When the Calgary Stampeders traded Henry Burris to Hamilton for Kevin Glenn this past offseason, it didn't really seem like a move that would be great for either team. Burris had put up better numbers than Glenn in 2011, but was fresh off losing his starting job to Drew Tate and was about to turn 37, and Glenn had been inconsistent over the last few years and was only being acquired as a backup to Tate. The trade proved to be vital for both teams, though. Although the Tiger-Cats struggled this year, Burris led the league with 5,367 yards and 43 touchdowns, while an early-season shoulder injury to Tate elevated Glenn to the starting job for most of the year, and the fractured wrist Tate suffered in the West semifinal tabbed Glenn as the Stampeders' starter again in Sunday's West Final. The man recently viewed as a castoff and a spare part shone there, throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns and leading Calgary to a 34-29 victory over the favoured B.C. Lions and proving that the Stamps still have a Grey Cup shot even without Tate.
It's been a remarkable year for Glenn. At age 33, he's had one of his greatest CFL seasons, putting up a career-best 66.7 per cent completion rate while throwing for 4,220 yards (fourth in the league) and 25 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. In fact, he's performed better in every passing stat in 2012 than he did in 2011, where he completed 62.9 per cent of his passes, threw for 3,963 yards and tossed 19 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Few figured Glenn would be this critical for Calgary, as Tate entered the year as the clear-cut starter and was anointed the playoff starter after his return from his shoulder injury, but the injuries to Tate gave Glenn an opportunity, and he made the absolute most of it. That was clear again Sunday, where he completed 15 of his 24 passes (62.5 per cent) for 303 yards in hostile territory against the most ferocious pass defence in the league. Most teams would be hard-pressed to beat even a lesser opponent when relying on their backup quarterback, but on the road, in a stadium with 43,216 people (many of them screaming Lions' fans), Glenn led the Stampeders to an incredible upset of the team that had proven the most dominant during the 2012 regular season.
How did Glenn do it? Well, what was particularly impressive was the way he spread the ball around. Maurice Price continued his late-season dominance, catching six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, but Glenn also effectively utilized Marquay McDaniel (three catches, 104 yards and a touchdown), Romby Bryant (two catches, 69 yards and a touchdown) and Jon Cornish (two catches, 42 yards). Glenn made smart decisions for most of the day, and wisely didn't try to force too much to star receiver Nik Lewis, who was heavily covered for much of the contest. Instead, he continually hit whoever was open. He also didn't take too much time in the pocket, a key reason why B.C. wasn't able to record a single sack Sunday, and he took advantage of lessened coverages downfield when the Lions blitzed, as demonstrated with the 68-yard touchdown pass he threw to McDaniel when B.C. brought the heat on the Stamps' second offensive play.
The interception Glenn threw (which Korey Banks returned 77 yards for a touchdown) was problematic, and it was a key reason why the Lions only trailed 17-16 at the half. However, Glenn didn't get down on himself after that, and he was crucial to the 17 points Calgary put up after the break. Of course, the Stamps had help elsewhere, as they also received a great performance from their defence, a tremendous showing from Cornish (12 carries for 118 yards) and even a 42-yard pass from short-yardage quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. Still, Glenn's play was a critical factor in their victory. Not bad for a guy who wasn't a highly-touted offseason acquisition and wasn't even a starter heading into the playoffs.
In some ways, it's appropriate that Glenn is starring now and leading his team to the Grey Cup in Tate's absence. Over his 12 years in the CFL, he's never been the starter in a Grey Cup, and his best chance to do so (with Winnipeg in 2007, when he was named the East Division candidate for Most Outstanding Player) was derailed by a broken arm he suffered in the East final against the Argonauts; the Bombers went on to the Grey Cup that year (which, oddly enough, was the last one held in Toronto before this season) but lost 23-19 to Saskatchewan with backup Ryan Dinwiddie under centre. Now, Glenn finally gets his chance to shine on the league's biggest stage. The once-forgotten, frequently-discarded Glenn has now become a cornerstone for the Stampeders, making that offseason move to pick him up look pretty amazing in retrospect. It's one of the quarterbacks who went from Alberta to Ontario who's likely to get a bit more press during Grey Cup week, but the other Alberta-Ontario quarterback swap has also paid off for Calgary in a major way. The best-laid plans of coaches and general managers gang aft agly, so Glenn's showing the importance of having a solid backup.