‘Unacceptable to pro football’: Frustrated Reilly blames ‘bullsh*t’ headsets for Lions’ final drive collapse

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

Michael Reilly is known as a player willing to shoulder full responsibility for his team’s performance — win, lose or draw. So when the B.C. Lions quarterback stood in front of the media Friday night and pointed the finger of blame elsewhere for his team coming up short against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, it spoke volumes.

Down eight points with 39 seconds left in the game, the Lions were gifted a final drive that seemed to fall apart at the seams. Reilly visibly struggled to communicate with his receivers as precious seconds ticked away and in the end, they only got three plays off, including an ad-libbed hail mary with only one player in the endzone.

According to the quarterback, the root of the problem was in his ear.

“It was the whole game, from the first drive to the last, our headsets were bullsh*t. I don’t know what the cause of that was, but they need to get it figured out because in this league you operate by the coordinator being either on the sideline or in the press box and they radio the play down and we got a garbled mess 95% of the game. It’s not good enough. It’s unacceptable to pro football, needs to be fixed,” a vocally frustrated Reilly unloaded after the final whistle.

“Because of the miscommunication throughout the entire game when you can’t get the play call, it causes you to break the huddle late, which means you can’t check at the line. It caused a time count penalty at the end of the first half, so yeah, not good enough and somebody needs to figure out what the issue was and get it fixed because it’s really not a good way to play football.”

The CFL first introduced a one-way radio in the helmet of quarterbacks back in 2010, allowing for a direct line between play caller and passer. Since midway through the 2016 season, that radio contact has been continuous throughout both the play and pre-snap process.

At the time, it was viewed as a vital tool to advantage offences and increase scoring across the league, quickly becoming an irreplaceable part of every offence. Without reliable access to it, the Lions had noticeable struggles with the clock all night and that came to a head on the final play, a hopeless throw to Dominique Rhymes in the midst of five defenders which could have been so much more.

“At the end, we’re getting the play call communicated in, getting nothing, getting static, looking at the sideline to get the call and just trying to take a shot into the endzone. By the time that we could finally communicate and get lined up… we were trying to get potentially a quick throw in so we could get a huddle called and get multiple guys into the end zone but again, because for the radio issues we ended up having to snap the ball with a couple of seconds left,” Reilly explained.

“At that point, I’m not going to throw a ball short of the endzone so the one guy to the field that I was flushed to that was in the end zone was Rhymes and I tried to give him a shot.”

The B.C. loss couldn’t be hung entirely on that final drive, with plenty of other mistakes along the way. However, Reilly’s was adamant that the the technical issues were the final nail in his team’s coffin, costing them a shot at the crossover and putting their playoff hopes on life support.

“Hamilton played better than we did tonight, but that’s where a lot of that frustration is,” he admitted. “We literally spent every single drive of the game dealing with headset issues.”

Editor’s Note: 3DownNation has reached out to the CFL for clarity on the protocol surrounding the maintenance and administration of team headsets. This story will be updated when more information is provided.

Abbott is a UBC student, youth coach and lifelong CFL fanatic. He specializes in coverage of the CFL draft and the league's global initiative.