Was this what James Franklin had pictured?
The 26-year-old has spent almost the entirety of his past three seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos labeled as the CFL’s next great quarterback. He’s held the clipboard, held teammates and watched his name go through numerous trade rumours in that time, waiting for this off-season.
He probably thought that he’d find his football home in mid-February, considering offers as a free-agent and making the choice that was best for him.
As we all know now, that’s not exactly how it went. With the QB picture beginning to take shape across the league (the last 48 hours in particular), Franklin signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday, after GM Jim Popp had picked up Franklin’s rights in a December trade with Edmonton.
It might not be what he pictured over the years, but Franklin in Toronto could be the best possible outcome for him.
This has the feel of a classic want vs. need situation. Franklin told Esks’ GM Brock Sunderland last month that he wouldn’t be re-signing to continue to back up Mike Reilly, that he wanted to get an opportunity to play. Now, depending on Ricky Ray’s plans, Franklin could be playing backup again come June. It’s certainly not what he wanted, but years from now he might look back on it as being just what he needed.
If he plays behind Ray, Franklin gets to learn the Argos’ offence from a combination of one of the best QBs to ever play in the CFL, while working with Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Marcus Brady. As a backup, Franklin would probably see more time on the field than he did in the last two years in Edmonton, where Reilly handled short-yardage situations and often stayed in games that were lopsided.
If you’re a team that’s committed to grooming someone like Franklin, there’s nothing stopping you from pulling Ray off the field for a few set plays for Franklin to run. That would get him some valuable live-action experience and throw something different at a defence while still allowing Ray to lead the offence.
And in the event that Ray was injured, or say if Franklin won the job with a sensational training camp, he’d be playing with Ray helping him through any difficulties that a still-young and relatively inexperienced QB will encounter on the field. That may be the one thing that’s been lost in all of the buzz around Franklin. He’s still just 26 and will still have to learn to become a consistently good starting quarterback.
He’s undoubtedly eager to get on the field and get his career going, but a big part of playing quarterback is playing the waiting game, too. Reilly got the starting job in Edmonton when he was 28. Matt Nichols was 28 when he became the starter in Winnipeg. Jeremiah Masoli turned 29 last season and just got a taste of being a starter in Hamilton. Trevor Harris was a full-time starter in Ottawa last year for the first time at 31.
There are young exceptions to the rule: Ray, Jon Jennings, Bo Levi Mitchell and Zach Collaros got the right opportunities at the right time and ran with them, but more often than not, you’ve got to wait for your time in the CFL as a quarterback. This might not be what Franklin had pictured over the last few years, but the situation in Toronto might be the best one for him, whenever he does get on the field.