Brett Smith is about to become a household name.
In Saskatchewan, home of most of Canada’s wheat farms and one well-scrutinized CFL team, every Roughriders quarterback becomes a household name. It’s now Smith’s turn.
He’s scheduled to start Friday when the Riders visit the Edmonton Eskimos. He will be the sixth different quarterback to start for the Roughriders in their past 15 games, which partly explains why the team is 1-14 in regular-season and playoff games during that span.
While the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Zach Collaros), Toronto Argonauts (Trevor Harris), Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Drew Willy), Montreal Alouettes (Rakeem Cato) and Edmonton Eskimos (Matt Nichols, James Franklin) have during the past two seasons deployed new or unproven quarterbacks who quickly appeared capable of being CFL starters, the Roughriders haven’t.
They looked fine with veterans Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn at at the controls, but misfired when newbies Tino Sunseri and Seth Doege or recalled-veteran Kerry Joseph have taken over.
After losing their first five games this season, the Riders desperately need someone who is healthy and capable of running their offence. Is Smith the guy? He looked impressive in the preseason, playing against scrubs, but struggled in his lone regular-season appearance.
It should be noted that Willy, Calgary Stampeders backup Drew Tate, Ottawa RedBlacks starter Henry Burris, Glenn and Durant spent formative years with the Roughriders, so it’s not as if Saskatchewan hasn’t developed any quarterbacks. Cato was actually on Saskatchewan’s negotiation list, but when he wasn’t offered a contract he was free to join the Alouettes. Sometimes it’s a boom year, sometimes it’s a bust. Just like the crops.
Durant has been the best of the bunch, leading the team to its 2013 Grey Cup victory.
Durant missed most of 2014 with a torn elbow tendon and returned to Saskatchewan’s lineup for the 2015 season opener, but just before halftime suffered a season-ending, ruptured Achilles tendon.
Glenn, signed as a free agent to come back to Saskatchewan and give the Riders much-needed depth, played well before tearing a pectoral muscle in their last game, a 31-21 loss against the visting Ticats, and was placed on the six-game injury list.
Smith was on Toronto’s practice roster for a short stint last year. Mainly he’s been a bartender, hoping for another chance to play quarterback. He landed in the right place, Saskatchewan, where the quarterbacks and the wheat crops have good years or bad years, but nobody knows beforehand.