Chris Streveler (17) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after winning the 107th Grey Cup game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, AB, Sunday, November. 24, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras/CFL)
Take your pick of your favourite Chris Streveler moment during his two years as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber, whether it comes from his regularly charging over would-be tacklers or from his living large after the Grey Cup championship last November.
For many, the lasting image of the quarterback in these parts was of a young man enjoying himself during the championship revelry, beginning with the sight of him kicking open the door at McMahon Stadium in Calgary – the cup cradled in his arms, a stogie stuffed in the corner of his mouth – to what unfolded in the days after.
Streveler was everywhere as the Bombers and their fans celebrated, but became somewhat of a folk hero during the championship parade. There was Streveler all decked out in a fur coat – shirt not required – while wearing jorts, a cowboy hat, sunglasses and a size large smile.
He was tossed beers during the parade and capped off the visual with his impersonation of the Spice Adams laugh, followed by ‘Have you guys seen the Grey Cup yet? That’s pretty awesome, man’ and his now-infamous ‘I’m lit right now, you’re all lit right now… this is amazing.’
— WPG Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) February 3, 2020
That’s what first came back to yours truly on Monday when the club officially announced it had released Streveler to pursue NFL opportunities – a development which had been speculated for weeks.
First and foremost, though, Streveler should be remembered by Bombers fans as the ultimate teammate who took on the starting role at the start of 2018 when Matt Nichols was injured on the last full practice of training camp. He filled in capably over last two years as a starter and willingly accepted his role as a short-yardage specialist when Nichols was injured and again when Zach Collaros was parachuted in at the trade deadline in October.
And his performances late in the season while working on a bum ankle – and especially Calgary in the Western Semi-final, when he rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown in a gritty performance – are now part of Bombers playoff folklore.
The question for the Bombers now that Streveler has headed south is this: how does this impact the club’s QB depth chart and the offensive game plan in 2020?
Let’s break this down a bit further here bit by bit…
The Bombers were 4-9 in games Streveler started over the last two years – 1-4 in 2018 (including the regular season finale loss in Edmonton in which a number of starters were rested), and 3-5 in 2019.
That bottom-line, won/lost record always gets hung on the quarterback, but it’s worth noting that in addition to the Eskimo loss at the end of ’18 that should include an asterisk, the Bombers also had huge fourth-quarter meltdowns in two other losses, his first-ever start against Edmonton in 2018 and the collapse in Montreal last September. That mark also includes the defence not being able to hold a late lead in the Labour Day Classic loss to Regina last year.
Streveler completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 2,698 yards with 19 touchdowns against 19 interceptions over his two years, although his touchdown-to-interception ratio went from 11:5 as a rookie to 8:14 last year.
What made him so unique – and so appealing to his NFL suitors, especially in the wake of the success the New Orleans Saints had with Taysom Hill – was the wrinkle he offered as a rusher. Streveler had 22 rushing TDs in just 35 games as a Bomber. His 726 yards rushing last year also broke the club record for ground yards by a QB, dating back to the 541 Ken Ploen had in 1960.
Simply put, there aren’t many QBs with his speed, size and agility and that made him the ‘positional unicorn’ – the same term NFL types use to describe the Saints Hill.
THE NEW NO. 2
As intriguing as some of the QB names are – either currently on the street or pending free agents – the Bombers are committed to Sean McGuire as their No. 2 pivot behind Collaros. That doesn’t mean something might change between now and the start of the 2020 season, but there is a significant salary cap crunch that comes with working to keep the roster of a Grey Cup champion intact while waiting on Willie Jefferson to explore his own NFL opportunities.
In other words, the idea of the Bombers adding an Antonio Pipkin, James Franklin, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Brandon Bridge or Jonathan Jennings as depth is a longshot right now.
Here’s the danger in that: while McGuire dressed for all 18 games last year and showed improvement in practice over the course of the year, he had only three pass attempts last year.
He’s a solid 6-2, 218 – Streveler is listed at 6-1, 216 – but is seen more of a prototypical QB than the QB/RB hybrid Streveler became in two years here. Would new offensive coordinator Buck Pierce opt to use McGuire in short-yardage scenarios the same way LaPolice did with Streveler? Perhaps. But it’s also possible the Bombers short-yardage attack will look more like it did in 2017, when Dan LeFevour ran that package and finished with six touchdowns.
AND AT NO. 3?
CFL teams will be required to dress only two quarterbacks in 2020, but expect teams to keep at least one more on either the 46-man roster or practice squad. The cap squeeze – not just here, but across the Canadian Football League – might squeeze out the journeyman veteran quarterback. What will be interesting is to see what kind of impact, if any, Streveler’s work with the Bombers might have on the type of pivot they recruit for that third spot.
Will they lean towards signing the best prospect available, or be tempted to find another QB unicorn, like Streveler, who can offer a different dimension to the offence?