long to find a new home, such as Saskatchewan, Montreal or back in Toronto.

Saskatchewan Still Needs a Quarterback

There are still others that could compete for a starting job. Brandon Bridge impressed many in Saskatchewan. Air Canada exhibited his arm talent and athleticism to extend plays in many contests. The Canadian gets many excited for the possibility of being the next Russ Jackson.

Teammate Kevin Glenn may want to come back for another year too. He’s a pivot that would be a perfect backup. Glenn will completely take over a game, while other times make one scratch their head.

Options Still Exist

Even though the Darian Durant experiment completely failed in Montreal, another team will give the veteran a chance to rebound if it isn’t the Alouettes. When in doubt Travis Lulay showed flashes of his 2011 MOP season in his limited time. The problem with the 34-year-old is health as he tore his ACL in early September.

The wild card that can really push the golden age for quarterbacks over the top is Johnny Manziel. The Ticats hold his right and are truly interested in bringing him to Canada. General Manager Kent Austin is still waiting for the league to give him the thumbs up. The controversial figure has expressed his interest in the league, and even talked to his former college teammate, Eskimos receiver Derel Walker about it. If Hamilton signs Manziel, it could even create uncertainty for Ticats starter Jeremiah Masoli.

There are talented quarterbacks out there. All of which could be seen starting for teams in need of a leader. This is the first year in the league’s history with this much quality personnel available at the most important position. It opens the doors for the golden era of quarterbacks in the CFL to begin in 2018.

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  1. I beg to differ with your assertion that we are about embark upon the golden era for CFL quarterbacks. For example, early 90s quarterbacks included Kent Austin, Damon Allen, Matt Dunigan, Tracy Ham, and a little-known pivot by the name of Doug Flutie. Your reach is probably limited by your age regarding CFL greatness because I have not even gone back to the Lancaster, Faloney, Kenny Ploen, Joe Kapp, or Russ Jackson quarterback era in this league. I sincerely hope you’re right about a future golden era, but I doubt it.


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