‘The writing’s on the wall’: Bo Levi Mitchell confirms he’s played last game with Calgary Stampeders

Photo courtesy: Calgary Stampeders

Calgary Stampeders’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell couldn’t have been more clear regarding his future following his team’s 30-16 loss to the B.C. Lions in the West Semi-Final.

“The writing’s on the wall when you pay another guy. I’m not gonna beat around the bush. Obviously, things can change and all that but I think if you’re just looking, you can see what’s going on. I’m excited for whatever the next opportunity is and to begin that. Do I wish it was here in Calgary? I love these guys, I’ve worked for them and they’ve worked for me tirelessly over the last 10 or 11 years. It’s been amazing and I don’t regret a minute of it, but I do look forward to the next part,” said Mitchell.

The Stampeders signed quarterback Jake Maier through 2024 in September, drawing speculation that Mitchell’s tenure with the team would be coming to an end. The contract extension was signed one month after Maier took over the starting role from Mitchell and went 6-3 over the latter half of the season.

Mitchell entered the game late in last week’s regular season finale against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a 36-10 victory that meant nothing in the standings. He received a standing ovation from the fans in Calgary in what many considered his final farewell at McMahon Stadium.

Last week wasn’t the final time Mitchell saw the field as a member of the Stampeders, however, as he entered Sunday’s West Semi-Final with 11 minutes remaining. With his team trailing 20-6, he quickly engineered an 81-yard drive that ended in a 24-yard field goal by Rene Paredes. He drove the team 71 yards on its next possession, which ended in a one-yard touchdown run by Tommy Stevens.

Mitchell finished the game having completed eight-of-eleven pass attempts for 147 yards, topping the 138 yards that Maier generated through the air in just over three quarters of work. The veteran quarterback spoke highly of his young counterpart, insisting that Maier’s future remains bright despite a lacklustre performance in his first career postseason start.

I told him today: keep your head high, stay confident. He did a lot of special things this year. Jake’s gonna be a hell of a quarterback in this league for a very long time. He’s a guy you want in your locker room, a guy you want leading a football team,” said Mitchell.

“You’ve gotta remember, the guy’s played maybe 12 games. He’s gonna get better and better the more he plays, which is scary because he’s already pretty damn good. I think everybody in the locker room believes in him and he will continue to impress and he’s gonna play in a lot of these games and he’s gonna win a lot of them, too.”

Mitchell didn’t feel disappointed that he wasn’t put into the game sooner, regretting only that he wasn’t able to do more after taking over the controls. The game was still within reach when head coach Dave Dickenson made the change at quarterback, though B.C. scored a touchdown on their possession that followed Mitchell’s first drive.

Dave’s in a position to do whatever he thinks is best to help this team win in all moments and he’s always talking to (quarterbacks coach Marc) Mueller, (offensive coordinator) Pat (DelMonaco), [and general manager John Hufnagel] over the phone to decide if that moment is there and if it needs to happen. I’m sure it was talked about that I haven’t takenlive rep in nine weeks and that’s partly my fault as well, but I think you have to ride with your guy,” he said.

“They’ve shown loyalty to me for a very long time and they did in Grey Cups where I threw three picks in the first half and stuck with me. That’s who those guys are. They’re loyal and they will stay with their guy and as a player, that’s what you want to play for. I just tried to keep telling myself just be ready. I just wish I could have done more for the team there at the end.”

Dickenson seemed satisfied with the play of his young quarterback despite only generating six points in his time at the helm. He credited B.C. for playing well and highlighted other issues that plagued Calgary in the loss.

“I think Jake played hard and I don’t think [the loss] was really on him. I just don’t think there was enough guys open and we didn’t have the ball long enough, we weren’t protecting him well enough. The calls weren’t fitting well enough. It was a group effort. I’m a big man, I want to take some of that off of those quarterbacks. I would have liked to give him better options. He’s competing hard, hopefully he uses it as a great learning experience,” said Dickenson.

“I’ve always coached how to win a game and provide a spark and be fair with the guys. I never enjoy doing that, I’ve gotten pulled. He understands football’s football, trying to find a spark and thought Bo went in there and did some good things as well. We made a couple of catches for him and the whole thing about it is you just try to win a football game.”

This marks the third straight year in which Calgary has lost the West Semi-Final. The club dropped the contest in 2019 to the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a score of 35-14 before losing 33-30 in overtime to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2021. The Stampeders won at least one playoff game in each of the preceding five years, reaching the Grey Cup four times and winning it twice.

As for Mitchell, he had nothing but positive things to say about his storied tenure in Cowtown.

It’s been an amazing ride, an amazing career. I just appreciate everybody that has given me this opportunity. Start with Huf, Dave — those guys have stayed loyal to me for a very long time, given me opportunities to succeed and protected my image by playing me in certain games and maybe not playing me in other games,” said Mitchell.

“Those are things that Huf and Dave think about and they have always led their team that way and I’m just very appreciative to be able to play with Dave. He’s been a hell of a play-caller from me and a coach and mentor and Mueller as well. That’s a guy that’s going to be talked about a lot this offseason. He’s a guy that’s on the rise and I’m just proud of everybody in the locker room for what we did this year, but we obviously feel like we could have done more.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.