The problem with arguing sports with your friends is that rarely can you sway someone to your side. No matter how much you believe in your opinion, no matter how much you know your belief is correct and your friend is a complete fool, your winning percentage for a friend sports argument reversal is about .059 per cent.
So let me say before I begin, I don’t expect you to have a sudden epiphany and realize that Jamel Richardson and not Anthony Calvillo should be the Montreal Alouettes candidate for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award. In fact, not only should he be the Alouettes candidate but he should win the award outright.
So at this point, let’s get all the opposing arguments out of the way:
How can a wide receiver win the award over the guy that delivers him the ball? The quarterback is the leader, the field general, the single player who can single handedly raise a dormant franchise to elite status or doom it to mediocrity and first overall draft picks.
How could I argue with that? How could I overlook the fact of the past 12 winners of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, 10 have been quarterbacks?
I can’t overlook this and in most years you would be right, but not in 2011.
Richardson’s season is far more impressive than any of the other team nominees. Now this is not at all a slam on any of the other players nominated. Each player has had a remarkable season:
Travis Lulay: The starting signal caller for the #1 team in the league.
Ricky Ray: A bounce back season with numbers that are even more remarkable considering the injuries he has dealt with at wide receiver.
Nik Lewis: The heart and soul of the Stampeders’ offence. Nik was the central figure for just about every Calgary touchdown drive.
Weston Dressler: No Andy Fantuz, no Rob Bagg and a down year for Darian Durant, yet Dressler still topped a 1,000 yards.
Jovon Johnson: The CFL leader in interceptions, Johnson has always been a big play machine for the Blue Bombers.
Justin Hickman: Often gets over shadowed by Hamilton’s linebackers, Hickman was a destructive force for the Tiger-Cats defensive line (12 sacks and 46 tackles).
Chad Owens: A record breaking season and one of the few bright spots for the Argonauts.
And then there is Antony Calvillo, the only player that can stake a claim for MOP over his teammate. Calvillo posted another spectacular season (5,188 yards passing heading into Week 19, 32 TDs vs. 8 INT, 62 per cent passes completed); however it didn’t feel as dominant as in years past.
Of course I understand I am a harsh marker when it comes to Calvillo. The guy’s body of work is so impressive it is difficult not to put him up on a pedestal and grade him against his past. However I just can’t shake the feeling that he is second best player on his own team.
Maybe it’s his play over the past two weeks or maybe it is because Richardson is just that good and deserves his time to shine.
But hey, why listen to me when we have trusty statistics to back up my argument?
I understand that using stats is often the crutch for the misinformed, but Richardson’s numbers just cannot be ignored. It’s not just that he is leading the league in pretty much every relevant (and irrelevant) statistical category, it’s the separation between him and the rest of his brethren.
(1) JR is averaging 110.8 receiving yards per game; the next highest total is 81.7.
(2) JR has 110 receptions; the next highest total is 89.
(3) JR has 1,772 receiving yards; the next highest total is 1,243.
(4) JR has 41 receptions on 2nd down that resulted in a first down; the next highest total is 30.
(5) JR has 655 YAC (I will not use the word ‘yards’ after YAC even though everyone does, that would be redundant), the next highest total is 580.
The gap between Richardson and whatever silver medal winning receiver you want to insert is staggering. If this was the Olympic 100m dash, Richardson would have won gold while running the last 50 metres backwards.
Did I mention he set a single season record for 100-yard receiving games with 12?
All right, that’s enough statistics.
Remember that this award is given to the Most Outstanding Player in the league. I understand why Calvillo could be considered more ‘valuable’, the quarterback position dictates that, but Richardson has corned the market on ‘outstanding’.
He easily out muscles most linebackers and has the speed to get past any defensive back. There are a select few receivers who are as comfortable as Richardson is catching a bubble screen, a seven-yard crossing pattern in traffic or a deep post.
I wish there was a statistic (I know I said there would be no more stat talk, but this one isn’t official) for separation yards – for the amount of space between receiver and the defender. Often overlooked for speed and size, the talent that best distances the good receiver from the elite is their ability to create separation. To give your quarterback an easy target to throw to. Yes Calvillo is extremely accurate, but just consider how often his job was made easier by Jamel giving Anthony a three-yard cushion to throw to.
In the end, the Most Outstanding Player is the individual who can generate the most fear not only among his opponents, but also among the fans rooting against him. In 2011 there has been no player that has inspired as much fear in me as Jamel Richardson. Every time he caught a pass I prayed for multiple linebackers and defensive backs to swarm and tackle him. Unfortunately, by the time help had arrived Richardson either had the first down or was streaking towards the endzone.