Nye: Harris, REDBLACKS both have something to prove

Ottawa’s Marcel Desjardins and his former understudy, now Eskimos GM, Brock Sunderland entered 2019 knowing their reputations could be on the line.

Friday is the first head to head encounter to show which team is further ahead in their quest for championships with a refreshed roster.

Sunderland was down a star quarterback, receivers and defensive players. Nearly all the stars of Desjardins’ offence moved on.

The duo also moved on and tried in different ways to fill out the roster.

Sunderland proved he wasn’t going to just let stars move on without trying to hit home runs himself, grabbing a few of Desjardins’ REDBLACKS All-Stars.

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Trevor Harris plays his former team for the first time this season on Friday night (Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca)

Desjardins went a different path. He went younger and cheaper, while still keeping his strong Canadian core.

If you’ve ever chatted football and philosophy with Desjardins, you wouldn’t be shocked he let big name American free agents walk for more money in receiver Greg Ellingson, running back William Powell and left tackle SirVincent Rogers.

Desjardins is a believer in the core values to make a successful CFL team, which is invest in your quarterback and your Canadians.

The former is where this off-season took an interesting turn for Desjardins and the future of the REDBLACKS. They didn’t want to invest in Trevor Harris like Eskimos Brock Sunderland did.

While Harris has said clearly it wasn’t all about the money, the money is always a major factor.

So Desjardins took a gamble on Dominique Davis and former BC Lion Jonathon Jennings, hoping they could rise to stardom like Harris did after years of grooming behind Ricky Ray in Toronto and then Henry Burris in Ottawa.

So far results have been mixed on Davis and less so on Jennings.

The REDBLACKS’ 3-4 record is indicative of the inconsistent QB play, though Davis has gone 3-2 as the starter this season. He’s clearly giving them a better chance to win and when you look at Trevor Harris‘ career 22-21-2 record as Ottawa’s starter, Desjardins can claim not much has changed with a new starting quarterback.

However, Desjardins’ nightmare would be for Trevor Harris to shoot the lights out while fans back in Ottawa watch and stew that Desjardins’ former assistant pulled a franchise quarterback right out from under him.

Meanwhile, Sunderland is living a pretty good life right now after a massive shift from Mike Reilly to Harris.

Reilly has struggled mightily in BC. Harris has a 600-yard cushion already as the league’s top passer, a 4-3 record and his team is in the race for first in the West Division.

An added bonus for Sunderland is two of those four wins also happened to come against Reilly’s Lions in which Harris threw for just under 600 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Reilly countered with 306 yard passing, one touchdown and two interceptions.

While Sunderland I’m sure was pleased, Harris was just as happy to prove to the rest of the league the Eskimos aren’t missing a beat after so much was made of Reilly’s loss being devastating to the franchise.

So the attention for Harris now shifts to Ottawa. Harris can show the REDBLACKS that they should have been a little more keen on keeping a quarterback that had just taken them to a Grey Cup with one of the most impressive playoff performances in the Eastern Final.

Dominique Davis will be looking to prove the REDBLACKS made the right decision on naming him the starter (Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca)

He may have a little extra motivation after reading Tim Baines’ piece in the Ottawa Sun about some former teammates saying Harris rubbed some people the wrong way in the locker room in Ottawa, and even going as far as questioning his leadership.

It’s just another shot at Harris, who was doubted he could win the big game, and then was doubted as Reilly’s replacement in Edmonton and now former teammates are questioning his attitude in the locker room.

However, lost in the noise coming into this game of Harris, Desjardins, Sunderland and a crazy quarterback carousel in the off-season, is Dominique Davis.

Like Harris against Reilly earlier this season, what could Davis prove on Friday night?

Davis would love to flip the script on Harris and show Ottawa that Marcel Desjardins may not have been crazy to not pay big for a 33-year-old quarterback who was just a win over .500.

While Harris hasn’t had to fight for the number one job, it feels like Davis is still fighting to keep his in Ottawa.

A win on Friday would further solidify his position atop the depth chart right now.

Two managers, two quarterbacks, two teams in transition. To the winner go the spoils. To the loser come the critics.