It’s tough to strongly disagree with anyone voted to the first and second CFL All-Decade teams presented by LeoVegas. The voting process was extensive and far-reaching, and every single player recognized deserves it. That said, everyone has different opinions, and a few players I voted for ended up not making the final cut.
With zero disrespect to anyone on the list, I thought I’d make the case for a few names I voted for and felt were All-Decade quality.
Mike Reilly, quarterback
For three straight seasons between 2016 and 2018, Reilly entered the second half of the season with a shot at hitting 6,000 yards passing. He led the league in passing yards each of those seasons, and they make up three of the top four totals in the 2010’s. Reilly’s 2017 was a personal best, and also the best statistical season of the decade.
Reilly threw for 5,830 yards that year, the eighth highest total in CFL history. Additionally, he led the league in touchdowns through the air (30) and on the ground (12) in 2017 en route to Most Outstanding Player. Reilly also won two Grey Cups in the decade, a Grey Cup MVP nod (2015) and was the driving force in Edmonton’s resurgence. Quarterback was a stacked position, but had Reilly ended up on one of the All-Decade squads, he would have been totally deserving.
Shane Bergman, offensive guard
Since taking over as Calgary’s everyday starter at left guard for the 2014 season, Bergman has been one of the CFL’s most consistent and reliable offensive linemen. He’s done it in quiet and unassuming fashion, but Bergman has been THE mainstay on one of the best offensive lines of the decade.
At six-foot-seven and 345 pounds, Bergman pairs hulk strength with surprising quickness and athleticism. It’s difficult to penetrate either of his gaps, regardless of the different centres and left tackles he’s been paired with. It’s no coincidence the Stampeders have been first or second in the league in sacks allowed every single year since Bergman has become a regular starter.
Winston Rose, defensive back
Rose only spent two full seasons in the CFL before joining the Cincinnati Bengals for this season. In those two years (and part of a third), though, Rose established himself as one of the league’s elite pass-defending corners. It all came down to voting philosophy for me in Rose’s case. I prioritized what a player did during his time in the league as opposed to how long they played. As such, I didn’t penalize Rose for joining the league late in the decade.
Rose’s 2019 was one of the best single seasons for a CFL corner during the decade. Targeted plenty, opposing receivers were successful just 53% of the time (stats courtesy Last Word on the CFL), one of the best shutdown rates in the league. Ridiculously athletic, Rose also proved himself as a ball hawk and led the league with nine interceptions last season. He didn’t have a long tenure, but with 14 interceptions in 40 games, Rose was one of the very best at his position during his short tenure.
Justin Medlock, punter
Okay look, Medlock is already the first team All-Decade kicker, so it’s not like he’s getting jobbed or anything. But I feel the need to point out Medlock is also one of the best punters the CFL has ever seen. Much like Brandon Banks deservedly made the cut at both receiver and returner, Medlock had a strong case as both a kicker and punter.
Medlock’s raw yardage or average-per-punt may not pop off the page, but that’s not the only thing that defines an All-Star. Medlock established himself as one of the league’s most accurate punters, with his proficiency “outside the numbers” as a perfect example. Harder to return from the widest part of the field, Medlock was an expert at spotting the ball. For instance, no punter placed the ball outside the numbers more than Medlock did in 2019 and he finished with just one safety.
It has been a good stretch for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. They put together a great 2019 that deserves a ton of recognition, despite the fact it ended in disappointing fashion in the Grey Cup. Things have continued to trend positively even without a 2020 season.
Let’s start with the rollout for the 108th Grey Cup, which will be hosted in Hamilton in less than a year. The campaign is great and the perfect way to shine the spotlight on one of Canada’s most under-appreciated cities. Hamilton’s energy and resilience will be the perfect backdrop when we’re back celebrating Grey Cup week next November.
But wait, it gets better. Just over a week ago, the Tiger-Cats truly did win the lottery when it comes to next year’s CFL Draft. Not only did we learn Hamilton will select first overall, but another pick fell in a pretty perfect spot, too. As a result, at least for the their first three or four picks, the Ticats won’t have to worry about the drawback of picking first overall under the unique circumstances the 2021 draft.
If you didn’t see the announcement a few weeks ago, next year’s draft order was determined by random draw with equal weighting. We’re also going to see a snake draft for the first time, which means the team selecting first overall won’t get the first pick in each subsequent round. Instead, the draft order reverses every round, meaning Hamilton was set to pick first, 18th (second round) and 19th (third round).
Here’s where things get really interesting. Because the Tiger-Cats own Montreal’s first rounder, they get the benefit of breaking up the traditional long wait between picks when drafting first overall. That pick comes from the Alouettes as the final piece of the Johnny Manziel trade from July 2018. And Montreal just happened to land at ninth overall when the 2021 draft order was revealed.
Hamilton now owns four of the first 19 selections of the draft and, trades not withstanding, won’t have an agonizingly long wait between picks until the third and fourth round. The abundance of Canadian talent on display in the NCAA right now has to have Hamilton’s football operations department counting down the days to May.
So let’s recap. A Grey Cup appearance last November. A roster that looks like a strong bet to be back in the big game again. A great hosting campaign for next year’s championship game. A perfect setup in the first three rounds of the 2021 CFL Draft. Yeah, things seem to be trending in a good direction for the Tiger-Cats.