May 10, 2018

With Buckley out, what’s the Plan B in Calgary?

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Andrew Buckley‘s decision to retire from professional football at the age of 24 to pursue a career in medicine is both noble and commendable.

The Stamps’ pivot is leaving something behind in Calgary, where he was paving a path, along with the Riders’ Brandon Bridge, for future generations of Canadian quarterbacks.

And as a Calgary native, a University of Calgary alum and a Hec Crighton winner in the process, Buckley could have at least entertained the dream of one day becoming a local football legend (beyond, of course, just the college ranks).


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So even if Buckley’s motivation outside of football is admirable, it’s no knock on him to say that both the Calgary Stampeders and fans across the Canadian Football League will miss him.

The question for now and the next few weeks will be what’s next for the Stampeders?

Buckley wasn’t just a token Canadian at the quarterback position. He was a legitimate prospect, and a highly-regarded one at that.

The 6-foot, 205-pound quarterback brought a mobility to the game that is tailor made for the CFL, but his talents extended far behind his legs, with a live arm that could make all the throws on a Canadian Football League field and the dedication and attention to detail required to succeed as a starting pivot.

Many teams have a backup quarterback in case of emergency and, behind him on the depth chart, a developmental quarterback for the future. Buckley filled both of these roles for Head Coach Dave Dickenson.

Right now the only other quarterback on the roster is Ricky Stanzi, who fought for the second-string job with Buckley in camp last year. Stanzi lost out there, but was good enough to remain on the roster as a third-string pivot despite his age (look across CFL depth charts and you will not find many 30-year-old third-string quarterbacks).

Stanzi is the early favourite to win the primary backup role to Bo Levi Mitchell, and his year of experience along with a strong showing in camp last year will appear to both Dickenson and General Manager John Hufnagel.

The job won’t come without competition, however, as Dickenson has expressed his hope of bringing in another experienced quarterback, one that could compete for the second-string job or at least provide a solid backup plan in the event Mitchell gets hurt and Stanzi falters.

Bo Levi Mitchell has missed only three games in total over his last three seasons (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)

When Dickenson mentions quarterbacks with CFL experience, who could he be referring to?

Recently-released Ottawa REDBLACKS pivot Ryan Lindley might make sense. Lindley has past experience south of the border, starting a playoff game with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals before filling in as a backup to Trevor Harris in Ottawa last season.

Another possibility is Drew Tate, who was let go by the aforementioned REDBLACKS this off-season. Tate has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries, but has been sharp when pressed into action. A combination of Stanzi and Tate would give Calgary a reliable backup plan behind the No. 1.

We haven’t heard Rakeem Cato‘s name in a while. The 26-year-old has 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with 3,570 passing yards in his career, and likely has more to work with in the Stampeders’ fine-tuned offence. The problem is he didn’t play last year, when he was released during the Als’ quarterback competition.

Mitchell Gale could also return. Gale learned a little bit of the system when he tried out with the Stamps in 2017, although he was let go in favour of Stanzi to be the Stamps’ third-string quarterback.

Finally, don’t dismiss the possibility of a trade. The Argos have a quarterback surplus with Jeff Mathews and McLeod Bethel-Thompson fighting for roster spots, while the Als could part ways with some of their pivots during what’s expected to be a heated quarterback battle later this month.

Regardless of what happens, the Stampeders will have their third backup quarterback in as many years when camp opens up next week. Mitchell has been able to stay healthy throughout his career, but for a team considered by most people to be the front-runner to win the West this year, that role will be under the microscope all year.