The Barker Bowl — better known as the Grey Cup — will be played Sunday night in Hamilton by two quarterbacks that Jim Barker brought to the Canadian Football League.
While Barker will be talking football on television, the QBs he recruited to back up Ricky Ray in Toronto will be starting for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Montreal Alouettes at Tim Hortons Field.
And the truth is, there aren’t enough Jim Barkers working in the quarterback-poor CFL.
Barker was watching the University of Cincinnati play years ago when he spotted a freshman quarterback named Zach Collaros.
He liked what he saw and instantly put him on the Argos negotiation list. He then did more research and found out that Collaros was 65-1 as a high school quarterback in the football-crazy state of Ohio.
Collaros will be starting in his fourth consecutive Grey Cup for the Bombers on Sunday. He will one day be in the Hall of Fame.
The starting quarterback for Montreal is Cody Fajardo. He started as an Argo, like Collaros, backing up Ray. He, too, was a Barker find.
Barker first learned of Fajardo when he was a college backup to Colin Kaepernick. In the Los Angeles area before that, Fajardo had been high school player of the year and QB on a state-winning championship team.
Barker knew Fajardo didn’t have a great arm — probably not the kind you need to play in the CFL — but he also determined he had this intangible. “He knew how to win,” said Barker, now an analyst for TSN. “You can’t teach that. You either do or you don’t. He’s a tough kid who can battle through just about anything. He’s not a natural.”
A third Barker quarterback recruit was also in the news this week. Ken Dorsey, brought to Toronto because of his football smarts — not necessarily his talent — but he remained on the practice roster and never did play a game for the Argos.
Dorsey did wind up coaching and just the other day was fired as the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills.
“He’s a smart football guy,” said Barker of Dorsey. “I don’t expect he’ll be out of work for long.”
Barker, with an eye for quarterbacks, should be out finding them for somebody in a league far too thin at the most important position.
THIS AND THAT
Connor McDavid is not, repeat not, LeBron James. He doesn’t want to coach, manage and play all at the same time for the Edmonton Oilers. He just wants to win. So, the fact that McDavid’s former agent, Jeff Jackson is now in charge of the Oilers and his former junior coach, Kris Knoblauch has replaced Jay Woodcroft behind the Edmonton bench, is not McDavid orchestrating havoc behind the scenes. It is ownership doing whatever it believes is necessary to make certain McDavid doesn’t sour on the franchise. GM Ken Holland will be gone at the end of the season — his call — and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Gagner, whose son plays for the Oilers and is another former McDavid associate and a close Jackson friend, is brought in to be Oilers GM … Kyle Dubas messed up in trading away Rasmus Sandin. The former first-round defenceman is playing 23 minutes a night for the improving Washington Capitals. His salary: Just $1.4 million a year. And he’s only 23 years old. … Early season or not, it’s unusual to see defencemen in the top 10 in NHL scoring, where you can find Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar among the leaders, and eight defencemen in all scoring a point a game or better. For my money, Hughes has been the best player in the NHL to date this season … Morgan Rielly had a superb playoff run with the Leafs and has carried that strong play into what is looking like his most complete season as a pro … If I’m doing marketing for the TTC, I’m finding a way to get William Nylander as a spokesman for the transportation outfit. Take The Nylander Way … If Nylander comes in at around $11 million next season and Auston Matthews’ salary jumps to $13.5, how do the Leafs afford to also pay $22 million to John Tavares and Mitch Marner? That would be more than $46 million for the Core Four … Pavel Datsyuk is eligible for next year’s Hockey Hall of Fame class. Could the Hall find a way to get him and Henrik Zetterberg in as a pair? Their entire careers were almost played side-by-side … Yet, based solely on career achievement, my 2024 class could include Datsyuk, Alex Mogilny, Patrik Elias and another first-timer, Shea Weber. The Hall will have to find room for Weber, Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith the next few years.
HEAR AND THERE
I will believe the Blue Jays are serious players in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes the day they announce his signing. Until then, I think they’re busy spreading the word they’re very interested in the MVP Ohtani to tease the fan base and make them believe they are, in fact, significant on the big stage … Mark Shapiro is smart enough and connected enough around baseball to know how and where to plant the right stories to get maximum attention when necessary … At the beginning, it looked like Calgary’s Mike Soroka was going to be a star pitcher in the major leagues. Injuries, however, have absolutely decimated him. Very quietly on Thursday, Soroka was traded by the Atlanta Braves in a 1-for-5 deal with the White Sox. At the age of 21, Soroka started 29 games for the Braves, with a 2.68 earned run average. Now at 26, he’s basically starting all over again … After Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, is Dwight Gooden the best pitcher not in the Baseball Hall of Fame? He was nasty in his early years with the Mets … Oakland has hit for the cycle now that the A’s are moving to Las Vegas. Oakland has lost teams in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. No other city has done that before … Both the CFL and the NHL have too many awards. The CFL has more awards than teams … John Schneider got one of 90 votes for manager of the year in the American League. Had the voting taken place after the wild-card series, he wouldn’t have gotten even that one third-place vote.
SCENE AND HEARD
How is it that the American networks, TNT and ESPN, one year in, have figured out how to present hockey better than Rogers Sportsnet is doing it in Year 10 of its 12-year deal with the NHL where Hockey Night In Canada remains a work in progress … Chad Kelly turned the ball over nine times in the Argos East final loss to Montreal last Saturday. The most recent time an NFL team did that was the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. Their quarterback, Chad’s uncle Jim Kelly. Must be a family business of some kind … The model jerseys seen of the Toronto PWHL franchise look snazzy, like the early Pittsburgh Penguins colours worn by Les Binkley … Gary Stern never wanted to sell the Montreal Alouettes. He was forced to. Must be strange watching the team he still wanted playing Sunday for a Grey Cup … Dorian Thompson-Robinson is either my accounting firm or the starting quarterback Sunday for the Cleveland Browns … Ryan O’Reilly’s game has never been much about numbers, but he’s sure lighting it up, numbers-wise, with the run-of-the-mill Nashville Predators in the early season … The rumours of Bill Belichick to the Los Angeles Chargers are out there and make sense. The Chargers have just about everything but a coach. That team needs a Belichick … I don’t hold grudges, but I may never forgive Tyler Boyd for the touchdown pass he dropped last Sunday that eliminated me — and a whole lot of you — from your survivor football pools. And some of you may never forgive the Buffalo special teams, which had too many men on the field costing them what was supposed to be an easy win against Denver on Monday night … This is a dangerous place where media organizations are regularly going, either linking up with, or becoming, sports gambling outfits themselves. The latest to do it is ESPN. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between editorial content and gambling advertising on television. Hockey Night In Canada, among others, treat it as though it’s part of the show. It shouldn’t be allowed.
AND ANOTHER THING
This much I know about OG Anunoby’s cut finger. It didn’t happen hanging drapes … And apologies, but you have to be over 50 to understand that one … Tyler Bertuzzi, who didn’t seem to be a fit with Matthews and Marner is finally looking like Tyler Bertuzzi playing with Tavares and Nylander … Can Johnny Gaudreau have a do-over in free agency? In 97 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he has 22 goals and 58 assists for a respectable 80 points. In his final 97 games as a Calgary Flame, he had 45 goals, 90 assists for a spectacular 135 points … If the NBA is going to get fancy and put in new floors for its in-season tournament, which makes watching on TV a challenge, the least it could do is make sure the floors are safe enough so players aren’t slipping around the way they were in Toronto on Friday night … TSN can’t be happy the Argos lost in the East final because that will affect its Grey Cup TV audience. But partner, RDS, must be thrilled with the Alouettes playing and its numbers should be huge on Sunday night … Dubas is not used to this: His Penguins, with Sidney Crosby playing terrific hockey, and with high-priced help like Erik Karlsson, are 11th in the Eastern Conference standings. He made the playoffs seven straight seasons, five as GM, in Toronto … It’s not Darko Rajakovic’s fault the Raptors can’t shoot. That one’s on management. Raptors are the 27th best three- point shooting team in a league that is all about three-point shooting. Overall, they’re 24th in the NBA in shooting. And that’s with Anunoby at a career-high 51%, Scottie Barnes firing at 46.9% and Pascal Siakam at 48.7%. Those are decent numbers … A quick confession: I love Grey Cup Week. I love the parties, the pageantry, the entire scene when it’s held anywhere but Toronto. And I love the game itself and the accessibility of the athletes, past and present. I wish everyone would experience at least one Grey Cup Week in their lives. I’ve been to more than 20 of them. I worry this one in Hamilton might be my last. The next two Grey Cups will be in Vancouver and Winnipeg. My favourite Grey Cups have been in Regina, which might be the least interesting city in Canada and the greatest place to have a football celebration … My Grey Cup pick, and I’m historically terrible at this: Winnipeg 24, Montreal 20 … I’m not sure Ilya Samsonov can win you a playoff series. And the jury is still out on Joseph Woll … Among the reasons the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars are among the best teams in hockey: They give up almost nothing on the power play. The Bruins are 91% effective killing penalties. The Stars are at 90%. The Leafs are 26th in the NHL at 74%. Anything below 80% isn’t good enough … With all the quarterback movement in the NFL this season and a record number of rookies starting, it’s surprising no one has made an attempt to get Canadian Nathan Rourke off the Jacksonville Jaguars roster … What a time for Toronto sports: Nylander is lighting it up. Matthews was leading the NHL in goal-scoring, until Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor scored his 14th on Saturday night. Barnes is playing like an all-star. Bo Bichette is coming off his most complete big league season. Kevin Gausman was a finalist for the Cy Young. Kelly won the MOP in the CFL, voting done well before the dreadful East final. Ryan Dinwiddie was coach of the year. Adarius Pickett was defensive player of the year. The teams, overall, may not all be great. The individuals are certainly worth following and watching … The Argos are so infrequently covered that when quarterbacks coach Mike Miller left the team midway through the season due to illness, it wasn’t a story. It became a story when Kelly needed him during the East final … Happy birthday to Warren Moon (67), Patrick Kane (35), Darren Flutie (57), Rocket Ismail (54), Dennis Hull (79), Dmitry Yushkevich (52), David Ortiz (48), Dante Bichette (60), Bob Bronk (64), Gary Sheffield (55) and Jamie Moyer (61) … And, hey, whatever became of Chad Kackert?