Ferguson: Defining the Division Finals
Redemption. Validation. Dynasty. History.
These are the four defining themes I see when looking at the final four quarterbacks in the CFL as they enter the Eastern and Western Division Finals.
Redemption – McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Toronto Argonauts
In a long and winding pro football journey McLeod Bethel-Thompson has become the firing point of discussion amongst fans, analysts, and even coaches at times.
Is he the guy? Can he lead you to a big playoff win? Is he as likely to lose you the game as he is to win it?
While some might think this line of questioning is unfair. The reality is, the narrative has spun around Bethel-Thompson for much of his time north of the border, now more than ever. Largely due to how the 2021 Eastern Final shook out from BMO Field, the same field he’ll lace up to play on this Sunday.
In his first playoff start, Bethel-Thompson went one of nine on pass attempts beyond 20 yards in the air and lost a home playoff game to the rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The performance, followed by an unceremonious post-game left a sour taste in many mouths whenever the Argos leading man came up in conversation. Enter Chad Kelly who was largely hyped, but rarely saw action as Bethel-Thompson stayed on the field in blowouts for or against the Double Blue.
A win against Montreal and a trip to Regina would go a long way in redeeming a 2021 Argos team that feels like they had much more to give.
Validation – Trevor Harris, Montreal Alouettes
This is the fifth straight season Trevor Harris has qualified for a playoff game and he remains the only quarterback in the top 50 of all-time CFL passing yardage who has a career completion percentage above 70 per cent.
A backup quarterback in both the 2012 and 2016 Grey Cup celebrations for Toronto and Ottawa respectively. Harris came close, but was never able to finish the job with the Ottawa REDBLACKS as a starter. His Edmonton Elks expedition was a career detour yielding another road playoff victory, in the East no less. Now he takes the Montreal Alouettes to their first Division Final in quite some time.
To get a road victory in Toronto this Sunday, and make yet another Grey Cup appearance with the chance to complete Montreal’s improbable rise to glory would validate so much of Harris’ personal journey and career accomplishments. Otherwise he risks being remembered as a career statistical monster who couldn’t find a way to finally plant his flag atop the CFL’s championship mountain.
Dynasty – Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
I fully expect Zach Collaros to be named back-to-back Most Outstanding Player come next Thursday at the CFL Awards as he attempts to divide and conquer the CFL in a year where he was once again the most potent quarterback in the CFL from start to finish.
If Collaros holds court against the upstart BC Lions this Sunday he will have the potential to helm a three-peat and be further etched into the permanent history of CFL greatness.
These next eight quarters of football are about much more than simple wins and losses for Collaros. While he’ll never publicly acknowledge the stakes, the reality is that he has the chance to confirm his career accomplishments and be labelled the one word quarterbacks crave to have as an alias, champion.
History – Nathan Rourke, BC Lions
We all know that Nathan Rourke has electrified the CFL in 2022.
As a Canadian every accomplishment he reaches means a little bit more to people like me who have long wondered whether a local would ever reach the heights of CFL quarterback play and give his team, maybe even the nation a unifying force to celebrate.
Rourke has proven his place in the league with his sly wit, quick release and eye opening statistics. If he finds a way to go into Winnipeg on an injured foot and upset the dominant Bombers, I can’t even begin to imagine the excitement that would follow close behind. A full week of Grey Cup lead up with a homegrown hero on full display for all to recognize.
History is at stake for Rourke in Winnipeg Sunday, as each quarterback has their own unique challenge and big picture label to place on the division finals.
So, who you got?