CALGARY — A competition for the highest-profile position on the football field makes for a compelling storyline, so it’s no surprise that fans and media had been fixated on the battle for the No. 1 quarterback job with the Calgary Stampeders.
Much had been written and said about the arms race between Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell and Stamps head coach and general manager John Hufnagel was asked almost daily for a progress update on the competition.
Coach Huff brought an end to the drama on Monday by announcing that Mitchell would be under centre for Saturday’s home-opener against the Montreal Alouettes, but the coach stressed that both players figure to see plenty of action in 2014.
“In my mind,” said Hufnagel, “it really doesn’t matter who’s the starting quarterback for Game 1. It’s a long season, they’re all going to play, and I believe they both will play well when they’re on the field.”
The numbers back up the coach/GM on both fronts. As far as the credentials of Tate and Mitchell go, both players have enjoyed success with the Red and White.
Tate has been with the Stamps since 2009 and became the starter in Week 17 of the 2011 season. Injuries have limited him to eight regular-season and two playoff starts since that time but he has been very productive when healthy, posting a 5-0 record when he plays the entire game.
He has completed 259 or 381 passes during his Stamps career (a 68.0-per cent completion rate, the highest total in franchise history) for 3,270 yards, 24 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
Mitchell has been with the Stamps for two seasons and posted a 3-0 record when called upon as a starter in 2013. He completed 94 of 135 passes last season for 1,156 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Coincidentally, both players had a tough night in the Stamps’ pre-season game at BC last week although bad luck — passes were deflected by Calgary receivers and even by an official into the hands of Lions defenders — played a role in the quarterbacks’ struggles.
And when it comes to the suggestion that both players are likely to get their chance this season, one only needs to look back to 2013 when three different QBs — Tate, Mitchell and the since-departed Kevin Glenn — started and won games for the Stamps.
And it’s not just in Calgary that the pivots were rotating a year ago. In an eight-team (at the time) league, 18 different quarterbacks started games including one player who started games for two teams (Buck Pierce in Winnipeg and BC) and four different QBs in Montreal (Anthony Calvillo, Josh Neiswander, Tanner Marsh and Troy Smith).
Only two clubs — Edmonton (Mike Reilly) and Hamilton (Henry Burris) — had the same starter for all 18 regular-season contests.
With Burris now with the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks, Pierce and Calvillo retired and Glenn in line to start the year as the Lions No. 1 QB in favour of injured Travis Lulay, five of the eight incumbent teams in the league will have new season-opening starters in 2014.
The Calgary quarterbacks have proven that they will support one another regardless of the order on the depth chart from week to week. When Glenn was in the picture a year ago, observers marveled at how well the trio of talented throwers got along even when outside forces tried to create a quarterback controversy.
There’s no reason to believe that will change this year with Tate, Mitchell and newcomer Bryant Moniz, who won the No. 3 job in training camp.
“Obviously, you want to be the guy,” said Mitchell last week, “but no matter what, no matter who is in there, we’re going to win and that’s all we care about.”