CALGARY — The Calgary Stampeders head into the off-season unsettled at quarterback. That’s unusual for this football club.
Henry Burris made it clear Monday he doesn’t want to play for the team next season as either a backup to, or in tandem with, Drew Tate.
The 36-year-old Burris intends to be an undisputed No. 1 quarterback and if not in Calgary, then somewhere else.
“I still see myself as one of the best in this league,” Burris said. “I don’t wear flip-flops in the winter, so I’m not going to do it on the football field either.
“I don’t know what decision is going to be made.”
Calgary’s season ended Sunday with a 33-19 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL’s West Division semifinal. The Stampeders went 11-7 in the regular season.
Burris has been the unquestioned starter in Calgary for almost seven seasons until he was supplanted by Tate last month.
Tate took Calgary’s first snap in their last three regular season games, which were wins. The 27-year-old played the first half of Sunday’s loss in Edmonton before Burris replaced him in the second half.
“It would be tough for me to want to be in this position that I am right now because I’ve done so much and I still have so much more I can do in this game,” Burris said. “I think I’ve earned the respect to not be in a situation like this.
“I just need to play. I need to get myself in that situation and if it’s here, great. If it’s not, we’ve got to go from there and I guess find greener pastures or whatever you call it.”
Stampeder head coach and general manager John Hufnagel says he and Burris will discuss his future soon. In 2012, Burris would enter the option year of a four-year contract extension he signed in 2009.
With his salary reported to be in the $350,000-$400,000 range, it makes little financial sense to keep him as a part-time or backup quarterback.
“Over the course of the next four to six weeks, we’ll meet as a staff to evaluate the players and see what direction we’ll take,” Hufnagel said. “Henry and I will talk in the near future and pave a course of action.”
Burris is Calgary’s all-time leader in passing yards (32,191) and was also named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2010. He led the Stampeders to a Grey Cup in 2008 and most named the most valuable player in that game.
But both he and the Stampeders struggled in September and October after five-game win streak in the summer. With three games to go, Hufnagel said Burris’s play had been “hesitant” for seven games and that it was Tate’s turn.
Tate put up solid numbers in his three starts, totalling 791 yards for four touchdowns with 65 per cent accuracy. But he made only five of 10 pass attempts in the first half Sunday in Edmonton.
Tate was intercepted and also dropped the ball after a snap with no Eskimo near him. Edmonton recovered that fumble for a touchdown that swung momentum firmly in the host’s favour.
Hufnagel inserted Burris in hopes the veteran could turn the tide. Burris couldn’t get the offence on track either in his half with 7-for-15 accuracy and 75 yards.
Even though he pulled Tate on Sunday, Hufnagel seems intent on developing the Texan as his team’s quarterback in the near future.
“I’m sure he gained a wealth of experience from (the game) and will handle the next playoff situation better,” Hufnagel said. “He’s played good football ever since he’s been a Stampeder. Things did not go his way last night.”
Tate joined the Stampeders in 2007 and signed a contract extension last year. He believes he’s improved his stock this season, but like Burris awaits word on what management’s plans are for him.
“A perfect world is to start obviously, but we’ll see what happens,” Tate said. “We just lost yesterday so decisions like that haven’t been talked about or discussed I don’t think yet.”
A possible destination for Burris would be the Toronto Argonauts because of his history with GM Jim Barker and also because they need a bona fide starter. Barker was GM of the Stampeders in 2005 when he acquired Burris from the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
For a football club that has relied on a core of stalwarts since 2005, the changing of the guard didn’t wait until the off-season but has happened on field in front of fans’ eyes in 2011.
Running back Joffrey Reynolds dropped from starter to backup to off the game roster over the course of the season. Reynolds, a career Stampeder who turns 32 later this month, is Calgary’s all-time leading rusher with 9,213 yards
Non-import Jon Cornish, 27, proved he can be a CFL star with 11 touchdowns on 863 yards. Hufnagel began using 25-year-old LaMarcus Coker more late in the season.
“If you want me to read the writing on the wall, I would have to say, there’s a great possibility I won’t be here next year,” Reynolds said.
“It’s sports. Obviously, it’s a business. It’s definitely not personal. It’s one of those things that happen to every athlete, or just about every athlete. It’s one of those things I have to be prepared for.”
Veteran wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo was out of the lineup as much as he was in this season because of an Achilles’ tendon injury plaguing him since training camp. CFL sophomore Johnny Forzani stepped up in Rambo’s absence with 761 yards on 45 catches and five touchdowns.
Punter Burke Dales, receiver Arjei Franklin, linebacker Marc Calixte, offensive lineman Tim O’Neill and linebacker Brandon Isaac are all scheduled for free agency.
The Roughriders have a head coaching vacancy and may come calling for either offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson or defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.
After winning the Grey Cup in 2008, Calgary was upset in the division final by Saskatchewan the following two years.
Calgary had a league-best 13-5 record and the best offence in the league in 2010, yet fell a game short of playing in the Grey Cup.
If Reynolds is indeed done in Calgary, he’ll cherish his 2008 Grey Cup ring and also harbour a few regrets on what could have been.
“That was the highlight for most of the veteran guys who have been here,” he said. “Since that time, I would consider us a team that’s basically underachieved with the talent that we’ve had.
“We had the opportunities to be the best team in the league and we’ve only proven that one time. I don’t know what changes are going to be made, but I’m sure, at this point, management is going to try to go a different way.”