Of all of the positions on a CFL roster you can usually look at the training camp depth charts and pretty much all of the teams have decided who the starting quarterback is. The usual battles are around the 2nd and 3rd spot on the depth chart. Because of that fact I thought it would be prudent to start looking at the CFL teams from the perspective of the starting quarterbacks. Originally I tried to come up with a mega cool formula, one that would take into account performances on the ground and through the air, factor in records and then toss in their hairstyles and the cut of their jib. But that just wouldn't be my style. Because of my experience watching the CFL and the Stampeders over the last billion years and watching the transitions through Gerry Datillio, and Joe Barnes and Marcus Crandall, the Ben Sankeys and Doug Flutie, Jeff Carcia and DD I know the differences between good QB's and bad QB's and that lesson can be applied across the CFL.
So this week in my little corner of the world I present to you the starting QB's in the CFL from best to worst.
1) Anthony Calvillo - Montreal Allouettes
Attempts 654 Completions 404 Pct 61.8 Yards 5,251 TDs 32 Int 8 Rating 98
AC is not your prototypical CFL QB but he is a prototypical North American Quarterback. He's not much of a scrambler with a 30 yard sprint that measures in calendar days. What makes AC special is his decision making, accuracy and understanding of the game. He's tough to sack because he gets rid of the ball quickly, he rarely makes mistakes, he doesn't miss the easy pass and he can put the ball through a tiny passing window. It helps that Montreal usually surrounds him with exceptional receiving talent but he's a QB that can make questionable receivers into stats stars. He's getting up there in age, but his game doesn't require great athletic ability nor blinding foot speed. What makes him special are his strong leadership skills, you rarely hear receivers crying about getting the ball and they all win because of him not inspite of him.
2) Travis Lullay - B.C. Lions
Attempts 583 Completions 342 Pct 58.7 Yards 4,815 TDs 32 Int 11 Rating 95.8
Its not hard to look at Travis Lullay and see a lot of Dave Dickenson in him, to be honest he's tough to judge because last year was his first real year as a starter. A tough durable and cerebral player who's just entering the prime years of his career. He has a fair to middle arm in terms of strength but he has off the charts accuracy in all zones. He's not afraid to use his legs to get him out of trouble and like AC he can pass through a tiny passing window consistently. B.C. is a strong and loaded team that doesn't need to rely on Lullay to shoot the lights out every week but he doesn't make mistakes that hurts the team and adding a Grey Cup ring to his resume so early in his career is helpful.
3) Ricky Ray - Toronto Argonauts
Attempts 526 Completions 343 Pct 65.2 Yards 4,594 TDs 24 Int 11 Rating 99.3
Ricky Ray is as pure of a passer as there is in the CFL and its strange to see him in the double blue. While you could argue that he took a step back last year his stats don't show him and he made a weak Eskimos team respectable based on sheer will power. Ricky Ray is an ugly scrambler but when he takes off to run he's highly effective and tough to bring down, but what makes Ricky Ray special is his accuracy especially in the long passing range. You could almost argue that Edmonton's plink and plunk playbook over the last few years actually handicapped Ray and didn't allow him to stretch the field making him predictable. Toronto made a great move bringing him into their roster as he will make their offense better based on the other players who have taken snaps from their centers.
4) Henry Burris - Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Attempts 442 Completions 281 Pct 63.6 Yards 3,687 TDs 20 Int 12 Rating 93.6
Smiling Hank struggled mightily last year with the Stampeders and lost his job with 3 games left in the season, but not all of the struggles lie on Henry's shoulders as players like Rambo and Byrant certainly didn't help him out with inconsistent efforts. However Hamilton thought enough of him to take a chance on him this year and they might be rewarded for that risk. Blessed with a strong arm, elite scrambling ability and great leadership skills Henry doesn't have the short and middle range accuracy that a strong armed QB needs to succeed, but he can still hit targets a long way down the field on the run. The king of the zone read offense that was built for him expect to see Henry pulling the ball back in more often. Hamilton picked up Andy Fantuez to add to a decent receiving core and with his athletic ability should be able to pull down erratic passes more often.
5) Buck Pierce - Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Attempts 411 Completions 261 Pct 63.5 Yards 3,348 TDs 14 Int 18 Ratings 82.0
Buck Pierce ends up at this ranking more because of the questions of the final three then by his inconsistent play. By all accounts he's in a battle for his life in the Blue Bombers camp. However the Captain is a fan of tough no nonsense players and Pierce is a very tough player to his own detriment sometimes to a fault. Injury prone, Pierce has had trouble playing a complete season and it can be argued that its effected his development. Pierce doesn't have any elite skill sets, he's an average passer with an average arm and average accuracy at all ranges, however he's one of the toughest runners in this league and his determination makes him tough to bring down. He had a poor year last year and it can be argued that with the Bombers depth behind him that he's into last chance territory.
6) Darian Durant - Saskatchewan RoughRiders
Attempts 489 Completions 299 Pct 61.1 Yards 3,653 TDs 18 Int 14 Ratings 84.5
The Captain had a lot of internal debates about Darian's position in comparison with Pierce about and Tate below, but he finished behind Pierce because a pro rated Pierce is better then Durant. People can argue that Durant suffered from one bad year but his struggles really started about 2/3rds of the way through the previous season. Darian does not make a team better, he needs to be surrounded by a strong supporting cast in order to look better. While he's blessed with a strong arm his accuracy is poor in all ranges and he has trouble putting the ball through the passing window consistently. He's an elite level scrambler but he puts the ball on the ground way to often and his decision to run or throw seems to be slow. He didn't help himself by throwing his coach under the bus last year before the season started and campaigning for the return of Ken Miller, he also didn't improve with the return of Miller where Durant was allowed to call his own game. He spent far too much time pouting on the sidelines last year and he has a long way to go to rehabilitate his reputation. The Riders did make a crucial mistake by not bringing a veteran in to push and tutor him as there's not a lot behind Darian in terms of QB talent that can play in the short term.
7) Drew Tate - Calgary Stampeders
Attempts 158 Completions 101 Pct 63.9 Yards 1,346 TDs 8 Int 5 Ratings 94.6
Its tough to know which Drew Tate we're going to get this year, the guys who had a shock and awe rise to the Starting role with the Stamps, or the young inexperienced QB who struggled in the playoff game last year and the first preseason game this year. There's no doubt that Tate is an intriguing prospect. He has good decision making skills and can scramble with the best of them. He has good accuracy over the short and middle zones but struggles in the deep zones due to a less then elite arm strength. He's more of a Doug Flutie type of QB that innovates on the fly instead of following a structured game plan. However he does have one break going for him as the Stamps have surrounded him with elite receiver and running back talent. The Stamps were also prudent to bring in Kevin Glenn to fill in for him and mentor him.
8) Stephen Jyles - Edmonton Eskimos
Attempts 218 Completions 124 Pct 56.9 Yards 1,430 TDs 7 Int 11 Ratings 66.5
Jyles will always be remembered and under pressure as the replacement for sure fire Hall of Famer Ricky Ray. However there are some serious questions about Jyles as a long term starter in the CFL. He's one of those athletes that's always surrounded by phrases like "intriguing" and "potential", but its a question of whether he can get all of those skills going at the same time. Jyles is a strong armed QB with a decent package of speed and elusiveness, but there are questions around his accuracy and decision making which lead to mistakes more often or not. He's a QB that's intent on hitting the big play but he's not very good at executing, and he's not a good progression quarterback. There are questions around his on field awareness and his ability to absorb a playbook as well. The Eskimos really need to find the next generation of QB's in hurry because there's not much behind him on the depth chart, Kerry Joseph is a serviceable journey man backup but he's past the age of being a every down QB.
So there you are, love em or leave em, debate em or enjoy them, these are the Captain's QB ratings.