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The question of Vernon Adams Jr. as a Most Outstanding Player candidate is in a way, his team’s season in a nutshell.
At the start of this year, no one would have projected Adams to be a part of this conversation. The 26-year-old came out of training camp listed as the team’s backup quarterback. Given his path to that point — his neg list rights were traded from BC to Montreal in 2016, then he was traded from Montreal to Saskatchewan, from Saskatchewan to Hamilton, released by the Ticats last year and signed by Montreal again before taking a backseat to Johnny Manziel — fans and media across the country openly wondered if he had what it took to get on the field, let alone excel on it.
You could say the same for the Alouettes this year. They’d missed the playoffs the last four years. They fired coach Mike Sherman six days before the first game of the season in Edmonton. GM Kavis Reed got his walking orders a few weeks later. Would anyone have batted an eye if this had turned out to be another five-win season in Montreal?
But here we are in Week 16 and the Als are 7-5 and second in the East, coming off of their second heartstopping gut-it-out win against one of the league’s giants. At the controls of the Als’ offence of course, is Adams. In wiping out Winnipeg’s 24-point lead on Saturday, he was 27-of-43 for a season-best 488 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 38 yards and a touchdown. There are many pieces to the puzzle in any successful team, but without Adams at QB, where might this year’s Alouettes be?
» Als’ quarterback Adams suspended one game
» When the Lights Go On: The Vernon Adams story
» Jones on Vernon Adams Jr.: ‘He’s just a winner’
» Recap: Als pull off stunning comeback vs. Bombers
» Cauz: Breaking down Montreal’s stunning comeback win
Still, true to character for Adams this season, an MOP win would take some late-stage heroics, with his audition for the award going down to the final game on the schedule.
As well as Adams has played this season, the Als are just two games above .500. This week’s CFL Simulation projects the Als to finish with a 10-8 record. It would be the team’s best finish since going 12-6 in 2012, when they still had Anthony Calvillo, but is it enough to convince voters that Adams’ season has been MOP worthy?
Since the MOP award was first handed out in 1953, just 10 players have won it on teams that were two games above .500 or worse. Most recent in that list (full details below) is Solomon Elimimian. He claimed the award in 2014 on a 9-9 BC Lions team. Chad Owens did the same with a 9-9 Toronto Argonauts team in 2012.
Before them are the only two players on 10-8 teams that have ever been named MOP: Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons in 1990 and Lions’ receiver David Williams (a 2019 CFHOF inductee) in 1988.
Adams has repeatedly shown what he can do in high-pressure situations on the field this year. He’ll have to continue to play at that level through his final five games of the season and find ways to come up with some wins over tough opponents. The higher the Als can climb in the standings, or the closer they can get to first-place Hamilton, the better Adams’ case for MOP becomes.
The Als don’t have an easy finish in front of them. Thanks to Adams’ swinging a helmet at Adam Bighill last week, the Als are without his services this week in BC. They host Calgary next week and travel to Winnipeg a week later, before hosting Toronto and Hamilton to close out the month of October. They’re in Ottawa to wrap up their regular season schedule.
Here’s a look at the history of MOPs that have played on teams with less than stellar regular-season records.
2014: Solomon Elimimian, BC, 9-9
2012: Chad Owens, Toronto, 9-9
1990: Michael Clemons, 1990, 10-8
1988: David Williams, BC, 10-8
1983: Warren Moon, Edmonton, 8-8
1982: Condredge Holloway, Toronto, 9-6-1
1977: Jimmy Edwards, Hamilton, 5-11
1975: Willie Burden, Calgary, 6-10
1971: Don Jones, Winnipeg, 7-8-1
1965: George Reed, Saskatchewan, 8-7-1
1962: George Dixon, Montreal 1962, 4-7-3
IN THE RUNNING
Reggie Begelton, Calgary — Oversights are rare around these parts, but Begelton should have been included in last week’s candidates for MOP. In sitting out last week’s win over Toronto, Begelton has fallen to third in receiving yards (1,036) with seven touchdowns. Injuries have made it a patchwork kind of season for the Stamps, but they’re still finding ways to win. Begelton has been a big part of that this year.
Brandon Banks, Hamilton — Speedy has cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the third consecutive season and is now second in receiving, playing for the league-leading Ticats. You could make the same argument for Banks that’s made above for Adams and ask where his team would be this year without him. When he’s in games, Banks more often than not helps his team win.
Andrew Harris, Winnipeg — Harris didn’t disappoint in the return from his two-game suspension, rushing for 76 yards and pulling in a season-best 112 receiving yards in Winnipeg’s loss to Montreal. Saturday’s game may have been a glimpse into what Harris may face the rest of this season. John Bowman didn’t hold back when he talked about Harris’ failed drug test. Harris didn’t hold back on the field, putting one of his best games of the year together. The Bombers’ final five games will be must-watch.
Trevor Harris, Edmonton — Sometimes a candidate’s value to their team is strengthened in their absence. As well as Logan Kilgore played in the second half of the Esks’ eventual loss to Hamilton, you wonder what a veteran QB like Harris might have done differently with that first half. If Edmonton could have traded blows with Hamilton in the first half, it might have been an entirely different game.
Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan — The Riders come off of their bye and head into Toronto, where Fajardo started his CFL career and won a Grey Cup with the Argos in 2017. Similar to Adams, Fajardo, another first-year starter in the CFL, will have to play at an extremely high level and lead his team on a run through their final six games to win over voters.