Could 2022 be the year when we see not just one, but two Canadian quarterbacks playing in the CFL? It has been an awfully long time since we last saw that, but the upcoming season could finally break the drought.
Not since the 1960s, when Russ Jackson (Ottawa) and Frank Cosentino (Hamilton, Edmonton, Toronto) were regular starters, has the CFL been able to boast such a rare statistic.
For younger fans, who more than likely have never seen a Canadian quarterback ply his trade, it could be a case of “what’s the big deal?” Well, for the rest of us it certainly is a big deal because it is something the league has sadly lacked for far too long.
Related: Nathan Rourke Opens Up About Michael Reilly
Since Jackson and Cosentino hung up their boots, homegrown quarterbacks have been sporadic at best. In that time, there have been a handful of Canadians under centre, but other than Greg Vavra (1984-1988), none has played consistently. This year is poised to change all of that.
There are now two Canadian quarterbacks in the CFL, Nathan Rourke at BC and Michael O’Connor in Calgary. In the wake of Michael Reilly’s retirement from football after an 11-year career with Edmonton and BC, the Lions announced that Rourke will be their starting QB in 2022.
O’Connor, who joined the Stampeders from Toronto last year as a backup to Bo Levi Mitchell, could become a free agent if he hasn’t re-signed with the team by the start of the free agency period on February 8th, but regardless of where he ends up, he will be looking for more opportunities.
As 13th Man Sports raised in an article in January, in the CFL’s history, there have been many more American quarterbacks than Canadians. O’Connor told us that he suspects it could be due to a difference in sporting cultures between the two countries, while Rourke thinks it could be a mindset thing.
“I think the absence of Canadian QBs in the CFL comes down to many organizations, and the people making football decisions, considering football in the States to be ahead of football here in Canada,” says Rourke.
“If one believes the competition and quality in the States to be greater than in Canada, then what QB prospects accomplish is going to carry more weight. Whether I agree with it or not, that is why I think it happens.”
Another issue to consider is that all CFL teams have two quarterbacks on their rosters, and while they are not designated either National or American for ratio purposes, most of the time those spots have been filled by Americans. As such, perhaps it would make sense for the CFL to consider making it a requirement that teams have at least one Canadian quarterback.
“I think that’d be a great idea,” says O’Connor. “That said though, you want to earn what you have. You don’t want to just be given it. But if you give more opportunities to people, I think you’ll start to see the payoff. I see both sides of that one.”
Rourke has a slightly different take on it.
“No,” he says. “I think if that were to happen, you might have instances where teams are carrying a player as a QB and actually using them as another position (i.e. special teams) instead of actually developing them as a quarterback.”
“I think the goal is for teams to take Canadians seriously, and for that to happen you have to beat them at their own game. When the decision-makers at organizations are no longer caring whether a kid is Canadian or not, and when that is no longer a discussion in the media, is when we know we’ve done something.”
Regardless of how and when the CFL eventually gets to the point where Canadian quarterbacks are a staple part of the game, rather than being an anomaly, the league will surely be in a better place. Imagine the extra fan and media interest that would create for the CFL.
In the meantime, however, we look forward to seeing both Rourke and O’Connor light it up during the 2022 season!
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