May 14, 2018

Steinberg’s MMQB: Als, Bombers, Stamps forced to call audibles

No one was expecting Kahlil Carter’s decision last week, which makes the adjustment that much more difficult for the Montreal Alouettes.

Carter stepped down as Montreal’s defensive coordinator on Thursday and his departure leaves the team with a number of questions heading into training camp. It’s anything but an ideal situation.

Defensive turnover

More than anything else, I feel really bad for Carter. After three solid years as defensive backs coach with the Calgary Stampeders, Carter had earned this opportunity. As such, stepping down was not the desirable option, but sometimes life takes precedence. Carter stepped down to be closer with his family and will stay with the team as a scout.

The Alouettes are fortunate in that Rich Stubler was brought on as a special advisor in January. If there’s anyone up to the challenge of stepping into a high-profile spot with short notice, it’s Stubler. This will be his 10th time taking the defensive coordinator reins in the CFL dating back to his 1983 start in the league. No one can argue Stubler’s resume, longevity, or defensive acumen.

» Carter steps down as Als’ defensive coordinator
» Veteran QB Durant announces retirement
» Nye: Green is the colour for Darian Durant
» More coverage of Durant


The biggest worry for me is the timing. There was already going to be adjustment on the defensive side of the ball for Montreal, as Carter had only been on the job for four months before stepping down. Now it’s on to another voice for the Als, with pre-season games just a few weeks away, no less.

Montreal has undergone a lot of turnover defensively already this off-season. On top of the coordinator shuffles, the Alouettes said goodbye to long-time defensive quarterback Kyries Hebert, while outstanding defensive back Jonathon Mincy signed with the Chicago Bears. Even with Carter in place, I was expecting some growing pains in the early stages of the season.

My opinion on that front hasn’t changed when you add last week’s wrinkle into the equation. I think there were already some really good pieces in place for the Als, and the team made some intriguing additions with the likes of Tommie Campbell, Mitchell White, Dominique Ellis, and Jamaal Westerman. But how long will it take for everything to come together?

Coming off a frustrating 3-15 season, Montreal really doesn’t need a lot of growing pains right off the hop. Unfortunately, a bit of a learning curve might be unavoidable.

Lasting legacy

Speaking of shocking decisions, no one was really expecting Darian Durant’s retirement announcement on Friday, either. While there is some debate as to the timing of this decision, I prefer to focus on what Durant accomplished in his 12 CFL seasons. We’re saying goodbye to one of the league’s true stars of recent vintage.

Despite his tenure in Regina not ending in storybook fashion, Durant will always be associated with the colour green. All of his greatest success came as a member of the Roughriders and he’ll never have to pay for a meal in that province ever again.

I’ll remember plenty about Durant’s career, specifically his demeanor off the field. He always handled himself with class and every interaction I ever had with him was positive. But it’s his performance on Nov. 24, 2013 that will top the list of on-field moments for me.

Even after his departure, Darian Durant’s impact in Riderville is ever-lasting (Arthur Ward/

The 101st Grey Cup was a historic one, as the Riders became just the second western-based team to win a title on home field. They did so in dominant fashion in front of a throng of 44,710 fans mostly decked out in green. With a chance to cement his legacy in Saskatchewan, Durant was stellar that night.

While he was a part of the team’s 2007 Grey Cup win, Durant had never won a title as a starting quarterback. Well, he got that monkey off his back in the most pressure-packed situation you can imagine: a title game on home soil playing for the CFL’s most popular team.

Durant threw just seven incomplete passes that night as Hamilton had no answer when the Riders had the ball. Kory Sheets was named Grey Cup MVP, but Durant was virtually flawless: he threw for three touchdowns and 245 yards in the 45-23 triumph.

It was the seminal moment of a stellar career that spanned more than a decade. Whether you’re a Riders fan or not, Durant will certainly be missed.

Dual threat

Typically when we talk about dual threats, we’re talking about guys who can impact the game both on the ground and through the air. In Andrew Buckley’s case, though, it’s a little different. The former Calgary Stampeders quarterback certainly succeeded on the field at the college and professional level. But he announced his retirement this past week so he can excel off the field, as well; he’s off to med school in the fall.

“I was probably that weird kid growing up who wanted to be a doctor instead of being a pro football player,” Buckley told me last week. “It’s a little backwards as far as that goes but I had the opportunity to play two really good years of pro football.”

Buckley’s situation is unique, to say the least. After winning two Hec Crighton Trophies as the country’s top university player, Buckley transitioned nicely into a backup role with the Stampeders and was forging a nice career, but med school as always the plan.


With Buckley out, what’s Plan B in Calgary?

With Andrew Buckley’s retirement, the Stampeders’ backup quarterback position becomes a key storyline going into training camp. Who will heed the call as Bo Levi Mitchell’s second string?


Both of Buckley’s parents are doctors and getting into the family business was the long-term goal right from the start. In fact, despite his high level success at the University of Calgary, professional football was somewhat of a pipe dream until very recently.

“That opportunity kind of presented itself in fourth and fifth year of university, at which point I hadn’t even thought of playing in the CFL,” Buckley said. “Being able to kind of do both has been really special for me. I’ve ticked the CFL box and now it’s time to move on to the med school box.”

On the one hand it’s too bad. I think Buckley had a decent shot to compete for a starting job in this league down the road. He has good vision, speed, and a really solid arm, and I’m really curious as to what a few more years understudying with the Stamps might have yielded.

On the other hand, though, Buckley gets it. He’s playing behind one of the league’s top quarterbacks in 28-year-old Bo Levi Mitchell. Bo isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and backup jobs are anything but secure in this sport. Buckley is acutely aware of that.

“It was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make in my life, (but) football is completely unpredictable, so, who knows. I could have gotten cut this training camp, I could have rolled an ankle and been done all season. It’s just the nature of it; it’s an unpredictable game.”

As hard a choice as this was to make for Buckley, I really respect his conviction in doing so. The guy is a true dual threat.