January 03, 2012
We've already seen an Alberta team and an Ontario team swap quarterbacks this offseason, and on Tuesday a second one became official. The earlier trade saw the Edmonton Eskimos send an older quarterback in Ricky Ray to Toronto for a younger, unproven one in Steven Jyles, and now the Calgary Stampeders have sent veteran quarterback Henry Burris to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for Kevin Glenn. Unlike the Ray deal, though, which currently looks like a substantial victory for Toronto, this might be a trade that doesn't really work out for either side.
Of course, this deal isn't necessarily all that surprising. The writing has long been on the wall for Burris' career in Calgary, as he was replaced by Drew Tate down the stretch and failed to impress in relief in the playoffs. Tate's offseason contract extension further solidified him as the Stampeders' top quarterback, and that made it quite clear Burris was heading out of town. Hamilton always looked like the most natural landing spot, too, as the Tiger-Cats were about the only team really in search of a new starting quarterback. That doesn't mean that this will be a great move.
The primary issue is Burris' age. He'll be turning 37 on June 4, and he was already the CFL's second-oldest starting quarterback by far (interestingly, the next-closest guy is Glenn, who's four years younger). Of course, age and experience isn't always a bad thing in the CFL, and the immortal Anthony Calvillo in Montreal continues to remind us that some old quarterbacks are still incredible, but Calvillo has been far more the exception than the rule over his career. It's also worth noting that while Calvillo has a good arm, his success has been much more about his ability to read the play and make incredibly accurate throws. Burris (seen at right above) has some of that as well, but he's also known for his arm strength, and that tends to degrade faster. Burris may or may not be able to return to top form in 2012, but perhaps an even bigger question is just how long he'll be able to keep playing beyond then.
The age concerns are causing some Ticats' fans to criticize this move before it's even made official; Josh Smith of Blogskeeweewee wrote earlier this offseason that he's not impressed with the idea of trading for Burris:
I have always had an affinity for Burris and wanted to see him succeed (as long as it didn't come against the Tiger-Cats).
But that doesn't mean I want him as the Tiger-Cats' quarterback next season. Three or four years ago, sign me up. But it's going to be 2012, and my gut and my eyes tell me that his best-before date has passed.
Two skills are brought up as to why Burris would be an upgrade over Glenn: arm strength and running ability. But if you watched Burris near the end of 2011 — especially the game in Toronto where he was finally pulled for Drew Tate — he was skipping passes at an alarming rate and seemed to have lost his speed. Without the cannon arm and escapability that has defined his career, Burris is not much more than an older version of Glenn.
Of course, there are some reasons to believe Burris could potentially do well in black and gold. Despite having his job usurped by Tate in Calgary, his overall stats in 2011 were reasonably solid. He finished fifth in the league with 3,687 passing yards despite not playing down the stretch, completed 63.6 per cent of his passes, threw 20 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions and put up a 93.6 quarterback rating . He also won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award just the year before (even if there are good reasons why he shouldn't have), and he could fit in very well with George Cortez (his former offensive coordinator in Calgary, who Lefko reported Hamilton is seeking to interview for their head coaching position).
Still, even if he returns to his impressive 2010 form this coming year, Burris would seem to be a short-term solution at quarterback for the Tiger-Cats, and there's no guarantee that that will work out. Keep in mind that Hamilton went 8-10 in 2011, even if they did finally win a playoff game, and they got pasted 19-3 in the East Final. They may not be quite ready to take the leap to Grey Cup contender yet. (Then again, Winnipeg was last in the CFL in 2010, so you can never rule anyone out.)
Glenn's inclusion is also interesting here. You'd think that this wouldn't be a straight swap, as Burris would be the presumed starter in Steeltown and Glenn (seen at left above) would likely back up Tate in Calgary, and that would make some sense. Glenn's 2011 wasn't awful, and he did throw for more yards (3,963) than Burris, but he trailed in every other statistical category (62.9 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns against 17 interceptions, 86.8 quarterback rating). Those wouldn't be bad numbers for a backup, and it might help the Stampeders to have a veteran behind Tate, but it's not clear if Glenn's willing to step into that kind of a role just yet.
This deal could find a way to work out for both sides, of course. Maybe Burris thrives in Hamilton and leads the Tiger-Cats on an impressive run, maybe Glenn adapts to a backup's role and helps polish Tate, maybe the picks or players the Tiger-Cats throw in (perhaps OL Mark Dewit?) as well turn into solid acquisitions for Calgary. At the moment, though, it doesn't really look all that great for either team; Hamilton gets a decent starter, but an aging one who may be in decline, while Calgary picks up an okay backup, but one who may not be content in that role. Maybe there's more to it, but I'm not sure fans of either side will be thrilled with this one.