Michael Reilly has retired from the CFL and there’s been plenty of discussion regarding his future candidacy for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
It’s an easy answer for me — I believe he deserves to be inducted — but here’s how he stacks up against other quarterbacks who have been or are close to being enshrined.
The CFL’s top 11 all-time passers are either already in the Hall of Fame (Anthony Calvillo, Damon Allen, Henry Burris, Danny McManus, Ron Lancaster, Matt Dunigan, Doug Flutie, Tracy Ham, Tom Clements) or have yet to become eligible (Ricky Ray, Kevin Glenn).
Kent Austin, who ranks 12th all-time with 36,030 passing yards, has not been inducted despite being eligible since 2000. The same is true for Darian Durant (15th), who became eligible for induction in 2021, as well as Tom Burgess (18th) and Kerry Joseph (19th). Bo Levi Mitchell (16th) is not yet eligible as he remains an active player.
There are also plenty of quarterbacks outside of the top 12 who are in the Hall of Fame, including Dieter Brock (13th), Sam Etcheverry (17th), Condredge Holloway (20th), Russ Jackson (21st), Bernie Faloney (23rd), Dave Dickenson (26th), Joe Kapp (27th), Tom Wilkinson (28th), Warren Moon (35th), Jackie Parker (44th), Ken Ploen (45th), and Jack Jacobs (66th).
Reilly finished his career 14th all-time with 34,805 passing yards, just 25 yards back of Dieter Brock. He threw 182 career touchdown passes (17th) and his career interception percentage (2.5) is close to or better than his contemporaries such as Bo Levi Mitchell (2.3), Ricky Ray (2.4), Darian Durant (2.9), Henry Burris (3.0), and Kevin Glenn (3.2).
Yardage is just one of many metrics to consider regarding a quarterback’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Passing statistics also need to be viewed through the lens of the era in which each quarterback played. What players like Ron Lancaster, Sam Etcheverry, Russ Jackson, Bernie Faloney, and Joe Kapp accomplished in the run-heavy 1950s and 1960s was truly remarkable.
Quarterbacks are also judged based on how many Grey Cups they won as a starter and how many times they were named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.
Reilly won one Grey Cup as a starter with the Edmonton Elks in 2015 and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He’d previously won a Grey Cup in 2011 with the B.C. Lions, albeit as a backup behind Travis Lulay. He was named the league’s M.O.P. in 2017 after throwing for a career-high 5,830 yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and rushing for 390 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Ricky Ray is the only quarterback ever to win four Grey Cups as a starter, while Bill Stukus, Warren Moon, Damon Allen, Russ Jackson, Doug Flutie, Ken Ploen, Tom Wilkinson, Bernie Faloney, and Anthony Calvillo each won three.
Kent Austin, Tom Clements, Matt Dunigan, and Henry Burris each won two, while Ron Lancaster, Tracy Ham, Condredge Holloway, Tom Burgess, Danny McManus, Dave Dickenson, and Darian Durant are on par with Reilly at one. Sam Etcheverry, Dieter Brock, and Kevin Glenn never won a Grey Cup as a starter.
Nine of the 13 quarterbacks ahead of Reilly on the CFL’s all-time passing yards list won at least one M.O.P. award: Doug Flutie won six, Anthony Calvillo won three, Henry Burris, Ron Lancaster, and Dieter Brock each won two, and Damon Allen, Danny McManus, Tracy Ham, and Tom Clements each won one.
Ricky Ray, Tom Burgess, Kevin Glenn, Matt Dunigan, and Kent Austin were never named the league’s M.O.P., though Ray received three divisional nominations and Glenn received one.
Reilly led the CFL in passing yards four different times, tying Anthony Calvillo, Ricky Ray, and Dieter Brock for fourth on the all-time list. Ahead of them are Sam Etcheverry with seven, Ron Lancaster with six, and Doug Flutie with five.
Henry Burris led the league in passing yards for three seasons, Matt Dunigan and Kent Austin both did twice, while Damon Allen, Danny McManus, and Tom Clements each did so once. Tracy Ham, Condredge Holloway, and Dave Dickenson never did. Bo Levi Mitchell, arguably Reilly’s top rival, has also never led the CFL in passing yards.
It’s also worth noting that Reilly was sensational in six career postseason starts, completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 1,820 yards, 12 touchdowns, and one interception. When the games mattered the most, Reilly was at his best.
Considering the historical comparisons to the Hall of Fame quarterbacks listed above, I would have no hesitation voting for Michael Reilly as a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Will he be an ultra-rare first ballot inductee? No, but he deserves to be enshrined after dominating the era in which he played.