2011 CFL Season Review

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The CFL is through another season and this one was one of the best in the past years as it came down to the last week. It was a season full of surprises as some teams played much better than expected while others played much worse. Records were broken and individuals began making their name in the CFL. The CFL has always been an interesting league with so few teams the turnover has been great. One team has been the kings for the past few years as they continue to play better than everyone else. This year they will see a new champion as the defending champions were eliminated in a disappointing season. As the season progressed two teams emerged as the best and will play this Sunday for the 99th Grey Cup in Vancouver. With the championship game so close it is time to look back at the 2011 season and some of the major stories from the past season.

 

Record Breaker

Rarely do you find a quarterback that is clearly the best who has ever played the game but this year in the CFL one QB made sure that everyone considered him in this light. Anthony Calvillo may not be seeking out a spotlight but he has got it and this year it was brighter than ever. After 4 years of Damon Allen sitting atop the passing records Calvillo entered the 2011 season in hot pursuit of these records. He began to break the records in July facing the last team that Damon Allen played for. In this game Calvillo passed for his 395th TD pass to Eric Deslauriers breaking Allen’s previous record of 394. Next month Calvillo did it again breaking yet another one of Damon Allen’s records as he completed his 5,159th pass against the Argonauts yet again. Finally in October Calvillo took on the Argos once more and broke another record that was by far the biggest on e he had. He passed for his 72,381st yard breaking Damon Allen’s passing yardage record and moving into the top spot in all of Pro Football. Calvillo ended the season with even more stats as at the end of the season he had 73,412 yards, 418 TD, and 5,444 completions. These records will be hard to break going forward with only Ricky Ray in line but still far off. If Calvillo does return for another season he will pad his stats even more putting them almost out of reach for everyone in the CFL. With these records, Calvillo may be a centre of the debate between in and Allen as the best QB in CFL history. The potential to add more stats to his records will put him far ahead in this debate as he has already pulled far ahead of the records making him statistically the best QB in CFL history. This season has been a whirlwind for Calvillo and after his record-setting season he might decide to hang ‘em up, especially later his concussion this year and cancer scare last offseason, but whether he comes back or not Calvillo will remain in the record books and will be considered the best QB in CFL history for the foreseeable future.

 

Changing of the Guard

For the past two years the CFL has been ruled by two teams who have been able to make the grey Cup the last two years. The Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Montreal Alouettes have played in the last two Grey Cups. The Riders and Als have been the top of their conferences for the last two years and have been the powers of both conferences. This year saw a shift though as the powers failed to repeat and the power shifted to two unlikely teams. The Western Conference saw a new champion this year but it wasn’t the Stampeders or Eskimos instead it was the B.C. Lions. The Lions finished 3rd in 2010 and did not seem to be on their way to a great season this year. They lost the first five games of the season but then after their bye week the Lions began winning a lot. They won 10 of their last 11 games as they took the top spot in the West and won the Western Finals. This changed the outlook of the future of the West as the Lions are a young team that could be the new beasts of the West. In the East the conference had been dominated by the Beasts of the East the Montreal Alouettes. The Alouettes were the two-time defending Grey Cup Champions and had been first place in the Eastern Conference for years. This changed for the first time this year as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers took over the top spot in the East this year. The Bombers got the top spot and a bye leaving the Alouettes to face off in the Eastern Semi-Final. The Als lost the Semi-Finals game against the Ti-Cats who the Bombers beat to get into the Grey Cup. With the Alouettes losing out on a Grey Cup and first place in the East the Bombers proved that the Als are beatable. They also showed that the Alouettes are beginning to falter as the East could become a lot closer in the coming years. Two new powers emerged this year and they could be there for a while and if they are not they have already thrown the CFL into a new era where any team can win any year.

 

Disastrous Seasons

With two new teams at the top of the league there were also two new teams at the bottom of the league. The difference with these teams than some is that both teams had high hopes at the beginning of the year. The Toronto Argonauts had moved up one space in 2010 as they finished with a 4-4 record and took the last spot in the playoffs. They then moved on to the Eastern Finals in 2010 but lost to the Montreal Alouettes. This gave them hope in the 2011 season as they were hoping to take their momentum into the new season and give Cleo Lemon another chance with one season under his belt. This hope was justified after week one as the Argos won their first game and looked to be a better team. Then Lemon and the offence began to fail and the Argos lost 6 games in a row until they beat the Riders before their bye week. The Argos struggled thanks to having no QB and as a solution Stephen Jyles was brought in after recovering from the injury list. Jyles looked better than Lemon but still could not bring the Argos to the playoffs as they finished with a 5-13 record. Next year they will try to recover with Jyles as the #1 QB, unless Henry Burris makes an appearance in Toronto. Meanwhile in the West the Roughriders had been to the Grey Cup for two years and this year they were hoping to get back and win after losing the last two chances. They would do this with their new head coach Greg Marshall who would take over for Ken Miller. Under Marshall the Riders struggled out of the gate losing their first three games of the season. They continued to struggle throughout the year as they could not seem to get their offence or defence going. After week 8 the Riders fired Marshall and hired their former coach who was still an executive with the team. Under Ken Miller the Riders won their first three games as they looked like a new team. After their three wins the Riders collapsed again as they finished off their season like they started. The Riders missed the playoffs with a 5-13 record after they were hoping to make the Grey Cup again. Next year the Riders will move on to yet another coach as Ken Miller announced his official retirement from football leaving the door open for a new coach. Both teams were looking to have a good season like in 2010 but quickly learned that their 2011 season would not be an easy one. Next year both teams will look to improve on this year and recover from two terrible seasons.

 

Emergence of a Star

The CFL is a league of QBs as the QB is easily the most important player on the team of a true passing league. With only 8 teams in the league QBs should be easy to find but they are not, as shown by the Toronto Argonauts since Damon Allen retired. This creates a major competition for the position among these 8 teams who look outside the league to find them. With only 8 QBs starting in the league the turnover is not that great but as these QBS get older the search for the next QB begins. With Anthony Calvillo, Henry Burris, and Ricky Ray all getting older the search has already started for young QBs. One team has already found their QB as the B.C. Lions ended their search in 2010. At the end of the 2010 season the B.C. Lions wanted to find a QB to lead their team after Jarius Jackson was not the QB they had hoped he would be. They promoted Travis Lulay who took over the team and brought them to the playoffs. In the playoffs Lulay could not continue his success as they were eliminated in the first round. Lulay was given the reigns in 2011 and a star was born. The Lions have found their QB of the future as Lulay was able to lead his team, along with his defence, to the top spot in the West and into the Grey Cup. Lulay has emerged as the future of great QBs this year as he has been the leader that the Lions needed and has played almost as good as anyone in the league. He was honoured for his performance with the West nomination for the Most Outstanding Player in the CFL. Lulay has become the newest QB to enter in the starting ranks of the CFL and the Calgary Stampeders will be looking to follow suit. In the last three weeks the Stamps benched Henry Burris in place of Drew Tate as the Stamps look for a breakout year next year in order to find their new young QB.

 

Defensive Dominance

“Defence Wins Championships” is the saying in football but for the CFL it has not always been that way. The CFL is a very offensive league with the larger field providing much more room for the passing game. This means that defence does not necessarily win championships but they do help. The last two years saw the powerful offence of Montreal win both Grey Cups with some help from a good defence. This year this changed as the most potent offence did not make it to the Grey Cup. Instead the Grey Cup will feature the two best defences in the B.C. Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Lions and Bombers have changed the face of the CFL for this year as they both won their conferences and made the grey Cup behind powerhouse defences and decent offences. Instead of the Grey Cup being a matchup of who can stop the two great offences best this year it will be a matchup of which offence can break through the opposing defence. The Defences have taken over the CFL this year and will be the major story of the Grey Cup this weekend.

 

CFL Awards

Most Outstanding Player

Travis Lulay, QB (BC Lions)

58.7% cmp

4,518 yds

32 TD

11 INT

95.8 rtg

 

Runner Up:

Anthony Calvillo, QB (Montreal Alouettes)

 

Most Outstanding Defensive Player

Jovon Johnson, DB (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

55 tkl

0 sck

8 INT

2 TD

 

Runner Up:

Jerrell Freeman, LB (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

 

Canadian Player of the Year

Jerome Messam, RB (Edmonton Eskimos)

195 rsh

1,057 yds

5.4 avg

6 TD

4 F

 

Runner Up:

Sean Whyte, K (Montreal Alouettes)

 

Special Teams Player of the Year

Paul McCallum, K (B.C. Lions)

50/53 FG

53 Lng

48/48 XP

5 Sng

203 pts

 

Runner Up:

Chad Owens, KR (Toronto Argonauts)

 

Rookie of the Year

Chris Williams, WR (Hamilton Tiger Cats) [East]

70 rec

1,064 yds

15.2 avg

6 TD

 

Runner Up:

– JC Sherritt, LB (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

 

Outstanding Lineman

Josh Bourke, OT (Montreal Alouettes)

 

Runner Up:

Jovan Olafioye, OL (B.C. Lions)

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