Eskimos dominate Argos, leaving only questions about Mikes

While Edmonton HC Jason Maas (L, with former teammate Ricky Ray) didn't talk into his microphone Saturday, that's not necessarily a big deal. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press.)

Two interesting parts of the Edmonton Eskimos'  regular-season-ending 41-17 win over the Toronto Argonauts Saturday involved Mikes not in use. The first is the microphone that head coach Jason Maas wore under protest, but didn't talk into and then appeared to say wasn't working. The second is quarterback Mike Reilly, who sat for this one, giving backup James Franklin the chance to shine (which he did, posting 335 passing yards and four touchdowns with a 78.3 per cent completion rate despite top receivers Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker sitting out). Neither of those moves should necessarily be that controversial; Winnipeg's win Friday meant there was really nothing for Edmonton to play for, as their crossover status was already determined, so resting veterans has some merits (even if it hurts their chances at records and award recognition), and Maas deciding not to talk may seem a bit petty and silly, but it also doesn't seem like that big of a deal. There's a lot of hot air flying around on this one, though, creating a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

From this corner, Maas electing to wear the mike but not talk into it is more of a loophole than anything, and one that shouldn't necessarily deserve further punishment. The CFL's miked-up idea's an interesting broadcasting idea, but it's not a hugely consequential one. Maas' previous rebellion against it (deciding unilaterally to not wear the mike with no advance notice after the league spent time promoting a miked-up game) was more of a controversy than this one, and drew a fine and a threat of a suspension in response. This one is a little different, though; first, members of the team did wear mikes and many did talk into them, so the league got its miked-up game, and while the CFL can mandate Maas wear a mike, they probably can't tell him what to say or not say. (If it can be proven that he tampered with the mike, that might be more problematic, but just not talking is a trolling move, but not necessarily one deserving punishment.)

Yes, Maas' concerns about leaking information are hugely overblown, and every other team went along with this, but the Eskimos largely went along with it too this time around. If their coach wants to not talk into the microphone he's wearing, who really cares? Sure, the live mikes have occasionally provided some interesting moments and useful information, but they're far from constantly valuable, and they're still very much a work in progress at this point in terms of what they add to a broadcast. They're not necessarily driving huge viewership, either; yes, the league has cited a 17 per cent increase for live mike games over average games, but some of these games have been highly-desirable matchups at good times, and the amount of people who tuned in for the initial experiment to see what it was all about aren't necessarily going to keep tuning in week after week whenever there's another one of these games. Viewership is a complex, multifacted thing, and it's usually not just about one variable. Live mike games aren't a bad idea, and they may help boost viewership a bit, but there are hardly many people who are going to watch, see Maas isn't wearing a mike (while members of his team are), and decide to turn off the game as a result.

As per Reilly, it's worth pondering if the miked-up game played a role in resting him too. Reilly was also vocal in his opposition to the mikes last time around, and his absence meant that backup QB James Franklin wore one instead. However, Reilly and the other veterans might have sat this one out anyway; they're preparing for the postseason, and this game meant nothing to them. It's a pity we didn't get to see Reilly challenge the 6,000-yard passing barrier (he finishes with 5,554), and sitting means he didn't get a chance to bolster his Most Outstanding Player case against Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell, but neither of those things is a big deal compared to the upcoming playoffs.

The way the Eskimos dominated here while mostly using backups is an excellent sign for them, and they seem to be in great postseason shape. They finished the year with a 10-8 record, well above first-round opponent Hamilton (7-11) and potential East Final adversary Ottawa (8-9-1). The East looks like an excellent path of least resistance, and while winning two road games is still very tough (and a crossover team has never made the Grey Cup), Edmonton gets to avoid B.C., Winnipeg and Calgary this way. Their top players will be rested and healthy, and they should be in great shape for next week's East semifinal against the Tiger-Cats. If the biggest questions for them this week are about Mikes, that's not such a big deal after all.