The 103rd Grey Cup matchup is set, with the West champion Edmonton Eskimos taking on the East champion Ottawa Redblacks this coming Sunday in Winnipeg. Here's a look at some of the key storylines we'll likely see discussed this week.
1. The Campbell clan: It's remarkable enough that Ottawa's Rick Campbell has made it to the Grey Cup in just his second season as a head coach, but it's even more interesting that he's up against Edmonton, a team that has deep meaning to both himself and his family. His father Hugh was a solid CFL player with Saskatchewan from 1963 to 1969, but became a legendary CFL head coach with Edmonton from 1977 to 1982, making six straight Grey Cups and winning his last five. That was only the start of Hugh's involvement with the Eskimos, as following coaching stints in the USFL and the NFL, he served as Edmonton GM from 1986 to 1997 and president/CEO from 1998 to 2006.
Meanwhile, Rick started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Oregon from 1996 to 1998, but began his CFL coaching career with the Eskimos in 1999 (interestingly enough, thanks to lobbying efforts from coaches Kay Stephenson and Don Matthews, and over the initial opposition of his father), worked with Edmonton's defensive backs and special teams from 1999-2004, served as their defensive coordinator from 2005-2008 (winning Grey Cup rings in 2003 and 2005), and then returned as assistant head coach/special teams coordinator in 2011. He's done a lot with other teams, too, working with Winnipeg in 2009 (as a defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator), Calgary in 2010 and 2012-13 (as running backs coach and defensive coordinator, respectively) and the Redblacks for the last two seasons, but Campbell has both personal and family history with the Eskimos. That's going to see plenty of discussion this week.
2. The cities' history: This is a fascinating matchup, as both cities have faced substantial Grey Cup droughts recently. Edmonton hasn't been to the game or won it since 2005, while Ottawa hasn't appeared in the game since 1981 and hasn't won it since 1976. (The original Ottawa Rough Riders franchise folded in 1996, and the revamped Ottawa Renegades never made the playoffs in their brief 2002-2005 history, so the Redblacks are heading down a long-dusty trail here.) Interestingly enough, that 1981 game saw the Eskimos (coached by Hugh Campbell, and quarterbacked by Warren Moon) barely edge the 22.5-point underdog Rough Riders (who were just 5-11 that year!) 26-23. Hopefully this year produces as good of a game...
3. The quarterbacks: Ottawa's Henry Burris is having the best season of his career at age 40, and is likely to win the league's Most Outstanding Player award this week. Don't overlook Edmonton's Mike Reilly, though; he was dazzling Sunday, throwing for 370 yards and three touchdowns and running for 30 yards and two further touchdowns. Burris is likely to get much of the attention, but this could turn into a great quarterback duel.
4. The defences: Both teams had dominant defences this year, with the Redblacks shining from a yards-allowed perspective (297.6 per game, best in the league) and the Eskimos allowing just 16.9 offensive points per game (second in the CFL). While there's tons of offensive talent on both sides, these defences can't be overlooked either.
5. Edmonton head coach Chris Jones' relationship with the media: The last time Jones was in the Grey Cup, it was as a Toronto defensive coordinator facing his old team (Calgary) and not talking to the media about it. Jones' defensive game plan was key to the Argos' win in that 2012 Grey Cup, but in addition to scheming, he's going to have to deal with a lot of media obligations this week, ones he'll be unable to duck. It's going to be interesting to see how he handles the spotlight placed on a head coach during Grey Cup week. Media obligations certainly aren't all that important in the grand scheme of things, but Jones has always been a guy focused on football and not so focused on the PR side of being a head coach. During a Grey Cup week, that could lead to some substantial tensions.