Somebody once told me that polls are going to roil me, and that's the case with the results of the league all-star votes that were released Monday (complete list here). The list of league all-stars is annually selected by CFL head coaches and members of the Football Reporters of Canada (disclosure: I'm a member of the organization, but don't have a vote on these awards) and also includes a fan voting component, and it's a worthwhile endeavour; by and large, these lists tend to recognize excellence, and as with the CFLPA's own all-stars, they create some interesting debates. That doesn't mean we can't complain about particular omissions this year, and the most notable this year may be that of quarterback Henry Burris in favour of Anthony Calvillo.*
Henry Burris, you say? Wasn't I just arguing in 2010 that he didn't deserve to win the league's Most Outstanding Player award and Calvillo did? Well, yes, and I stand by that; in 2010, Calvillo was the better quarterback by the crucial numbers, including completion percentage and touchdown/interception ratio, but was snubbed in favour of Burris. However, the case was reversed this year. Despite a 2011 campaign that saw him benched in favour of Drew Tate and eventually traded to Hamilton, 2012 marked a renaissance for Burris. He led the league in passing yards, putting up 5,367 to Calvillo's 5,082, and also edged the Montreal quarterback in completion percentage (64.7 per cent to 60.0 per cent), touchdown to interception ratio (43 to 18, or 2.4, versus 31 to 14, or 2.2) and passer rating (104.4 to 98.3).
Yes, Burris wasn't perfect, and he had plenty of days where he threw terrible interceptions. By and large, though, it's easy to make the case he was the league's best signal-caller this year. Of course, most of the league's other top pivots, including Calvillo, Ricky Ray and Travis Lulay, all battled through significant injuries. Still, what Burris accomplished stands out more than what any other quarterback did this year, and it might even represent a career-best showing for him (he hit personal highs in yards, touchdowns, and passer rating). The years may have started coming for the 37-year-old Burris, but for this season at least, they stopped coming.
So why wasn't Burris selected? Well, oddly enough, it likely comes back to the same reason he won over Calvillo in 2010. That year, 13-5 Calgary had a better record than 12-6 Montreal. Conversely, this season saw the Alouettes go 11-7 while the 6-12 Tiger-Cats finished in the league basement. Judging quarterbacks by wins and losses might suggest your head is getting dumb, but many still do. Still, that ignores that most of Hamilton's problems were thanks to their league-worst defence, and the ice that logic is skating on gets pretty thin. Calvillo had a solid season, but it was a step back for him in many ways (including completion percentage and touchdown/interception ratio). Burris had one of his greatest seasons ever, and he shouldn't be penalized for his defence being terrible. Just because Hamilton put the shape of 12 Ls on his forehead doesn't mean he shouldn't be an all-star. Maybe it goes against the grain for a quarterback to suddenly get better at 37, but Burris did, and after all, only shooting stars break the mould...
*An unrelated, and more minor, but still notable gripe: is it really necessary to pick three middle linebackers? Yes, J.C. Sherritt, Adam Bighill and Shea Emry all had incredible seasons. Yes, they probably had the best seasons of any three linebackers in the league (although Calgary hybrid LB/DB Keon Raymond has a solid argument thanks to his all-around excellence, as does Edmonton's Damaso Munoz). Sherritt, Bighill and Emry play the same position, though, and we're not listing quarterbacks as running backs thanks to sharing the backfield or listing cornerbacks as safeties just because they're both defensive backs. The outside linebacker slots have their own unique demands, and excellence there should be recognized as well, preferably with nods for the best weak-side and strong-side linebackers individually, but even nods for the two best outside linebackers regardless of side would be a step forwards. Just because we're fed to the rules doesn't mean we can't hit the ground running; we can all use a little change.
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