For the first time in their existence, the Ottawa Redblacks head into the off-season as Grey Cup champions. Given that the Nation’s Capital will host the 2017 Grey Cup game, GM Marcel Desjardins will surely do everything within his power to make sure Ottawa is fully equipped to defend its title.
But before Desjardins can truly begin to evaluate which potential free agents to re-sign, or gauge which other team’s players might be a good fit, he needs to know exactly how much cap space he’ll have to work with. And until Henry Burris notifies the team of his future plans, Desjardins’ hands are somewhat tied.
After winning his third Grey Cup on a single knee, Burris went into the off-season showered with confetti and vowing to notify the team of whether or not he plans to retire after the holidays.
It’s worth noting that by having surgery on his torn left meniscus almost immediately after the Grey Cup parade ended, Burris has left the door open to the possibility of returning to the Redblacks in 2017.
With all that said, here’s a few reason why Burris should, and shouldn’t, retire.
Why it’s time to hang’em up:
1) Nothing left to prove
Three time Grey Cup champion. Two time Grey Cup MVP. Two time CFL MOP. Five time All-Star. Third in career passing yards, touchdowns, interceptions, attempts and completions. Burris has done it all, seen it all and is lock for the Hall of Fame. Even his fiercest critics have little left to rail against and have reverted to grasping at straws, accusing him of embellishing or playing up his recent injury. With his legacy set in stone, it’s time to take the storybook ending and retire as a Grey Cup MVP.
2) Get out healthy
While reports seem to indicate that surgery went well, with knee injuries, nothing is guaranteed. In the past, Burris has credited his rigorous off-season training program for keeping him upright and productive. Clearly it’s worked well so far, but at 41, how much longer can he defy Father Time? Was his knee injury during Grey Cup warmups an early sign of a body breaking down? Not many athletes get the chance to go out on top and even fewer with their health.
3) Mission Accomplished
Since signing with the Redblacks in 2014, Burris has done everything the team has asked (both on and off the field), to help promote and grow the franchise. Although winning Ottawa’s 10th Grey Cup and first championship in 40 years will be his signature moment, for many in R-Nation, its the small personal interactions with Hank at a QB Club or a charity event that will stick in their mind. Given that he was brought in to win football games and be the face of the franchise, Burris has earned every bit of his contract.
4) Succession Set
In previous off-seasons, if Burris had chosen to retire, the Redblacks, to put it politely, would’ve been in a bit of a pickle. Not so any longer. As he proved with the Argos in 2015, and again with the Redblacks this past season, Trevor Harris is ready and capable of being a high level starting QB. When Harris was signed last off-season, the plan was always for him to take the reigns in 2017. Though it certainly wouldn’t tarnish his legacy, by choosing to retire Burris could avoid a potentially ugly QB controversy.
5) One foot in the door
Just because Burris retires from playing professional football doesn’t mean he’ll be out of work for long. There might not be any player in recent memory as well set up for a post football career. Burris has a ton of personality and has spent portions of recent off-seasons doing bits on local Ottawa TV and radio. Some media outlet, whether it’s TSN or CTV, will land a gem if Burris decides to head that direction.
Why it’s too early to ride off into the sunset:
1) Still got game
While it might be awfully tempting to take the storybook ending, given his competitive juices, how can Burris possibly walk away from a game he still dominates? Despite his age, the CFL MOP in 2015 and the Grey Cup MVP in 2016 has lots left in the tank.
2) Coaching staff continuity
For the first time in three years, Burris won’t have to work with a new offensive co-ordinator in the off-season. Jamie Elizondo (along with the rest of the Redblacks coaching staff), will be back with the Redblacks in 2017. Given that there’s no need to learn a new offence or terminology, Burris and Elizondo can spend the off-season fine tuning and tweaking the playbook, as opposed to building it from scratch.
3) Ottawa hosts
Winning the Grey Cup as massive underdogs against a team that spurned you is sweet. Successfully defending that title at home, in a city that hasn’t hosted a Grey Cup since 2004 would be even sweeter. The Grey Cup game will take place in Ottawa next November and while it remains to be seen if the Redblacks play in it, the lure of winning another ring at home should not be taken lightly. Even more so when you take into account that OSEG will spare no cost in allowing Desjardins to add whatever pieces he feels necessary for the Redblacks to be a strong contender.
4) Money on the table
Perhaps the most obvious case against retirement is the simple fact that Burris is under contract through the 2017 season. As it currently stands, Burris’ contract will be a significant pay cut, but that’s something that can be easily remedied with a signing bonus or performance incentives. Even if he doesn’t make starter’s money next year, pro football will still likely pay Burris more money than any other gig he’d land in retirement.
5) Overtake Alfie
This part might get be a bit sacrilegious in some circles given what the Daniel Alfredsson has done for the Ottawa Senators, but it’s not a stretch to say that if Burris can deliver a championship at home, he’d move ahead of Alfie in the pantheon of Ottawa sports heroes. While he might not boast Alfie’s lengthy period of service, Hank did what Daniel couldn’t in 2007 and ended Ottawa’s long championship drought. If the two are currently on equal footing, a Grey Cup win on home soil permanently moves Burris ahead.