If you watched the BC Lions last year—or even if you didn’t—you’d know that the Lions fell off of a cliff in the second half of the season. A fairly large reason for this is due to the play of quarterback Jonathon Jennings.
Jennings was an electric quarterback in both 2015 and 2016, showing massive amounts of potential, and he was well on his way to becoming a superstar in the CFL. With a bounce-back season in 2018, he could very well still be on that path. But what went so wrong in 2017, and what can Jennings do to regain his electric form?
Jonathon Jennings’ 2017 Season
Week 1 – Week 3: A Strong Start
While he didn’t blow anybody away in the first few weeks, Jennings had a strong start to the 2017 season, throwing two touchdown passes and one interception in his first three starts on a completion percentage of 68% (74/108). The Lions had a 2-1 record coming into their game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 4.
On the first offensive play of the game for the Lions, Jennings threw his second interception of the season after being hit by the Tiger-Cats defence. He went down with an injury, and in came Travis Lulay.
Week 4 – Week 7: Lulay Takes Over
After Jennings went down with his injury, the 2011 MOP of the CFL and MVP of the 99th Grey Cup, Travis Lulay, came into the game in relief. Lulay lost the starting job to Jennings in 2015, not because of ability, but because many saw Lulay as too injury prone to continue being a starter, along with the fact that many saw Jennings as having a higher ceiling. In this game against the Tiger-Cats, it was almost as if he was on a mission to prove everyone wrong.
Lulay threw for 436 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the game. While Jennings only played one down of football in this game, this effort by Lulay is in the record books. The 436 yards that Lulay threw for is the most yards thrown by a backup quarterback in CFL history.
This performance leaked into the next three games he would play against the Blue Bombers, the Eskimos, and the Roughriders, leading the team to a 2-1 record over the next three games, all while playing like it was 2011 all over again.
Then week eight came.
Week 8: Jennings’ return
In the week prior, the Lions handily defeated the Roughriders in BC Place, 30-15, so walking into the stadium, fans were feeling fairly confident that the 5-2 Lions would be able to leave with a victory.
They were very wrong.
For many Lions fans who were watching on TV, halftime signalled time to change the channel. Jennings (and by proxy the entire offense run by Jennings) looked completely shell-shocked in his return to the field. He threw four interceptions and only 1 touchdown, by the time the final whistle rang through the stadium. On this night, the Riders defeated the Lions 41-8 in what would be a turning point for both teams’ seasons. Coming into this game, the Roughriders were 1-5. They ended up making the playoffs.
As for the Lions…
Week 9 – Week 20: Complete Disaster
After the game against the Roughriders, the Lions still had a 5-3 record. They ended the season with a record of 7-11.
Throughout the remainder of the 2017 season, to say that everything went wrong for the BC Lions would be an understatement. The offence struggled mightily to produce with Jennings at the helm, so in Week 12, after three consecutive losses, Wally Buono looked back to Lulay. In a cruel twist of irony, Travis Lulay was injured on the second offensive play of the game with what would be a season-ending injury to his ACL and MCL.
To say that the Lions’ collapse is entirely because of Jennings would be wildly inaccurate (everything went wrong for this team in the back half of the season), but his poor and inconsistent play that continued straight through to the end of the season was a massive contributor to the team’s downfall.
The 2018 Season
Can Jonathon Jennings turn it around in this upcoming season? Can he regain the electric form he had in 2015 and 2016?
Yes, he can. Jennings seems extremely motivated to use this past season as a learning experience and to prove that it was a one-time experience for Lions fans. With an improved offensive line, a new offensive coordinator in Jarious Jackson and what will be a mightily motivated Wally Buono in his last season, Jonathon Jennings is in store for a big season.
But the question truly on the minds of Lions fans everywhere is whether this team can make the playoffs. Can they compete for a Grey Cup?
We’ll all find out in due time, but if they’re to do it, it’ll be under the leadership of Jonathon Jennings.
Main image credit: