The Canadian Press
I understand I may not be your go-to writer when it comes to quarterback analytics. That’s why we have Marshall Ferguson round these parts to take you through “quarterback throw success rate” broken down into yardage quadrants (I have no idea what that means or if that even exists).
However as I was staring at the Eastern team depth charts, as one does, a theme stood out above all others: these four quarterbacks have so much to prove in 2023.
From “do they still have it?” to “do they belong?” each one of the projected starters has so much on the line professionally this year. My question here is which quarterback has the most to prove? Which rates highest on the “Most to Prove-O-Metre”? Yes, that is my fancy, shiny new football metric that I created about 48 hours ago.
So, let’s rank the four quarterbacks from least to most. A quick note before we get started, I will be applying my very mathematical/scientific formula for the Western passers shortly.
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Lowest on the Most to Prove-O-Metre: Bo Levi Mitchell (7 out of 10)
With multiple Grey Cup victories and Most Outstanding Player awards yes, Mitchell is the easy choice to have the lowest number. But the funny thing is when you lay out the case for Mitchell, he has so much motivation to have a bounce back year.
You don’t think Mitchell’s pride wasn’t hurt when he was benched for Jake Maier last season? He’s won more games in the playoffs than Maier has total as a starter. This has nothing to do with their off-field relationship. Bo was a model leader throughout 2022, but he could not have been thrilled with how the season went.
Mitchell has to prove that at 33 years old, he can still play at an elite level after injuries marred his 2019 and 2021 seasons. He needs to show the Hamilton Tiger-Cats that last year was a blip on his Hall-of-Fame career (19 touchdowns against 19 interceptions) and that the team made the right move giving him a three-year contract. Mitchell’s legacy is safe no matter what, his past is a glorious one; but Mitchell is looking to prove there is plenty more left for his CFL future.
Next: Jeremiah Masoli (7.5 out of 10)
The oldest (34 years old) of the Eastern quarterbacks, Masoli needs to prove he can be there for the Ottawa REDBLACKS week-in and week-out. Before you start yelling, I know it is wildly unfair to blame a warrior like Masoli about his recent inability to stay healthy. His injuries have been the result of bad luck, fluke moments and a dirty hit.
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) May 14, 2023
But Masoli is a professional. He’s played at the highest levels in college and has gone deep in the CFL playoffs. One of his main goals in 2023, beyond brining Ottawa a championship, is to be available for all 18 games for his teammates, his new offensive coordinator Khari Jones and new head coach Bob Dyce.
The veteran signal caller will look to prove he can be the quarterback who threw for over 5,200 yards in his breakout 2018 season that saw him nominated as the East’s Most Outstanding Player. We saw glimpses of that player early last year when he put up 711 yards in two games against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Now Masoli needs to prove he can do that for the entire season.
The silver medal winner: Chad Kelly (8 out of 10)
Above all else Chad needs to prove that the Toronto Argonauts quarterback gamble will pay off. I don’t remember a team entering a year with so little CFL experience at the most important position as the 2023 Argonauts.
As currently constructed the Argo QB room has three passers (Cameron Dukes, Ben Holmes and Bryan Scott) with a combined total of zero CFL pass attempts. Kelly needs show the world he is more than just that glorious tiny sample size we all saw in their 24-23 Grey Cup win over the Bombers.
The 2023 season represents the first time since his Ole Miss days that Kelly enters the year as the incumbent. A productive season and Chad will have proven that yes, successful college quarterbacks from big time NCAA programs can succeed in Canada and not end up like other notable names such as Chris Leak, Eric Crouch, Andre Ware or Rakeem Cato. Kelly spent the off-season in Toronto to put himself in the best position to reward the Argonauts’ decision. Now he just has to prove that he is more than an incredible Grey Cup fourth quarter showing.
Top of the list: Cody Fajardo (9.5 out of 10)
If anyone deserves a 10 out of 10 it should be the Montreal Alouettes’ newest passer, but I have to leave at least a little wiggle room for future candidates. However, when you read this February quote from the Montreal Gazette you can see why I was thinking of giving Fajardo a perfect score:
“This off-season has been difficult for me. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It seemed like my name was getting dragged through the mud week after week, even after the season was over. It seemed like I was the reason why the world was falling in…why the world was ending. Looking around the league, it was difficult for me. I was kind of the odd man out.”
Over and out @CodyFajardo17
CAMP D’ENTRAÎNEMENT- JOUR 1 ✔️
— Alouettes de Montréal (@MTLAlouettes) May 14, 2023
There are certain markets where it can be easier to have down year as a quarterback. Regina is not one of them. The 31-year-old, 2019 All-Star is out to prove that the Roughriders made a mistake benching him for Mason Fine near the conclusion of the 2022 season. Fajardo needs to prove he is an All-Star and not an underdog. That is not an easy journey to take as those two worlds are miles apart for any professional athlete.
On top of all that, Fajardo is looking to prove that Montreal has finally found its answer for who can properly replace Anthony Calvillo. You find me a harder task in the CFL. Since Calvillo retired in 2013 we have seen 17 quarterbacks start at least one game for the Alouettes. Maybe I should have given Cody that 10. I think most CFL fans are hoping he can prove so many people wrong. That would make for an incredible story.