The bond between Jason Maas and James Franklin led to the pair reuniting in Saskatchewan.
Franklin spent two seasons in Edmonton while Maas was the head coach. The Riders’ offensive coordinator made his way to Regina in December and two months later Franklin was signed by the green and white.
“He played a huge role. One thing I’ve learned over the last couple years is how important it is to really enjoy and get along with the coaches,” Franklin said on The Rod Pedersen Show.
“Teammates as well, but especially the coaches — you’re essentially playing for them and you’re running their offence, you’re under their rule. Going there with coach Maas I love playing for him, I like how he coaches and I like how he dealt with me in Edmonton through good times and bad times.”
Over Franklin’s three seasons in the Alberta capital, he completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,449 yards and 12 touchdowns against one interception. Former Toronto general manager Jim Popp traded with the Esks in December 2017 viewing the six-foot-two, 225-pound pivot as the Argos potential quarterback of the future.
“The thing that I wish that I could’ve done better was how I handled everything. As far as I couldn’t control what anyone else did or said, logistically, to an extent, obviously I have no control,” Franklin said.
“But as far as when I got on the field, I was too worried about what was the coach going to say if I’m running this right, what are my teammates going to think rather than just going out there and playing.”
The last two years in Toronto were the most miserable Franklin has ever been playing football. Former Argos head coach Marc Trestman was extremely hard on Franklin and the two were never able to find a strong working relationship. There was no marked difference when Corey Chamblin took over as bench boss and hired Jacques Chapdelaine as his offensive coordinator.
“After doing some self reflection the last two seasons, I didn’t really do a good job of keeping a good attitude and not letting them affect me. The mental game is a huge part of it,” Franklin said.
“The players that are mentally strong, they’re the ones that typically have the most success because they can persevere through conflict with teammates, coaches, other teams, strategies — all that. I didn’t do a good job with that in Toronto and I think it showed pretty well, unfortunately.”
It’s on to Saskatchewan for the 28-year-old Franklin. Maas along with general manager Jeremy O’Day and head coach Craig Dickenson wanted more experience at the game’s most important position. He provides the Riders with a quality signal caller behind Cody Fajardo.
“He actually text me before the official announcement. Going into it I know that I’m the backup, he’s the starter — he’s earned it,” Franklin said.
“I’m coming there to support him, I told him that too: ‘I don’t want you to think I’m going to come in here and be like I’m about to takeover, I deserve to be the starter, none of that.’ I know that this is his team and I’m going to come in and help out and make sure I’m prepared for an opportunity.”
While in Edmonton Franklin flourished in the backup role as Mike Reilly was the No. 1 quarterback for the Eskimos. Franklin first year in the CFL and supporting QB role the Esks won the Grey Cup in 2015. Saskatchewan hosts the CFL championship game in 2020 as Franklin teams with Fajardo to give the Riders a top tier quarterback pair.
“I wasn’t looking for empty promises,” Franklin said. “At the end of the day, technically the only opinion that matters is the general manager or the head coach, as far as career-wise and football.”