Photos: The Canadian Press
It might be a couple weeks too soon for this article, but it is THE discussion of the 2022 CFL season. With CFL All-Star fan voting underway and media voting to follow quickly behind to determine All-Star nods and major award winners, I wanted to tackle the biggest challenge to both fans and media alike.
I am less interested — for now — in a definitive answer and more in the numerous ways to see the topic, the natural biases that will influence the discussion and the objective opinions that will argue on behalf of each standout player.
There are three great realities in this epic debate:
1. Both deserve the West Division All-Star quarterback recognition and Most Outstanding Player nomination.
2. It really doesn’t make any sense to award one the All-Star spot and the other Most Outstanding Player
3. As a result, the vote for West Division All-Star Quarterback is essentially a vote for Most Outstanding Player.
Now, how to decide?
The term outstanding rather than valuable plays a clear role here as the CFL — thankfully — frames this conversation and the purpose of the league’s top award better than any other pro sports league. While there is an argument you could award a most valuable player AND a most outstanding player award each year with two different recipients, that’s a discussion for a different day.
Collaros would be a shoe-in for the most valuable player as availability is the most important ability and there is no question he means as much or more to his club than any player on any team, while the Lions have been plugging along finding ways to win despite obviously missing Rourke.
When applying the term outstanding, ask yourself to block out the noise, emotion and poorly constructed arguments and answer this simple question: Was anyone more outstanding than Nathan Rourke when healthy in 2022?
The instant that you tried to simplify that, your mind likely began racing at the potential bullet points that will guide your entrenched opinion over the next six weeks, as you prepare to duel on the wasteland of a battlefield that is social media.
• Collaros won head-to-head: Point Collaros.
• Rourke had the comeback in Calgary: Point Rourke.
• Nathan blew out Edmonton twice skewing his numbers: Point Collaros.
• Collaros had a slow start while Rourke set the CFL on fire: Point Rourke.
• Rourke did it in his first season as a full time starter while Collaros is a vet: Point Rourke.
• Zach did it after losing his starting running back and best receiver in free agency: Point Collaros.
• Rourke is still second in passing touchdowns despite being out so long: Point Rourke.
The talking points are endless in this figurative tennis match. It’s a never ending rally of varied and nuanced talking points that will be sure to ignite passion across the CFL for the next month-and-a-half. It will culminate in diehards in Vancouver and Winnipeg either feeling validation or stunned disbelief at the final decision reached by voters.
Discussing incredible quarterback play is a part of the fun in this, but what I really find joy in here is the debate that surrounds All-Star and awards. It’s a window into seeing what we truly value and how we’re influenced by our own belief systems.
Production per game? Canadian vs. American? Recent championship success? Best player on the best team or player who passed the eye test better than any other?
Where you land on this debate tells you how you value and view football, and sports at large.
At one point this year all quarterbacks not named Rourke or Collaros had a combined 73 interceptions and 70 touchdowns. They set a standard no other quarterback could touch in 2022 and while we were robbed of more than one head-to-head matchup there is hope. As Rourke returned to the practice field this week CFL fans could get treated to a previously unimaginable CFL playoff showdown of the game’s two best players.
Much will be written and discussed about this topic in the coming days and weeks. Where will you plant your flag on the topic that will forever define the 2022 CFL season, and more importantly, why?