Well, if you thought we would have this quarterback matchup at the 110th Grey Cup, you saw further into the future than I did.
All year long Vernon Adams Jr. and Chad Kelly have been the picture perfect leaders. They each found a way to capture their moment as a first time full-time starters with new franchises and make everyone around them believe. They allowed fan bases to naturally grow support, saw receivers grow chemistry and become ever more important voices in their individual locker rooms.
Unfortunately for both VA and Kelly, who happen to play in two of the CFL’s major three markets, they couldn’t find a way to reach the biggest show in the CFL.
Kelly was felled by turnover issues and a nearly perfect defensive Montreal Alouettes performance while Adams faced a stifling Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defence — what else is new? — and some injury limitations.
That leaves us of course with Montreal and Winnipeg. To me this quarterback matchup is all about the storylines and much less about the stats. This is due in large part to both defence and special teams off-setting the Bombers’ and Als’ offensive attacks.
For Cody Fajardo, this season has been about adjusting to the Alouettes’ system, the Montreal version of the Jason Maas offence and all of the variables that go with trying to make it to the Grey Cup in the same year you switch not just to a new team, but new division in the CFL. Fajardo did just that last February when the Alouettes bought in wholeheartedly on their new leading man.
For Collaros it’s all been about trying to survive every single club’s best shot in order to prevent him from a fourth straight Grey Cup start as Winnipeg continued its reign of dominance over the CFL’s West Division.
It’s a battle between the tested and true leader from the West, against the doubted underdog from the East.
At first glance this week might lack the storylines that many wish were available from a Winnipeg-Toronto rematch of the iconic 109th Grey Cup, but don’t be lazy about your Grey Cup interest. If you really love this game and this league you know Fajardo possesses his own special brand of talent and while Collaros has been a unique combination of accurate and explosive he is not untouchable, as evidenced by the BC Lions’ defence early this season.
For Fajardo the goal in this game must be to complete a high percentage of passes, see his running game make a major difference and of course see euphoric excellence from the defence and special teams units of the Alouettes.
For Collaros the margin of difficulty is lesser in his need for a three phase game, but he still has to face an Alouettes’ defence which just made the Toronto Argonauts’ attack look pedestrian at best and tragic at worst. Winnipeg proved its worth even without All-Star standout receiver Dalton Schoen. The Bombers are a group capable of calling several straight running plays in a row to set the tone or dominate a drive, equally all to play off that tendency and obliterate your hopes with a unique combination of downfield passing and efficient underneath play action or run-pass-option attacking.
The Grey Cup is often won by the best team and quarterback all year. If that holds true then Collaros and the Bombers are undoubtedly the team who will control from start to finish.
The problem for Winnipeg and Collaros is that despite the narrative, score differential and seedings, head-to-head matchups, quarterback comparisons and media-friendly talk throughout this week, the Alouettes have taken on the mentality of their head coach and bench boss Jason Maas. That’s to say they just don’t give a damn what you think about Fajardo or any other member of the club which just conquered a historic 16-2 Argonauts team.
Fajardo will have to make some throws beyond his tendencies to claim the Grey Cup. Collaros will have to avoid pressing to prove his worth. One team looks to prove anything is possible while the other is dead set on reclaiming the throne it genuinely believes was theirs to lose last season.
Underdog vs. CFL demigod. It might not be the week you expected, but it sure as hell is the type of week we’ve come to expect from the CFL’s ultimate showcase and one you’ll never forget from each of these passers come the ultimate result.