Reports on Twitter are flooding in with the latest word from Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris. Burris will not be joining another team next season stating that it is “Redblacks or retirement,” which to be certain, is music to the ears of the the defending Grey Cup champions. That is of course, if the 41 year-old passer chooses the former and continues to play. But what if Burris decides on the latter and hangs up the cleats? Does Ottawa have enough on the field without the Grey Cup MVP to repeat as the best in the CFL? Here’s a look at some reasons why the Redblacks can survive a post-Burris world.
A Stronger Defence
One of the biggest reasons Ottawa brought home it’s first title in 40 years was the fact that when it counted, the boys on the defensive side of the ball stepped up. The Calgary Stampeders had all the offensive power they needed and more going into the championship match. So much so that the Stamps managed to power through a sizable deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. This forced only the third overtime battle in Grey Cup history. But in that extra frame, Bo Levi Mitchell was unable to complete a 3rd & 10 pass to Bakari Grant who was well covered on the play, effectively ending the game.
It was the type of coverage that helped land the Redblacks at third on the CFL’s interception list with 16 for the year. The Redblacks also consistently used that ability to break up opposing offences and keep games close throughout the year. With free agency looming, the chance to add some new talent might just kick the team’s secondary up into the conversation for best in the league.
Were there any other name behind Burris on the depth chart, there might be a reason to panic if Burris were to call it a career. Yet Trevor Harris has proven that he is an elite talent and more than capable of winning football games when called upon. In relief of Burris, Harris completed over 73 percent of his passes while throwing for over 3300 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those numbers were as good or better than many starting quarterbacks last season.
Add to that the 2015 season, which was his last with the Toronto Argonauts, where Harris played 17 games. Playing for the injured Ricky Ray, Harris amassed well over 4000 yards passing and 33 touchdowns while turning heads across the league. It also earned him his current spot with the Redblacks. As long as he can stay healthy, Harris is as good an insurance policy as any should Burris bow out.
An Abundance of Wide Receivers
The final win total for Ottawa may not have been overly impressive for many CFL fans at just 8-9-1. However, those who place all their faith in the win-loss record to judge a team’s dominance clearly missed out. This is even more true when you consider Ottawa’s explosive offence filled with standouts, especially at the wide out position. The Redblacks featured a league leading four 1000-yard receivers.
Arguably the best of the bunch, Chris Williams, missed the last four weeks of the season due to injury and still hit the thousand yard mark. If the Redblacks want to have any shot at repeating their title run, it falls on the hands of that corps of receivers to catch what comes their way from Harris. A crucial part of this will be decided in free agency as both Ernest Jackson and Greg Ellingson need to be locked down for next season.
The Motivation of Home Cooking
Who says you can’t come home? Nothing can light a bigger fire under a team than getting the chance to win a championship on their own field. This year TD Place will play host to the 105th Grey Cup Classic. The match will be played in front of fans that just witnessed a team from the nation’s capital bring home its first title in 40 years. It goes without saying that their second would be a whole lot sweeter were it done in their presence.
While many of the players and coaches will likely be downplaying the underlying desire to accomplish this task, you can be sure that it will play a big part in the 2017 season. Even if Burris is not leading them in their quest, it stands to reason that every player left behind will rally around their new signal caller in the hopes of hoisting a trophy at home.
The Redblacks and fans alike are anxiously awaiting a final decision from Burris as to his future. With the assurance that he will not be playing elsewhere now, the only other option is if he plays again at all. If Burris pulls the trigger on retirement, he should feel good about the chance of survival of the team he will leave behind.