Oh boy, a quarterback controversy!
Few things are more exhilarating for football fans than quarterback controversies, which are really only dangerous if they seep into the locker room. Knowing that, and realizing he was making a decision that would be accepted by his players, Roughriders head coach Chris Jones announced immediately following his team’s 27-24 victory Saturday against the home-town Toronto Argonauts that veteran Kevin Glenn would continue as Saskatchewan’s starter.
Jones also said everyone else was free to debate his decision. That’s the fun part.
Glenn has struggled since suffering an injured, right throwing hand during a 48-28 loss against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Banjo Bowl. Details of the injury were never revealed, although the Roughriders insisted Glenn’s hand was not broken.
Backup Brandon Bridge played the next game, throwing three touchdown passes in a 27-19 victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Glenn returned for a 15-9 loss to the Calgary Stampeders. Looking like he hadn’t completely healed, Glenn was replaced late against Calgary — the head coach said it was to change the pace of the game — and Bridge provided some late-game sparks. Jones somehow decided to stick with his veteran for the entire next game despite falling behind 17-0. Jones’ faith and intuition were rewarded as Glenn rallied the Roughriders to an 18-17 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks.
Jones saw something different against Toronto.
Jones often says Glenn “will cut you up” if he’s well-protected, but the dropback quarterback couldn’t evade the Argonauts’ pass rush and had completed only three of eight passes for 29 yards. Trailing 16-3 in the second quarter, Jones replaced Glenn with Bridge, a mobile and strong-armed pivot, who responded by completing 20 of 28 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Most impressive was an 11-play, last-minute drive that set up the game-winning field goal by Tyler Crapigna.
Hence the questions about the Roughriders’ starter. When announcing his decision, Jones spoke about Glenn’s maturity and leadership, which have helped the team rebound from a 2-4 start into an 8-6 record, one victory away from clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2014,
Glenn is the right choice. Glenn doesn’t pout when he gets pulled; indeed, he immediately serves as Bridge’s best sideline sounding board. If he struggles Friday against the visiting Redblacks, Glenn can be replaced again by Bridge.
The questions may re-surface from outside the locker room, but now that they’re winning more than they’re losing, the players realize Jones — evidently a quarterback whisperer, or maybe a quarterback savant — is making the right decisions and they don’t have to worry about a quarterback controversy.