August 2016 – Enter the Maas Pit

As I watched Mike Reilly do his best impression of a human piñata last week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Alouettes’ struggles protecting the quarterback this season (and last, for that matter). More specifically, we often forget how a philosophical mindset as a player can become a “tell”…a tendency that as a coach will tip off your adversarial opposite and make you as predictable as taxes.

As a quarterback, Jason Maas served primarily as a prod to Ricky Ray in Edmonton. When Ray’s game started to slip, there was Maas to show him up JUST ENOUGH to get Ray back on his game. No one would EVER accuse either quarterback of being a threat with his legs. It’s fair to say that Ray’s game was similar to that of Anthony Calvillo , in Montreal. Pocket passers, both. And two of the best at what they did. Heck…Maas was even 3rd string to Calvillo (briefly, and reluctantly) in 2007.

The point is simply this: if you’re looking for an example of a team that HAS a dynamic, mobile and athletic quarterback, but is misusing those resources..look no further than the 2016 Edmonton Eskimos.  Last year Mike Reilly (when he was healthy) had a full complement of plays that used his legs to attack defenses and get him away from the pass rush.

LAST YEAR Mike Reilly and the Eskimos won the Grey Cup.

Under Maas the playcalling has consisted of ONE dropback, pocket pass after another. As a result, Mike Reilly’s been running for his life, and punished brutally for his efforts. I’m sure Reilly himself would rather be injured out “on the edge” than sitting in the pocket waiting for the ax to fall. It makes one wonder what kind of input Hank Burris had in designing the playbook in Ottawa (or how often during a game Smiling Hank went “off the reservation”).

THIS YEAR Mike Reilly and the Eskimos are 2-4…just like the Alouettes.

The parallel between the two offences, especially when Cato is under center, is uncanny. There will be those who’ll argue that under Maas, Reilly’s weaknesses are being exposed. After all, like Cato, Reilly rarely waits to make his 2nd or 3rd read before reacting to pressure and resorting to his legs. These days being predictable gets you hurt. and a devotion to the pocket does NOTHING to deter a pass rush that gets faster, quicker and meaner with each passing season.

The counter argument (of course) is that quarterbacks like Glenn (OR Maas, Ray or Calvillo) simply don’t have the talent to use their legs to any effective degree. If they manage to wait out the rush ’til the last possible second, and throw the occasional completed pass as a result…this PALES when compared to what a dynamic, 2-way QB can do when used correctly. Which is why Doug Flutie and Warren Moon are cited as the best CFL quarterbacks EVER…and why unathletic QB’s like Calvillo and Glenn or Wilkinson never EVEN got an NFL look…let alone a shot at the BIG SHOW.

One might argue that the entire (pocket passer) mentality was developed to shore up the inadequacies of the unathletic quarterback. Regardless, limiting a talent like Mike Reilly (or Rakeem Cato) to the pocket, when there is a WHOLE WORLD of options made available by virtue of their innate talents, is NOT ONLY  a crime against the game of football, it is a crime against nature.

If I were to guess then, I’d say that the team who’s quarterback’s skills MOST EFFECTIVELY mirror the limited, tired and anachronistic playcalling of their offensive coordinator, will win the day…tomorrow.

Hey…wadya know? That’s the Alouettes.

Go Als Go!!!

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