Will it be Kevin Glenn or Drew Tate versus Roughriders?
Stampeders coach Hufnagel to end speculation Tuesday
Better to end speculation than keep the Saskatchewan Roughriders guessing for a few more days, says Calgary Stampeders head coach and general manager John Hufnagel.
Hufnagel intends to name his starting quarterback Tuesday to minimize distraction for the Stampeders ahead of Sunday's CFL West semifinal at McMahon Stadium.
"I think it's better we address it and make people aware, make everybody aware, so there's not this constant talk about it and we can concentrate on the important things," Hufnagel said Monday.
The semifinal winner moves onto the West final Nov. 18 in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.
So will it be Drew Tate for the Stampeders against Saskatchewan? The 28-year-old from Baytown, Texas, started the season as Calgary's undisputed No. 1.
A shoulder dislocation of his non-throwing arm in his second regular-season game, and subsequent surgery, sidelined Tate for 14 of 18 games.
Or will it be the 33-year-old workhorse Kevin Glenn, who was acquired in the off-season as insurance behind Tate? Glenn threw for 4,220 yards and 25 touchdowns as Calgary posted a 9-5 record in Tate's absence.
"I don't understand why there's so much hype," Hufnagel mused to reporters. "I have two quarterbacks on my football team that can win football games in the Canadian Football League. I'm confident either one can get the job done.
"It's a position of strength on our football team. If you're asking me whether I'm looking at a two-quarterback scenario, no. Whoever is the starter will have the opportunity to play that whole game and finish it. I will make a change as I've always had if I thought a change was needed."
The Stampeder players had Monday off and return to the field Tuesday.
Tate back sooner than expected
That Hufnagel has a choice between Tate and Glenn is surprising. When Tate opted for surgery in July, he wasn't expected to return before the post-season. But he recovered quicker than planned and played portions of the final two games of the regular season, showing no indication he'd returned to action prematurely.
Before Glenn went in for the second half, Tate completed 11 of 15 passes for 139 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the regular season finale Friday versus Edmonton. Tate scrambled away from trouble more than once and left the game with the Stampeders up 20-17 at halftime.
In his first game back from injury Oct. 26 versus the Lions, Tate rotated series with Glenn. Tate was picked off on a pass attempt, but threw to Nik Lewis for a touchdown on his very next play. He finished 5-for-7 and 68 yards.
Hufnagel listed the things he likes about Tate since his return.
"Number one, that he's fully recovered from his injury. Number two is that he's throwing the ball very accurately. Number three, he's seeing the field very well. Those are things that makes Drew the quarterback that he is," he said.
Perhaps feeling under pressure to prove himself again, Tate got hot under the collar a few times Friday at Commonwealth Stadium. He gesticulated and barked at his receivers in frustration when plays fell flat. The quarterback also had a heated exchange with Hufnagel on the sidelines.
"Not a problem at all," Hufnagel said. "He knows I'm hard of hearing so he wanted to make sure when he said something that I heard him. And I did."
Tate still feels somewhat of an unknown quantity. Because of his injury, he's started seven games since Hufnagel handed him the ball with three games remaining in the 2011 season.
The six-foot, 192-pound pivot struggled in his first playoff start, which was a 33-19 loss to Edmonton in last year's West semifinal. Tate completed 5-of-10 passes for 99 yards with an interception before he was replaced by Henry Burris in the second half.
Stamps chose Tate over Burris
Hufnagel hitched his wagon to Tate nonetheless, signing him to a three-year contract extension in December. He shipped Burris to Hamilton the following month in a deal that brought Glenn to Calgary.
Glenn is 3-5 in career CFL playoff games, completing 66 per cent of his passes for seven touchdowns. After leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to victories in both the division semifinal and final in 2007, Glenn didn't play in the Grey Cup because of a broken arm suffered in the fourth quarter of the final.
Glenn's most recent playoff appearances as a Tiger-Cat are a study in contrasts. The Detroit native went 13-for-18 in passing for 113 yards and zero touchdowns in last season's 19-3 loss to Winnipeg in the East final. A week earlier, Glenn made 23 of 32 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown throw in a 52-44 victory over Montreal.
The opposing team missed a field goal to win in three of Calgary's nine victories with Glenn starting.
While it's easy to overstate a quarterback's importance in the CFL, it's difficult to win consistently without a competent one. Glenn was certainly that to help Calgary to a 12-6 record, which was second-best in the CFL.
"There's a reason why he was part of the trade," Hufnagel said. "I had a lot of confidence that if and when Kevin got on the field, he'd be able to do a great job executing the game plan and putting his teammates in good positions to succeed. He's done that.
"One thing that has totally impressed me with Kevin, is his mental toughness. He's not a volatile type of player as maybe the other quarterback is. He's faced adversity. He's come back from a mistake and has usually guided his team and put them in a position to have a chance to win."