After his OT heroics in the East semi against Montreal, the spotlight is now on Hamilton backup quarterback Dan LeFevour ahead of Sunday's East final in
Toronto, and No. 1 QB Henry Burris is in his shadow.
Henry Burris is one of the best quarterbacks ever to have played in the CFL. Statistically, he has had a very successful year, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats boast the second-most proficient passing attack in the CFL this season.
Hamilton head coach Kent Austin stated that his coaching staff "seriously contemplated" pulling Burris in the fourth quarter of the East semifinal against Montreal last weekend and replacing him with backup Dan LeFevour before deciding to stick with the more experienced Burris.
In overtime, LeFevour handled the ball on six of Hamilton's eight plays, including a two-yard touchdown run that gave the Ticats a 19-16 win.
"I trust Dan LeFevour," Austin told reporters when questioned about the increased number of snaps LeFevour received.
"He's our guy," running back C.J. Gable said of LeFevour's performance with the game on the line.
At the end of the game, it was LeFevour, not Burris, who was hoisted up on his teammates' shoulders.
The spotlight is now on LeFevour ahead of Sunday's East final in Toronto, and Burris is sitting in his shadow. From my perspective, this is an uncomfortable position that Austin finds himself in, and one he will be forced to delicately deal with as he prepares his team.
If it wasn't for a bucket full of mistakes that Montreal made, and an obvious missed pass interference call in the end zone, Hamilton doesn't win Sunday. I guess you sometimes need to be lucky to be good.
Against the wind
While watching the game, it looked to me as though something was wrong with Burris. Maybe he was sick? Maybe the 65 km/h wind gusts in Guelph were a lot more difficult to adjust to than I realized? Either way, he was hesitant in his throws and regularly missed his targets.
Yes, the 97-yard drive Burris led that culminated in a Gable touchdown late in the fourth quarter was clutch, but it was the only offensive production that Burris was able to piece together all afternoon.
I have to assume the wind had something to do with Burris's inability to throw the football. However, even the routine pass into the flat that Gable ran in for a touchdown was thrown way behind the pass catcher, forcing him to make a difficult adjustment just to grab the football.
Over the past three weeks Burris has averaged only 135 passing yards per game and has thrown the same number of interceptions as touchdowns.
Maybe Austin has come to the conclusion that his team may be good enough offensively to get into the playoffs, but not good enough to compete with top-tier teams unless he introduced a wrinkle into the offensive package.
Maybe the passing statistics this season are simply a product of a weak schedule rather than an accurate indication of where the Ticats are offensively. Hamilton played the lowly Blue Bombers four times this season, and nine of the Ticats' 10 wins came against bottom-tier teams or those that were struggling with backup quarterbacks late in the season.
At the end of the day, the Ticats are not executing offensively. They are not passing or rushing the ball particularly well. Getting stuffed at the goal line on third down and the insertion of LeFevour as a "running specialist" are not good signs.
If Hamilton is to have a chance of competing with Toronto on Sunday, Burris will need to step out of the shadows, place the game on his shoulders and assert himself as the leader the Ticats need.
Greg FrersGreg played in the Canadian Football League as an all-star safety for 10 years, and was a two-time Grey Cup champion with the Calgary Stampeders. He retired from the CFL after the 2002 season, and later joined CBC Sports as a football analyst. Greg currently lives in Vancouver with his wife Lisa and their three boys.