The Calgary Stampeders have been a model of consistency for over a decade. From 2008 to 2019 the Stampeders have appeared in six Grey Cups, winning three. They’ve also appeared in 10 West Finals, winning six and making the playoffs every season.
Included in that time frame have been historically dominant seasons, such as 2016 when the Stampeders went 15-2-1. During which, they set the now broken record of 14 consecutive victories by a professional Canadain sports franchise. The Toronto Raptors of the NBA have since surpassed that with 15 straight victories.
Consistency at Key Positions
What makes Calgary great, and this is true for many professional sports teams, is their consistency at the two most important positions in football: head coach and quarterback. From 2008 to 2011 the Stampeders deployed the duo of John Hufnagel and Henry Burris. That duo netted them two Grey Cup appearances and a victory. After moving on from Burris, 2012 and 2013 were transition seasons. Instead, they ran with Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn.
In 2014, a quarterback by the name of Bo Levi Mitchell would take over and win a Grey Cup in his first season as a full-time starter. In 2016, Dave Dickenson would take over as head coach for the Stampeders and thus ushered in the new duo of Dickenson and Mitchell that would continue Calgary’s dominance in the West and the CFL as a whole.
Many like to draw the comparison of the Stampeders to the NFL’s New England Patriots and rightfully so. We see the parallels with the consistent success and the mainstays at those two main positions with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Obviously, New England has seen unprecedented success in sports history with a nearly 20-year run of dominance. However, they too have had to grapple with heartbreaking championship losses in 2007, 2011, and 2017. Calgary has suffered similar defeats in 2012, 2016, and 2017.
Coming off the heels of their third Grey Cup win in 10 seasons, the Stampeders appeared poised to make another run. However, many of the key contributors from the magical season the year prior were either poached by other CFL teams during free agency or were scooped up by the NFL.
Here’s are some notable names who have departed from the Calgary Stampeders since capturing the 106th Grey Cup in 2018: Don Jackson, Terry Williams, Juwan Brescacin, DaVaris Daniels, Lemar Durant, Derek Dennis, Brad Erdos, Spencer Wilson, Ja’Gared Davis, Micah Johnson, Alex Singleton (NFL), Chris Casher, Cainte Evans, Patrick Levels, Tre Roberson (NFL), Brandon Smith, Rob Maver, James Vaughters (NFL), Nick Arbuckle, Reggie Begelton (NFL), DaShaun Amos (NFL), Courtney Stephen, Marken Michel (NFL), Jameer Thurman (NFL/XFL).
It’s important to note that the Calgary Stampeders are not alone in the heavy roster turnover as the CFL as a whole has had challenges with all the one-year contracts being dished out. However, in the Stampeders case, that is a ton of high-end talent that has departed down. Many who have departed have tried a shot at the NFL.
Here are the notable names the Stampeders have acquired since their 2018 Grey Cup win: Richard Leonard, Connor McGough, Sean McEwen, Dakota Prukop, Branden Dozier, Josh Huff, Nate Holley, Lorenzo Jerome, Hergy Mayala, Ronnie Pfeffer.
Don’t overlook these signings for the Calgary Stampeders. Leonard has been a ball-hawk in his first three years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, accumulating 12 interceptions and three forced fumbles. Dozier has been a consistent presence for both the Alouettes and the Lions, playing in at least 16 games in each of his three seasons. While Holley’s situation remains up in the air, if he returns to the Stampeders in 2020, he will look to continue building on his 2019 Most Outstanding Rookie campaign.
Another arrival from the Tiger-Cats is McGough who will be an instant contributor in the Mark Kilam led special teams group, however, look for him to also start adding value as a pass-rusher on this revamped Stampeders defensive line. Finally, Mayala needs no introduction. He burst on to the scene in 2019 with 562 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season.
Who they’ve brought in since are certainly talented individuals who fit into what they do, but sheer numbers-wise, Calgary’s going to have a lot of unknown commodities starting at key positions in 2020.
Rest of the West
The West Division being a gauntlet isn’t exactly a well-kept secret. Four teams made the playoffs from the West in 2019, four points separated first from third, and both Winnipeg and Saskatchewan posted 70% winning percentages against divisional opponents. Calgary posted an 80% regular-season winning percentage against the West in 2019.
However, it was Winnipeg who got the upper-hand in the playoffs. To make things more interesting, the 13-win Saskatchewan Roughriders appear to be running it back, but now with Jason Maas and a more seasoned Cody Fajardo running the offence. Winnipeg managed to keep Willie Jefferson in town, the B.C. Lions added to their pass-rush and receiving core, and as for Edmonton, the tandem of Scott Milanovich and Trevor Harris could spell trouble for opposing defences.
This isn’t proclaiming the downfall of the Calgary Stampeders. Over a decade of great scouting, talent evaluating, and team building would make doing so a fool’s errand. What this is saying is 2020 may be the Calgary Stampeders’ biggest test yet.
Bo Levi Mitchell is coming off shoulder surgery and there’s been a second straight off-season of significant roster turnover. In 2020 we will see just how far a head coach and quarterback can push a team. Who knows, the CFL may have their own version of Bill and Tom.
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