There are probably too many reasons to list about why I am a huge CFL fan. One that springs to mind is the excitement I feel every year when we start a new season; a time when anything is possible for a CFL fan’s team.
The big question of the day is what is realistically possible in the 2014 season for the nine teams this year and that is a tough question, given the short exhibition season and the reality of injuries in an 18-game schedule.
Let’s start with the East Division where the team question marks loom large for me. I believe the biggest question is the quarterback situation in Montreal because I think they have a problem. Montreal quarterback Troy Smith had a stellar college career coupled with a mediocre pro career thus far.
I see little change in that situation and I expect Montreal will have offensive problems this year, even with a very talented corps of receivers. Montreal will finish last in the CFL East.
My spidey senses tell me to pick Hamilton to fall back to third place in the East because of their quarterback question. They unceremoniously dumped quarterback Henry Burris from their future plans and signed Argo backup quarterback Zach Collaros to lead them to the promised land in Vancouver for the 2014 Grey Cup.
Collaros has the tools to become a star in this league, but the O-line will have to protect Collaros long enough to learn on the job about life as a first-string quarterback in Tiger Town. The lessons could be brutally harsh if the young pivot has to run for his life when quarterback school starts for Collaros on the field. Many football pundits have the Tiger-Cats penciled in for a first place battle with the Argos this year. I don’t see it that way.
In fact, I envision the Ottawa RedBlacks as the biggest surprise in the league this year because they signed Burris and acquired many proven CFL starters in the expansion draft.
I predict the RedBlacks will be the most successful expansion team since the Baltimore Stallions, and they had 100 per cent American talent on the team.
Burris appears to have established a rapport with his squad of castoffs on offence and the team looked well-coached in the exhibition season. Burris is a very fit 39-year-old quarterback who has survived the violence of the game by a combination of good fortune and good judgment on the field.
He does not offer a long-term game plan at quarterback for Ottawa, but Burris is a good fit for a new team at this point in his career and the RedBlacks will ambush a few teams in their inaugural season.
First place in the CFL East will once again be the home of the Toronto Argonauts, much to the chagrin of Rogers and much to the indifference of Toronto fans and media.
The only way the Argos miss the target on first place is the absence of quarterback Ricky Ray. He is one of the most accurate passers in any league, but Ray has taken a pounding over the years in the pursuit of excellence.
A healthy Ricky Ray makes the Argos a legitimate Grey Cup threat and an unhealthy Ricky Ray puts their entire season in grave doubt this year. It is just that simple in Argo-land.
A CFL team relies heavily on its quarterback for ultimate success. I acknowledge that football is the ultimate team sport where one guy does not single-handedly win games, but there is no more important cog in a football machine than a quarterback.
Next week: The CFL West.