Eskimos Harris An Excellent Replacement For Reilly

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When the Edmonton Eskimos lost free agent quarterback Mike Reilly to the B.C. Lions last month, there were more than a few doomsday prognosticators in Edmonton. And rightfully so. Losing a franchise quarterback like Reilly would be a massive blow to any team. But to the Eskimos and their fans, this would be unacceptable. The Eskimos missed the playoffs in 2018 even with Reilly playing all 18 games- how on earth would they make the playoffs now without him? A valid concern.

Reilly had spent the previous six seasons with the green and gold and was the face of the franchise. In 2015, Reilly led the Eskimos to a Grey Cup victory and in 2017 he picked up the leagues Most Outstanding Player (MOP) award.

The next quarterback, whoever it was going to be, needed to be a good one. Nay, he needed to be a great one. Eskimos General Manager Brock Sunderland had his work cut out for him. The football fans of Edmonton were watching, the league was watching.

Trevor Harris Signs With Eskimos

Enter former Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris. After Reilly signed with the Lions, Harris became target number one for Sunderland. In a quarterback-driven league like the CFL is, it was of the utmost importance to get this next move correct. Sunderland didn’t disappoint.

In snagging Harris in free agency, the Eskimos were able to find a suitable replacement for Reilly. While Harris isn’t necessarily talked about being in the elite group of CFL quarterbacks (Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell), most would have him ranked in the second-tier group of quarterbacks.

However, when looking at the passing numbers between Reilly and Harris in the last few seasons, there isn’t a significant difference.

Comparing Reilly and Harris Passing Stats

The starting comparisons for statistics between Reilly and Harris go back to the 2015 season. it was this year that both Reilly and Harris were starting quarterbacks in the CFL. Reilly was already an established starter, while this was Harris’ inaugural season as the number one guy in Toronto.

Since 2015, the passing stats between Harris and Reilly are quite similar;

Player Games Played Record Winning % Comp/ Att Comp % TD/INT Yards
Mike Reilly 63 38-25 0.540% 1,527/2,237 68.30% 103/53 19,395
Trevor Harris 59 31-26-2 0.525% 1,453/2,055 70.70% 101/45 17,450

While these numbers are similar, it is important to take a look at each player’s record against the East and West separately. The passing results again are quite similar. The only stat that differs with any sort of concern is Harris’ win/loss record against the West.

Player Games Played Record Winning % Comp/ Att Comp % TD/INT Yards
Mike Reilly vs East 26 17-9 0.653% 630/926 68.0% 46/14 7,934
Trevor Harris vs East 26 16-10 0.615% 664/926 71.70% 44/19 7,855
Mike Reilly vs West 37 21-16 0.567% 897/1,311 68.4% 57/39 11,461
Trevor Harris vs West 33 15-16-2 0.454% 789/1,129 69.9% 57/26 9,595

In Reilly’s MOP season in 2017, Harris only played in 15 games compared to Reilly’s 18. However, if one was to prorate Harris’s passing stats over a full 18 games that season, again the results are almost identical;

Player Comp/ Att Comp % TD/INT Yards
Mike Reilly 447/654 68.3% 30/13 5,830
Trevor Harris (pro-rated) 478/686 69.7% 36/13 5,614

Eskimos Will Miss Reilly’s Rushing Numbers

The one area that the Eskimos will see a significant difference is in the running game. Mike Reilly is one of the leagues premier rushing quarterbacks. Not only that, but he has been utilized heavily in the last couple of seasons in short & goal situations.

When comparing the rushing stats of both Reilly and Harris, it’s not even close. Reilly can be extremely effective when he uses his legs, while Harris’ numbers suggest he prefers not to run.

Player Carries Yards TD’s Avg.
Mike Reilly 385 1,715 36 4.5
Trevor Harris 125 533 3 4.3

In all likelihood, Eskimos running back C.J.Gable will see a significant uptake in both carries and touchdowns with Reilly gone.

The Last Word

Although, when comparing quarterbacks, there are other things that are difficult to measure. In terms of grit, leadership, effort, and attention to detail- Reilly seems to fit the bill every time. In this article by Eskimos beat writer Gerry Moddejonge, GM Brock Sunderland summarizes perfectly what Reilly meant to the Eskimos. Here is an excerpt on his thoughts on Reilly;

“How much time do we have? I mean, that’s the honest answer,” Eskimos general manager Brock Sunderland said. “Breaking it down from a physical standpoint, there’s nothing he can’t do. I think he’s got amazing arm talent, he can make every throw that you want, he can drill it between the windows, he can make the touch passes.

“His leadership and presence on the field, how he controls the huddle and settles everybody. You really can’t put a price on leadership and that experience. So when you combine his physical talent, his leadership and just who he is as a person: He’s honest, he’s a straight shooter. If you could build a quarterback of what you want, it would be Mike Reilly from top to bottom.

High praise indeed. In his time in Edmonton, Reilly had accomplished a lot and became a household name. He conducted himself in a way that endured him to the Edmonton media and fans alike. Replacing Reilly this way will be impossible, but that should not be the standard for Harris.

If Harris can come in and stay consistent with his success in recent seasons, there is no reason to believe he won’t be adored in Edmonton the same way as Reilly is. A spot in the 2019 playoffs would go a long way in accomplishing that.

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