NFL equivalents for eight current CFL quarterbacks

Courtesy: AP photo/Larry MacDougal/Lon Horwedel. Edit: 3DownNation.

Many CFL fans will be hunkered down around the TV watching copious amounts of U.S. college and NFL football over the holidays. To make the experience all the more enjoyable,  we at 3DownNation have conducted exhaustive research to find the best NFL equivalents for eight current CFL quarterbacks.

Not everyone’s favourite passer is on the list but that shouldn’t offend anyone. For example, we tried like mad to find an NFL quarterback similar to Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson before realizing there is none even remotely similar. McBeth is the most fascinating man in football and his journey stands alone. But that doesn’t mean we won’t celebrate some other journeys along the way.

Without further ado, here are the best CFL-NFL quarterback equivalents we could come up with.

Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Trevor Harris — Kirk Cousins

Trevor Harris is 36 years old, just barely older than the 34-year-old Kirk Cousins. Both have grown from scrapheap darlings into pro football mainstays. Harris did five years as a CFL backup behind star quarterbacks Ricky Ray and Henry Burris. Cousins did three as an NFL backup in the shadow of Robert Griffin III before being given the starting reins.

Harris spent most of his backup days learning from an offensive head coach in Scott Milanovich, while Cousins listened through his headset to an offensive guru in Mike Shanahan. Both would later have beef with different head coaches as Cousins famously shoved Mike Zimmer in October of 2021, just two days before Harris found himself unceremoniously benched by Jaime Elizondo.

Cousins was sassed by his own general manager in Minnesota when Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said, “We don’t have Tom Brady, we don’t have Pat Mahomes.” Harris was under-appreciated three years earlier when then-Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins lowballed him on a contract extension offer just three months after he had taken that team to a Grey Cup.

Trevor Harris plays in Montreal, a market that is mad about hockey. Kirk Cousins plays in Minnesota, also known as the State of Hockey.

Both are pocket passers who stand tall at six-foot-three but Harris has a better career completion percentage (70.7 percent) than Cousins (66.7 percent) at the time of this writing. They’ve each played about 14 games per season since their rookie year in 2012 and they are both still hunting for their first pro championship as a starter.

Kirk Cousins has a regular season win-loss record of 70-62-2. Trevor Harris has a regular season win-loss record of 40-39-2.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Morry Gash

Nick Arbuckle — Baker Mayfield

Overhyped prospects posing as star quarterbacks is something usually reserved for the NFL but if the CFL had such a player, it would be Ottawa Redblacks’ quarterback Nick Arbuckle. His time in the Calgary Stampeders’ quarterback factory helps explain how someone in the CFL could possibly become as hyped as Baker Mayfield was in the NFL.

Both quarterbacks have worn out their welcome in two different markets; Arbuckle in Toronto and Edmonton, Mayfield in Cleveland and Carolina. They both have the exact same height at six-foot-one and nearly the exact same weight between 213 and 215 pounds.

Mayfield may have won the Heisman but Arbuckle won the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Long before Baker Mayfield suited up for the Panthers of the NFL, Nick Arbuckle ran the offence of the Panthers at Georgia State.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Stacy Bengs

Dane Evans — Nick Foles

Nobody in their right mind would ever declare that either Dane Evans or Nick Foles are franchise quarterbacks. However, you can’t deny that both have played a meaningful role in some of pro football’s biggest moments.

Quarterbacking for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats over the past five seasons, Evans had served mostly as a backup before injury thrust him into the starter’s role during the 2019 campaign and he made his first of two Grey Cup appearances that November. Foles has served mainly as a backup himself with some notable exceptions, namely his magical Super Bowl run in 2017. That came in the same season he shared a training camp QB room with Evans in Philadelphia.

Both of these pivots played their high school football in the state of Texas and both of them wear the number 9 on their respective uniforms. Foles once played for a head coach who was an NFL backup quarterback in Doug Pederson and Evans once played for a head coach who was a CFL backup quarterback in June Jones. More recently, Foles played in Indianapolis for since-fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, who spent two of his seven seasons as a CFL quarterback with the Ticats.

Foles once tossed an NFL-record seven touchdown passes in a single game. Evans didn’t quite set a record but did something almost as impressive by launching five touchdown passes in an unexpected beatdown of the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers this year.

Neither player is expected to be with their current team next year, as Hamilton tries to move on from Evans after a disappointing year and the Colts look to blow everything up.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Nick Wass

Taylor Cornelius — Taylor Heinicke

Aside from sharing the same first name, both Taylors came to their current jobs via the XFL; Cornelius with the Tampa Bay Vipers and Heinicke with the St. Louis BattleHawks. Both were undrafted free agents and both outlasted highly paid free agents to win the starting job, with Cornelius pushing both Trevor Harris and Nick Arbuckle out in Edmonton and Heinicke doing the same to Carson Wentz in Washington.

They each quarterback teams that just changed their names from racially insensitive previous nicknames and both men grew up in football-mad states; Texas for Cornelius and Georgia for Heinicke.

Admittedly, this isn’t the greatest comparison on our countdown, but the identical first name and XFL connections were too tempting to pass up.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

Bo Levi Mitchell — Russell Wilson

Both of these quarterbacks have drawn comparisons to the great Doug Flutie for different reasons. Mitchell for his status as arguably the greatest quarterback in Calgary Stampeders history and Russell Wilson for being undersized and able to prove the doubters wrong.

If Mitchell is the best Stampeders quarterback who ever lived, Wilson is easily the best for the Seattle Seahawks. Bo took the Stamps to four Grey Cups, winning twice. Russ took the Seahawks to two Super Bowls, winning once.

Wilson was caught by TV cameras watching from the stands of BC Place in Vancouver as Mitchell won his first Grey Cup in November of 2014 and Bo probably watched on TV as Russ captured his first Super Bowl in New York some nine months earlier.

Wilson spent 10 years with his first team in Seattle and Mitchell spent 11 with his first team in Calgary. Bo grew up in Katy, Texas but played his college ball at Eastern Washington University, in the same state where Russ became famous. Both entered the NFL draft in 2012, with Wilson not going until the third round and Mitchell not going at all.

Bo Levi Mitchell’s CFL first head coach, John Hufnagel, was born in 1951, two days before Russell Wilson’s first NFL head coach, Pete Carroll, was born. In fact, just for good measure, these two quarterbacks were born just over 15 months apart.

Both teams who groomed these legends eventually decided they could do without them. Wilson was traded in early 2022 by Seattle to Denver for five draft picks and three players. Mitchell was traded in late 2022 to Hamilton for just two draft picks and future considerations, but all the Ticats were getting was three months of exclusive negotiating rights.

As Bo begins his second pro football journey, he certainly hopes it will start better than Russell’s has this year.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Cody Fajardo — Carson Wentz

Cody’s connection to Nevada, time with the Raiders, and praise of their quarterback made it all awfully tempting to pair him up with Las Vegas QB Derek Carr. But those facts are trumped by the similarities between Fajardo and Wentz.

For starters, Fajardo and Wentz were both born in 1992 and are the only quarterbacks born that year to start a game in either the CFL or NFL this season. Both have fallen out of favour and have been benched by their respective teams, Cody in Saskatchewan and Carson in Washington.

Cody Fajardo has suited up for three teams in the CFL including the Argos, Lions and Roughriders. Carson Wentz has suited up for three teams in the NFL including the Eagles, Colts and Commanders. One had to deal with the Garrett Marino fiasco in Saskatchewan this year, while the other has had to deal with the Daniel Snyder fiasco in Washington.

One plays in the prairie cold of Saskatchewan and the other grew up next door in the prairie cold of North Dakota. Fajardo got a Grey Cup ring as a backup in 2017, mere months before Wentz collected a Super Bowl ring from the Eagles’ injured reserve.

Long before being benched, Cody was an all-star and Carson was a Pro Bowler. In his finest year ever, Wentz led Philadelphia to an 11-2 record to set up the Eagles’ eventual championship win that season. Fajardo once led the Riders to a 12-2 stretch to finish the regular season and set the Roughriders up to host their second West Final since 1976.

Cody wears a big fat ‘S’ on his helmet while Carson wears a big fat ‘W’ on his. Both are viewed as excellent, approachable and fan-friendly people off the field. Each quarterback has shown great scrambling ability at times combined with a questionable pocket presence that can lead to too many sacks. Both have had knee injuries and have worn knee braces that limited their mobility and effectiveness.

Both players are at a fork in the road of their respective careers. They could each re-emerge to be the superstars they have shown flashes to be, become great experienced backups and mentors for younger players, or even fade away altogether.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Butch Dill

Zach Collaros — Matthew Stafford

Both Collaros and Stafford quarterback historic franchises that use blue, gold and white for their colour schemes. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers actually use a true blue and gold and the Los Angeles Rams have more of a royal blue and yellow combination, but both teams returned to a traditional look during the 2010s.

Both are 34 years old and had to wait until their thirties before sipping champagne in championship glory. Both battled serious injuries beforehand which nearly derailed their careers.

For Stafford, it was shoulder problems in his first two years that started the derogatory comments that he was made of glass. For Collaros, it was a knee injury in 2015 and concussion problems that followed which threatened to cut his career short.

Subsequent trades to Toronto and later Winnipeg landed Zach in the perfect spot on a Blue Bombers squad that had a star-studded defence and needed a quarterback to put them over the top. Zach did just that with four straight wins to finish the season, mow through the playoffs and win the 2019 Grey Cup. He backed it up with another title win a year later.

It was only one trade that flew Matthew Stafford from the doldrums of the Detroit Lions to the prime real estate of west coast living and a star-studded Rams team that needed their own cherry to put them over the top. Stafford did just that with a nearly 5,000-yard passing season and four straight playoff wins to capture Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles.

It remains to be seen if Stafford can rise to the heights of Collaros in winning multiple championships and threaten to generate a true dynasty. However, the symmetry is real.

Collaros recently signed a three-year contract extension with Winnipeg that will pay him a handsome sum of $600,000 per year, according to reports from Justin Dunk of 3DownNation. It’s not all that different from the CFL equivalent of the $40 million per year Matt Stafford will get from the four-year extension he signed that will keep him with the Rams through 2026.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Nathan Rourke — Joe Burrow

These are two young quarterbacks with roots in Athens, Ohio. Long before Nathan Rourke was a CFL star, he lit up the Mid-American Conference at Ohio University. That’s where former CFL defensive back Jimmy Burrow coached for a dozen years, stepping down as defensive coordinator after Rourke’s junior year to go watch his son, local high school sensation Joe, win a National Championship with LSU.

Burrow might have captured the Heisman, but Rourke won the Jon Cornish Trophy as Canada’s top NCAA player twice. After being drafted to their respective leagues in 2020, both players now wear black and orange in the pros and have rejuvenated what were lacklustre brands at the time of their arrivals.

Burrow’s rookie year ended early due to injury, while Rourke’s first season ended before it started due to the COVID pandemic and he held a clipboard in 2021. Both players really hit their stride during their second seasons, as Burrow had the NFL’s highest completion percentage in 2021 and Rourke set a new all-time CFL record for completion percentage in 2022.

Each signal-caller won their first playoff game in the same calendar year of 2022. Burrow’s Bengals beat the Raiders in a wild-card game in front of a hometown crowd in January, months before Rourke’s Lions beat the Stampeders in the West Semi-Final in front of a hometown crowd in November.

If 3DownNation’s JC Abbott is to be believed, the Bengals are only the 17th-best NFL fit to land Nathan Rourke this offseason but there’s still a chance these two could end up as teammates in 2023. There’s a good chance that Rourke has already played his final down in Canada, which would deal a devastating blow to B.C. Lions fans but deliver them someone to cheer for on NFL Sundays as well.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.