It seems unlikely to happen but there is plenty of evidence to suggest Trevor Harris — not Bo Levi Mitchell — is the best fit to quarterback the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2023.
As hard as it may be to imagine the Montreal Alouettes not coming to terms on a contract extension with their franchise quarterback prior to the start of free agency on Feb. 14, it’s happened before. Harris absconded from the Toronto Argonauts in February 2016 and again from the Ottawa Redblacks just three months after leading them to a Grey Cup appearance in 2018.
Harris and the Als appear to be a great match — new head coach Jason Maas was in Edmonton when Harris joined the Elks in 2019 — but things don’t always work out in professional sports. So, until the veteran quarterback signs a contract extension with Montreal, it’s possible he could join the Riders.
For starters, Saskatchewan made a gamble keeping head coach Craig Dickenson and general manager Jeremy O’Day after the green and white finished this past season losing 11 of their last 13 games. Rider Nation might seem happily willing to buy tickets and merchandise no matter the circumstances, but that isn’t so.
Just about any two-year slump in the modern era of the franchise has put it into a ditch of empty seats and coinciding financial losses. This scenario has only played out once in the last 20 years and it conveniently occurred alongside the opening of a then-new Mosaic Stadium as the team went 8-28 over the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The novelty of the new park opening in 2017 and the promising signs of Chris Jones’ rebuild gave fans hope but neither of those perks are around to entice season ticket holders this time around. The status quo is not an easy sell in the entertainment business, especially one where the status quo disappointed so many in 2022.
It’s the responsibility of team management to excite people and Harris would do just that. He’s a quarterback with a track record of winning and breaking records while playing some of his best football this past season despite being in his mid-30s. The 36-year-old has helped turn around the fortunes of teams before and has arguably a better recent track record than any other quarterback who may come available.
Let’s also not dismiss the hints dropped by new Riders’ offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey. He was supposed to be Scott Milanovich’s quarterbacks’ coach with Edmonton in 2020 before the season was cancelled.
“At the time, the quarterback was going to be Trevor Harris and to have those things all kind of line up, I felt very strongly that I was in the right place,” Jeffrey explained when asked about his connection to Milanovich.
OK, maybe that’s not such a big deal. Jeffrey has also said nice things about Cody Fajardo. Were there any other hints dropped that could lead any of us to conclude he thinks Harris would look great in Riderville? How about when he was asked what kind of offence he plans to run?
“Number one is (we’ve) got to be efficient,” said Jeffrey. “We want a high completion percentage. We want to get some easy completions for our quarterback so that he can stay on track.”
Interestingly, Harris holds the CFL record for the highest completion percentage in a postseason game at 90.6 percent. There were also only two starters this past season — B.C.’s Nathan Rourke and Calgary’s Jake Maier — who had better completion percentages than Harris and only Toronto’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed more passes.
There are a number of quarterbacks currently set to hit the free-agent market but Harris does the best job of checking every box. Mitchell hasn’t recently played at an elite level. Matthew Shiltz doesn’t have a proven track record of success. Bethel-Thompson is reportedly mulling retirement. And the possible repatriation of Fajardo wouldn’t inspire confidence in local fans.
Harris checks all of these boxes and remains hungry to win his first Grey Cup as a starting quarterback. Let’s also not ignore that Montreal’s former running backs coach, Andre Bolduc, has spent time with Harris and could provide a familiar face in the clubhouse.
Despite sources telling 3DownNation that Jeffrey is a fan of Dane Evans, the quarterback’s disastrous 2022 season in Hamilton would also make him a tough sell with Riderville.
It’s not likely to happen as Harris will likely re-sign with Montreal, but don’t count him out from ending up in Riderville. At least not yet.