September 26, 2019

Nye: Franklin with something to prove down final stretch

Geoff Robins/

Three years ago James Franklin was considered the best backup in the league. The ‘next one.’

Fan bases of teams around the league in need of a quarterback were looking at the Eskimos pivot and wondering where could he land. It was clear Mike Reilly was entrenched as the starter and Franklin was wanting to take the next step.

Now, many are wondering how they got it so wrong. Franklin hasn’t looked anywhere near the quarterback he was since he came to Toronto.

Franklin threw for 12 touchdowns and just one interception in his three years as Mike Reilly‘s protege.

Franklin has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the last two years yo-yoing between starter and backup for the Argos.

What we liked about Franklin in Edmonton is how seamless the transition from Reilly to him was. Franklin would take over a game in Edmonton and there was zero difference in quality. Touchdowns were being thrown and turnovers were at a minimum.

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James Franklin will start at QB this week for the Argos (Geoff Robins/

That was then. This is now. Saturday and the last few games of the season are his last shot to prove he deserves to be brought back and fight again for a number one job.

The Argonauts are turning to the 28-year old to start this week against the Roughriders. The same team that put him on the injured list way back in Week 3. Franklin has barely seen the field until he came in for McLeod Bethel-Thompson last week and he looked poised and confident despite being down 20-3 midway through the third quarter.

However, the Argos scored on three of the four drives led by Franklin, who gave them a glimmer of hope they could have come back. The comeback fell short but head coach Corey Chamblin is going back to the guy he tapped as the number one out of training camp.

But it’s not just Toronto who should be watching on Saturday and for the coming games Franklin will start. There are a few other teams who should be interested in watching whether Franklin proves he wasn’t the guy many thought he was in Edmonton or if he can lead a team on his own.

The Argos won’t be the only team looking for quarterbacks this off-season.

And it has to be in the back of Franklin’s mind of the importance of this audition. In pro sports your chances are few before teams feel they need to move on.

Franklin has been given a few chances in Toronto since Ricky Ray‘s injury last season and at the start of this one and we haven’t seen the spark or the ‘it’ factor that it appeared he had in Edmonton.

Of course situations can make a big difference. Mike Reilly is experiencing that for himself in BC this season. In the first 10 games of the season he got hit more than any other quarterback. For the most part the offensive line in Edmonton was able to give Reilly time to hit the long ball. Franklin took advantage of that as well.

Trevor Harris, when healthy, was barely being touched through the first half of the season and was able to put up some impressive numbers.

The talent and protection for Franklin in Toronto is of course a little different. Franklin is also dealing with yet another offensive coordinator.

All these factors can impact a players performance but sometimes good quarterbacks are able to overcome and use their natural ability to take over and produce when necessary.

Franklin hasn’t been able to show that in Toronto.

I don’t want to write off Franklin just yet, but his career could go a few different ways.

One of them is similar to Drew Willy, whose free agent rights were traded from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg as the Bombers thought they’d found the next guy to lead their team. While he was given much more time in Winnipeg, Willy was never what many thought he could be.

Then there is Vernon Adams Jr. A player who bounced from team to team and finally found the right fit a few years into his CFL career.

And of course there is Anthony Calvillo. A Hall of Famer who looked like a quarterback who wouldn’t last long in the CFL until he landed in Montreal and found the right system with a great offensive line and quality talent around him.

Franklin may just need a change of scenery.

He could also just need another chance to prove Chamblin right to make him a starter.

Or, maybe he’s just the latest quarterback to never meet expectations.

The next six weeks, however, are the most important six weeks of his young career.