North x South: CFL Christmas Wish List

by Ryan McCarthy, BBM Staff Writer

As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s a time to reflect on the past year and also a time to dream for the next year. What are some of the things on the Christmas wish list of the CFL, its teams, and the fans alike?

For the Montreal Alouettes, an improved performance on offense. Alouettes fans endured another brutal season in 2018: the team lost eight out of their first nine games and five different quarterbacks were collectively sacked a league-worst 66 times. Only Saskatchewan, who had seven more wins, scored fewer offensive touchdowns than the Alouettes. But the team improved down the stretch, finishing 4-5 during the final half of the season. Johnny Manziel and Antonio Pipkin shared quarterback duties and helped revive an otherwise anemic offense. Those results saved the jobs of GM Kavis Reed and head coach Mike Sherman, though it’s unsure for how long. They’ll both have the chance to make necessary improvements to an offense plagued by personnel turnover and poor line play, which limited offensive production. 

Can Johnny Manziel take the lessons he learned in his first CFL season and translate them into success in 2019? (Photo Credit: Johany Jutras/LCF.cs)
For Saskatchewan, a consistent passing game. Head coach/GM Chris Jones won Coach of the Year in 2018 after leading the Roughriders to a 12-6 record. But that record was in spite of the fact that the Riders finished near the bottom of nearly EVERY passing statistical category. Zach Collaros was acquired from Hamilton to help stabilize the passing game, but injuries and inconsistency limited him. Brandon Bridge was thought to have been “The Guy” after his performance in the 2017 Eastern Final, but his lackluster performances filling in for Collaros, including the West Semifinal, has fans doubting he’s “The Guy” going forward. There are plenty of quarterbacks who will be free agents going into 2019, so Jones will have his share of pivots to choose from.

Saskatchewan head coach/GM Chris Jones will have plenty of options to choose at quarterback when free agency opens in February. (Photo Credit: Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post)

For Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa: to retain the starting QBs from 2019. Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly, and Trev Harris each started 18 games for their respective teams in 2018. What do these three quarterbacks have in common? They are all scheduled to become free agents in the offseason. BC, Saskatchewan, and Toronto in particular are looking to improve their quarterback situations so when free agency opens on February 12, it will be intriguing to see which players will stay put and which ones will find new homes. 

Mike Reilly is one of the most coveted free agents this off-season. Will he stay in Edmonton or will he call somewhere else home in 2019? (Photo Credit: Larry Wong/Postmedia)
For the league and its fans: a new collective bargaining agreement to be swiftly agreed upon. The current five-year CBA agreement will end this coming May. The big topics that will be on the table when negotiations come around are the salary cap (currently set at $5.2 million), player safety, and the potential of an earlier start to the season. The league, the players, and its fans hope that there won’t be a long work stoppage similar to other leagues in the past (talking to you, NHL), but if the player’s association and the league doesn’t come to an agreement sooner than February, fans will start to get worried. 

Lastly, for the Atlantic Schooners: approval for a new stadium. In November, Maritime Football LTD announced a season ticket drive with the hope for a team that will represent the Atlantic region. And during Grey Cup week, the group unveiled the team name. The target for the Schooners is to take the field within the next five years. Initially, the Schooners would play at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but there is a proposal for a new stadium to be opened by 2024. The ownership group has hit a bit of snag with the local government to build a new stadium, but an approval would all but ensure a franchise to fulfill the vision of a true coast-to-coast league.

(And if the Schooners are looking for an intrepid football reporter or radio play-by-play analyst, hit me up!)

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