Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed is going with experience over rookie flashes of brilliance.
Reed named veteran Kerry Joseph his starting quarterback ahead of Matt Nichols for when the Eskimos meet the Argonauts in Sunday's CFL Eastern semifinal in Toronto.
"After looking at everything Kerry Joseph is going to be our starter," Reed said Thursday. "Both of them are happy about the situation. Matt knows that he has an opportunity and Kerry knows the ball is in his hands to get us off to a fast start.
"In a post-season game, Kerry has won a Grey Cup, been an [Grey Cup] MVP. This is a one-and-done, an elimination game. We looked at all the intangibles, most of the variables and at this time Kerry Joseph has the best understanding of what we're trying to accomplish and he's been on this stage before."
Reed also confirmed that running back Hugh Charles will be the main guy Sunday and a decision on his backup will be made in Toronto. Charles missed the last two games with a knee injury, but practised the last three days with no noticeable pain.
"We decided Hugh gives us a very good opportunity in terms of his versatility, so we know Hugh Charles is going to go," said Reed. "The other two [non-import Jerome Messam and import Cory Boyd] we have to decide. We will have both on the 46-man roster so that gives us a little time to make the decision.
"The biggest decision was who is the most versatile person and Hugh has proven that he's been exceptionally versatile as a pass receiver and a runner and he's been pretty darn good in protection."
In 16 games Charles ran for 887 and six touchdowns and caught 32 passes for 522 yards and two TDs.
Joseph said he cherishes another playoff starting opportunity and after not playing last week — Nichols got his second start of the season and played the full game in a 30-27 loss to Calgary — is well rested.
He said the one thing the Eskimos absolutely have to do Sunday is avoid another of their slow starts that have put them behind on the scoreboard and often taken the running game out of their game plan.
Nichols not surprised
"That has to change, you have to get momentum on your side," he said. "There's going to be ups and downs in a playoff game. The team that can overcome those moments is the one that's going to come out on the top."
Reed said that was another factor in their decision.
"We went back and looked at how each handled adverse situations. When Kerry has a slow start we know he can process it through because of his experience. Matt doesn't have that experience yet. In an elimination game there's a need for guys who have been through the war."
And, he added, people seem to forget that "the two games we needed to win, Kerry Joseph was the starting quarterback and they were convincing wins."
Joseph finished the season with 153 completions in 254 attempts for 2,187 yards, 12 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and a QB rating of 87.5. In his brief playing time Nichols was good on 48 of 83 passes for 884 yards, seven TDs, three interceptions and a rating of 107.7.
Joseph ran 40 times for 238 yards and three TDs but fumbled five times. Nichols ran 10 times for 76 yards, one touchdown and three fumbles.
Nichols, who started twice this season and earned the start in the regular-season finale after a brilliant second-half relief performance in Montreal, wasn't upset or surprised by the decision.
"You have to take baby steps as a quarterback," he said. "He's a proven guy and I'm still a 25-year-old rookie and for them to make a decision for me to start would have been, I don't want to say a riskier decision, but Kerry is a proven guy in situations like this."
Plus, he said, he's quite comfortable coming off the bench if need be.
"I've done that a couple of times this year. Sometimes it's not bad to just be told you're going in, put on your helmet and suddenly you're out there, you don't have too much time to think about it. You can just go out and play football."