A couple of weeks ago on the Sportscage, a regular caller asked the question we were all wondering about: We all know that Chris Jones is going to bring in Brandon Bridge to bail out Kevin Glenn, so why not just start Bridge?
I started my reply with: "Everything else being equal, Kevin Glenn is the better quarterback. He just IS."
At this point the caller accurately called me an idiot, hung up, and in the uncomfortable humor that followed, I never got to explain myself. So here it is:
Kevin is a better quarterback. His arm has never been as strong as Bridge’s but he can breakdown a defense, find an open receiver and get him the ball better than Bridge, and his release is much faster too!
The jokes about Kevin’s speed are true … he’s slow! But he shuffles and feels his way around the pocket like very few others. This ducking and weaving isn’t only to buy time for the receivers to get open, but Kevin also needs to shuffle around to find throwing lanes. At 5’8, it is difficult for Kevin to throw over offensive and defensive linemen who are regularly a foot taller than he is with very impressive wing spans.
In effect, defenses don’t need to hit Kevin, they simply need to get into his field of vision, and that is what the Toronto Argonauts did very well on Sunday afternoon.
This is where Brandon Bridge comes in. Folks say he comes in because of his legs, but I believe it has more to do with his 6’5" frame and wingspan. Why? Because the playcalling doesn’t change when the quarterbacks do. If an Offensive Co-ordinator was trying to take advantage of a player's specific skill set we would see a distinct change in the offense - but we don’t see that.
The playcalls are somewhat the same. BB uses his height and cannon of an arm to get the ball downfield where he often enjoys one on one coverage because of the imminent blitzing defense.
This drastic difference in quarterbacking style gives Defensive Co-ordinators fits. They need to put together two game plans – one for KG, and one for when Double B gets in (because we all know he’s coming in). Putting together the two game plans is the easy part – coaches work 24/7. But implementing one game plan in 18 hours of weekly-allocated practice time is a difficult task in itself. Getting players to digest two strategies seems impossible to this scribe and that is why the Riders went with the 2 QB system in 2017; to keep defenses guessing and tilt the tables in their favour even before the game has kicked off.
I am sure they’d prefer it had worked out differently, but this is the system that worked for the Riders in 2017. Before looking forward to 2018, I want to use last week’s East Semi Final to support my ‘why’.
I am usually the first one to toot the Offensive Line’s horn, but the great protection KG was afforded in that win was less attributed to the OL, and more to the lack of creativity of the Redblack coaching staff. I understand that Ottawa does not run a pressure defense, but KG was allowed to stand in the pocket and dissect the Ottawa secondary. There was no need for BB, and I doubt he would do as well, or even better than Kevin’s surgical precision. It was as if the RedBlacks had done no scouting on the Riders quarterback situation or even seen a Rider game this year.
The Argos on the other hand - as winners of the East had two weeks off to prepare for the Riders - a week for each quarterback, and it showed.
The Argos rush didn’t hit Kevin as much as it pushed the interior of the pocket and got their hands up and in his face. The blitzes they did come with were up the middle, further blurring or restricting his vision down field. If you notice, both of Kevin’s interceptions where thrown over an open receiver and into the bread basket of a DB sitting in zone coverage - a sure sign that Kevin didn’t have the space he needed to step into the throw, and over the mass of humanity that is both trying to protect him as well as accost him.
Enter Brandon Bridge and enter Argo Game Plan 2 … or more accurately 1B, because the Argo pressure package did not need to change much because it did not include bringing numbers. They were getting the push they needed to disrupt the Rider passing attack, and with Bridge in the game the Argo defensive line could rely more on their athleticism to create the rush and continue to allow the secondary to sit back and watch the Rider receivers routes unfold in front of them.
Although I’ll admit to the platoon working for the Riders in 2017, I’ve never been a fan of the 2 QB system because it does not allow for players to work through their mistakes. It can also build insecurities that can cause players to play outside ofthemselves or try to do too much didn’t see this between Kevin and Brandon because of the nature of their relationship … but I don’t see this relationship continuing in 2018.
Kevin was brought back to Saskatchewan to mentor his replacement. He and BB have also worked in a similar arrangement last season in Montreal, and I am sure how the Vince Young situation played out in camp strengthened their mentor-student relationship, but it is time to hand over the keys to Bridge and allow him to work through his mistakes without having to look over his shoulder for the hook, or for the answer to be given to him.
There was a distinct moment in Sunday's East Final that this torch was passed. With about 8 minutes left in the third quarter, Bridge took a sack on second down. During the commercial break I imagined Chris Jones going over to KG on the sideline and saying “sorry ‘bout the musical chairs, but we needed to see if the kid had it today. Now, how ‘bout you take it from here and get us to the show?” and I fully anticipated KG's return to the gridiron. When the game came out of commercial and #16 was in the huddle I knew that Brandon Bridge is the new starting Quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and Kevin Glenn’s time as the Green and White starter is over.
If a championship was part of his resume I would consider Kevin Glenn a first ballot Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, I believe Kevin will be the best player not to get into the Hall of Fame, but if there was ever a player for whom the Plaza of Honour should induct the day after he retires, it is #5.
That’s not to say KG is done in the CFL! His arm strength and speed is no better, or worse, at 39 than it was at 29. He’s had another great season in 2017, and he’s been a Plan B for the past decade with every team he has played for - except Winnipeg (where strangely enough could be in the market for an experienced back up to further their potentially impressive 2018 campaign). Or Edmonton (and not just because it’s the only team he has not been a part of). If the Eskimos lose James Franklin as anticipated, they could be in the market for a vet.
If there was a Mount Rushmore of Rider QB’s, Kevin is on it. But bringing him back next season will taint his legacy and discredit the great work he has done with Brandon Bridge over the past few seasons. Right or wrong, it's time to take the training wheels off and let Bridge run with the ball … or throw it. You know what I mean.
Had Brandon and the Riders come back to win there is no doubt in my mind that he would have started the Grey Cup. The opponent would still have had to prepare for both Kevin and Brandon, but when it's time, it's time, and it's time.
(Mike played 10 seasons in the CFL winning the Grey Cup in 2007 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. An Economist, Certified Financial Planner and Charter Life Underwriter, Mike runs his practice through IG Wealth Management with offices in Moose Jaw and Regina. He values your feedback at Mike.Abou-Mechrek@igprivatewealth.com)