November 14, 2012

Cauz: Tate’s growth should not be overlooked

“I got hit in the head. I don’t remember the first half.” – Drew Tate

I bet you expect me to write a long dissertation about how Drew should not have come back in the second half of Calgary’s playoff win over Saskatchewan. But I am not going to do that, in fact I view the entire incident as a positive.

Let me explain.

First we know that Tate was medically cleared to play by the teams doctors who adhered to the strict concussion policies set down by the league. Second, as for what he said, I take Drew for his word that he was just being a little “casual” with us fine members of the media. That seems to just be a part of who he is. Also I think his words came more from emotion and relief than his actual medical opinion about his physical condition.

On a bigger picture I’m gratified by everyone’s reaction soon after Tate’s off the cuff comments. Back in the day (Stretch back to the olden times of 2003 when Apple stock was $6.95) we would have simply hailed Drew Tate as a hero. We would have celebrated his bravado for gutting out the second half and delivering one of the most exciting playoff wins in years.
But now, in 2012, things are different. Our perceptions have changed. Moments after Tate’s sound bite there was a crush of criticism and speculation to the point where Calgary had to come out and spell out exactly what they did with Tate after getting his bell wrung by Tearrius George. A decade ago the storyline would have been about a young gunslinger overcoming a hit to the head to deliver the knockout punch to the Roughriders. Instead all the focus was on Tate’s medical condition. I view this as progress considering all we have learned over the past five years about the impact the game can have on players after they retire. Of course that is just my opinion. I know many people that pine for the good ‘ol days when hitting and basic raw physicality ruled the day. I’m not here to argue with you, I understand your line of thinking. That’s a debate that will never end.

I am more fascinated with the big picture. I’m just pointing out the fundamental shifts that have happened in the way we consume football, and this change was never more evident than after Tate’s post game comments.

Let’s stick with Tate for a little longer, shall we?

Beyond the touchdown throw to Romby Bryant what impressed me the most with Tate was the fact the he DELIVERED with more pressure on him than any other player this past weekend. Spare me the Ricky Ray or Cory Boyd vs. his old teams storylines. That’s nothing compared to what Drew was facing.

Just think of the pressure on Tate coming into 2012. He came into the season as the new face of the team. Tate’s potential is what sent Henry Burris and his 5,387 yards and 43 touchdowns to Hamilton.

But as we all know his path to stardom was derailed by a dislocated shoulder in early July in Toronto that needed surgery. At the time it looked like Tate was done for the season, we would have to wait to see until next year to see if the Stampeders were right with their investment. In the meantime the team was smart enough to have a solid Plan-B in Kevin Glenn.

Yes Glenn would often throw that critical interception at the worst time but he also helped guided the team to double digit wins while throwing for over 4000 yards and 25 touchdowns in the process. While Kevin was accumulating all those wins we started to hear little tidbits of information about Tate’s recovery, by the end of September he was avaliable as a 3rd string quarterback and by the end of the season he was miraculously back on the field.

This of course all led to John Hufnagel having to make the most difficult decision any football coach has to make … who to start at quarterback. John elected to not go safe, he pushed all his chips in and bet everything he had on the more unknown commodity in Tate.

So when you rematch Tate freeze Terrell Maze with a crippling pump fake and then deliver that game winning, less than a minute to go, perfectly placed touchdown pass just remember how much pressure was on Tate as that ball left his hands.

As an Argonaut fan I can’t wait (and secretly dread) for Toronto to take on the Alouettes. But as a football fan I can’t wait to see what Tate does next, especially with him facing the best signal caller in the land in Travis Lulay. Here’s hoping the game lives up to the expectations.