The fact that in the first two weeks of the season the B.C. Lions have had two “surprise starts” at quarterback has been a matter of controversy to some. And, hey, I get it. I like to put together my picks and fantasy teams every week. Listen to this, I even put together teams that featured B.C.’s “announced starter” each of the first two weeks! And, when you’re fantasy-team quarterback sees limited action (or none) it makes it near impossible to compete.
But the “are they being deceptive” controversy does not seem to have any merit to me at all.
In the normal course of affairs, when it comes to the coach’s starter decisions — or even benching starters “in-game” — we consistently hear “I’m going to play whoever I think gives us the best chance to win.” To me, that makes sense, and it is consistent with everything I’ve seen from the Lions these two weeks.
Please let me explain. Having been around athletes as a coach, mentor, father, caddie, etc., there are times when status reports like “questionable,” “probable” and the like just become words. They may be the best descriptors we have but they don’t often describe what exactly happens in the body and mind of an athlete. Time and again I have seen conflicting medical reports, players in a state of physical and psychological flux regarding their condition, and sudden changes in availability.
Nathan Rourke captured the situation perfectly for week one when he said “[the Lions staff] wasn’t 100 percent sure if he could go and, frankly, neither was Michael Reilly himself.” That’s a real-world reply that does not fit either our preconceptions or the requirements of status reporting.
The idea that Calgary did no preparation at all for the possibility of seeing Reilly does not comport with the way I have seen any mid-level or higher coaching staff prepare its team. Sometimes the “evidence of the eyes” is enough. In week one, we saw the Lions switch quarterbacks back-and-forth. The likelihood that this could occur again was pretty high for week 2. Upon the announcement of Rourke as a week 2 starter, 13th Man Sports’ Frankie Benvenuti wisely tweeted “I’ll believe it when I see it…”
In fact, discerning eyes will note that until he aired one out to Brian Burnham, it seemed Reilly remained at least somewhat uncertain of his capabilities even as he started at McMahon.
Again, people do have some valid expectations regarding announced starters, but they also have to be compared to what we already know. If there is one thing that Reilly has done year in and year out, it’s getting himself on the field when possible. Third and a yard, who is coming off the bench to take that snap when Reilly plays? Nobody. First and goal at the one-yard line. Reilly is likely to keep it. Long QB run from scrimmage with Reilly getting pounded. Reilly stays in. Tough day or month for the O-Line and the sacks are piling up? He’s not looking to come out. How was the one and only touchdown scored in last night’s game, a game he was not even expected to start? Michael Reilly keeper. Enough said.
If Reilly feels ready, he’s going to play. If he’s not sure, he’s going to try. Once he is absolutely sure he can’t go, he might sit down.
The most certain thing is none of this is new, and none of it is news. But that’s just my opinion.
I’d like to know yours. Follow me on Twitter and share your thoughts with me there!