Saturday 20 March 2010

Canadian QBs in the CFL

With the recent news that the Argos have signed Queen's QB Danny Brannagan, I thought now might be a good time to discuss the lack of Canadian players occupying the Quarterback position in the CFL. Of course by "lack", I mean none. Aside from Brannagan, there isn't a single Canadian on a CFL roster at the Quarterback position.

Prior to Brannagan, the last Canadian I can recall even getting an opportunity was Tommy Denison, also from Queen's, when he was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2003. The last Canadian to start at Quarterback was Giulio Caravatta, who played for the BC Lions in 1996. Larry Jusdanis was the last Canadian to start at QB for the Tiger-Cats, in 1995. But these players weren't considered long-term solutions at the QB position for either team. They were spot starters, who only filled in because of injuries.

There is really only one name that comes to mind when you think of Canadian QBs: Russ Jackson. Jackson, born in Hamilton, played 12 years for the Ottawa Rough Riders, from 1958-1969. Jackson's list of accomplishments is staggering:
  • Four Most Outstanding Canadian awards (1959, 1963, 1966, 1969)
  • Three Most Outstanding Player awards (1963, 1966, 1969)
  • Three Grey Cups (1960, 1968, 1969)
  • One Grey Cup MVP (1969)
  • One Lou Marsh Award (1969)
  • Three CFL All Star selections (1966, 1968, 1969)
  • Inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1973)
  • Named the 8th Greatest Player in CFL History (2006)
There will never be another Russ Jackson. That doesn't mean there can't be another great Canadian QB. But for that to occur, changes need to be made.

The way that I would alter the rules is to allow each team to carry a Canadian at the QB position without that player's salary counting against the cap, as well as exempting the player from other roster requirements. This would be a way to develop Canadian QBs in a professional system without hindering the teams.

There is already talk of allowing a training-camp exemption to allow the teams to carry a Canadian QB into training camp without him counting against the roster limits. The league has yet to announce anything, but with the Argos signing Brannagan and the Ti-Cats adding Erik Glavic to their negotiation list, it looks like the wheels are in motion.

However, I don't believe this rule goes far enough. Teams need to be allowed the exemption during the season as well. If we are ever going to see someone come close to Russ Jackson, this rule needs to be expanded in the way I have recommended.

Hopefully one day we will see a Canadian consistently taking snaps and leading a team to a Grey Cup. We have Canadians starting at every other position; it's long overdue that we saw a Canadian starting, and starring, at QB for a CFL franchise.

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