There are the obvious reasons why the Calgary Stampeders have made a move with their quarterback depth chart this off-season.
Drew Tate will turn 33 this season and on the downside of his career, plus he was due a roster bonus and his contribution to the salary cap was too high for what he contributed. It was time, with Bo Levi Mitchell proving to be durable and worthy of every snap all season long, that the Stamps should be moving on to a different name as their designated No. 2.
Yet after eight seasons with the Stamps, and how comfortable Tate had grown into working behind Mitchell, one thing became apparent, at least from an outsider’s point of view.
You probably won’t get anyone from the organization to admit it, but the question is there: Does Tate have the extreme desire to compete anymore?
Clearly, the Stamps felt they needed to move Tate out desperately, which is why they took a fifth-round draft pick from the Ottawa RedBlacks for what is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the CFL.
With a pending release likely imminent because they were shopping him around, teams around the CFL obviously felt if they were interested in Tate, they would simply wait it out and not use an asset to get him.
Then the Stamps signed Mitchell Gale last week, signalling they intended to part ways with Tate.
It seems fitting that Tate moves into the RedBlacks depth chart to replace the retired Henry Burris, the same player he edged out of Calgary in 2011.
Back then, Tate played with a fire in his belly and ‘I-will-stop-at-nothing attitude’ about winning. For two seasons when he was designated the Stampeders’ starter (2012-13), he played all-out early in the season and went out with injury as a result.
In the past three seasons, something changed. Constantly people asked why Tate hadn’t tried going anywhere else to become a No. 1 quarterback seeing as how Mitchell wasn’t going to be unseated. There was no easy answer to that. How could someone with all the skills to be a starting QB not try desperately to make it happen?
In Calgary, he made good money and was part of a winning team, and both of those things make life enjoyable. But the final sign that maybe Tate wasn’t the same came in his lone start of 2016. The 15-1-1 Stamps could have set the best record for an 18-game season with a win over the playoff-less Montreal Alouettes.
While Tate said he was excited about the start, his comments about the record raised an eyebrow or two.
“Honestly, and this may be weird to you, 16 doesn’t mean anything,” Tate said at the time. “Because to me, it’s all about the ring and the cup.
“This isn’t baseball. We don’t pop champagne when we clinch a division. There’s still games to be played.
“We’ll pop champagne when we win the cup but right now, we’ve got our hands full with Montreal.”
Of course, it’s all about the Grey Cup, but winning out and carrying momentum into the playoffs was also a goal. And this wasn’t a division clinching game. It was a noteworthy TEAM record.
Granted, the Stamps shouldn’t have put their lives on the line for a mark that ultimately didn’t mean anything after they lost the Grey Cup to those same RedBlacks.
However, Tate is there as a veteran back because he should be able to operate the offence when given the chance, and this was a chance for him to prove he could still step in without the team missing a beat.
In that 17-8 loss to the Alouettes, Tate went 22-of-37 passing for 218 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Tate should fit in well with the RedBlacks as caddy for Trevor Harris. If he still has that competitive fire, then he should provide the defending champs with a reliable backup.
His tenure in Calgary will ultimately be remembered as unrealized potential. In 2012, Tate gave the entire league a glimpse of how exciting he could be, as he hit Romby Bryant for the winning touchdown in a West semifinal win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a team that Burris could never beat in the post-season.
He did that after missing the majority of the season with a shoulder injury.
However, he did suffer a broken bone in his wrist during that game (and played through it) and was just watching as Kevin Glenn took the Stamps into the Grey Cup. It was that run that opened the door for what Mitchell could do, as he threw the only TD pass for the Stamps in the Grey Cup loss to the Argonauts.
During that Grey Cup week, Tate wasn’t shy about admitting he was out enjoying himself while taking in the festivities.
When the Stamps won the Grey Cup in Vancouver two years later, nobody enjoyed it more than Tate, who refused take off his uniform until it was no longer possible to wear it and he had to get on a plane home.
He scored two touchdowns in that win over Hamilton, and was important all season long running short yardage, but that job was taken away from him the following season.
Gone, it seems, was the same burning desire to compete. But that’s just my speculation. I’m here to be proven wrong.
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