The Case for Starting DeMarco

All week long Thomas DeMarco took all of the starting reps at QB, and all week long Head Coach Rick Campbell insisted that MOP favourite Henry Burris was fine and would be starting on Sunday.

After the first practice of the week, Campbell said he was “100% confident” Burris would play. After the second practice he said he was “very confident” Burris would play. But after today’s practice, the 3rd straight with DeMarco taking every snap with the starting unit, his tune suddenly changed.

For what it’s worth, when asked directly, Burris said that if it was up to him, he’d be playing on Sunday. But really, what do you expect him to say?

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Ottawa Redblacks

It’s the biggest game of the season for the Redblacks and so much is at stake; 1st place in the East, the first playoff game at Lansdowne in 32 years and a bye week are all on the line and up for grabs.

Many in R-Nation believe that Burris is fine, pointing to the fact that he returned to play the second half of last week’s win over the Blue Bombers despite taking a late, unnecessary and vicious hit to his left knee at the end of the 2nd quarter.

Though it’s true that Burris came back to finish the game, his 2nd half numbers were a far cry from his opening 30 minute performance. By half-time last week, Burris had completed 18/27 passes for 314 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. After getting hit low by Jamaal Westerman, Burris completed 11/16 for just 99 yards, with no TDs or INTS. Also, despite moving the team down the field and scoring on the game winning drive, Ottawa had 6 drives that featured less than 4 plays.

If there’s any doubt whatsoever that Burris is 100% healthy, he needs to be held out and given extra time to heal up.

As much as everyone in Ottawa wants to host a home playoff game, the reality is that the main goal isn’t playoff football at Lansdowne, it’s hoisting the Grey Cup in Winnipeg in November. In a perfect world those two things would go hand in hand, but if you polled R-Nation, I’m willing to bet a majority would take the 3rd seed in the East and go on the road if it meant a fully healthy, MOP calibre Burris. Securing a home playoff game at the cost of losing Burris for the playoffs simply isn’t close to an even exchange.

Because let’s be frank, as much as DeMarco can fill in and perhaps steal a game or two, Ottawa isn’t winning the Grey Cup with a QB not named Burris at the helm. It’s tough to admit, especially with 1st place within reach, but with a playoff spot already secured, the priority has to be keeping Burris healthy and not exposing him if he’s ailing in an attempt to perhaps finish first.

Lastly, let’s not simply assume the Redblacks will lose if Burris sits. Of course, not having the CFL’s top passer will hurt, but DeMarco has had three full days to build chemistry with an extremely talented group of receivers. Plus, it’s not like DeMarco will have to throw the ball all over the field either, OC Jason Maas can dial up short, high percentage passes and allow Sinopoli, Jackson and Williams to do what they do best, get yards after the catch (YAC).

FBO CFL Redblacks Stampeders 20150813

Furthermore, Ottawa’s defence leads the league in sacks and interceptions and gives up the fewest yards per game on the ground. If DeMarco can simply avoid turnovers, the defence should keep the game close.

While nobody would ever deny that the 40 year old MOP favourite is the heart and soul of the Redblacks, good teams find a way to overcome adversity, and if sitting out a couple of weeks ensures a healthy Burris for the playoffs, Rick Campbell shouldn’t even think twice about handing the reigns over to Thomas DeMarco.


Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).