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November 22, 2018

HIS BEST YET

EDMONTON – Two years ago, Bo was best.

Today, he’s better.

“Bo’s already won an MOP, had a great, great season a couple years ago,” states Stampeders’ boss and Bo Levi Mitchell mentor Dave Dickenson. “And – I’m saying this in all honesty – I thought he played better this year.

“This, to me, ranks as his most consistent year.

“His best decision-making year.

“More challenges than ever. All the injuries we had at receiver. Didn’t have the same run game.

“But look at the results.

“Just tremendous, in my opinion.

“A lot of other great players in our league, I don’t want to short-sell anyone else, but Bo’s just a special, special player.”
Dickinson is biased, of course. But the man does know quarterbacks.

The way Godiva knows chocolate, Ferrari knows speed or Spielberg knows how to manipulate an audience.

Mitchell’s Most Outstanding Player competition at tonight’s CFL hardware hand-out, is Hamilton Tiger Cats’ pivot Jeremiah Masoli, who had himself a heckuva year, throwing for 5,209 yards and 28 majors.

But the Katy craftsman is actually his own truest gauge.

“If you’re going to analyze me individually,’’ he said, as the Stamps worked out inside the Foote Field fieldhouse Wednesday afternoon, “I’d say this is my best year. Better than 2016.

“I did some good things that year, you know. But there are times this season I felt unstoppable. Throwing for 270 or 300 in the first half and you get taken out in the third quarter.

“As a competitor, sometimes you just want to go out and throw the ball on every play but Dave’s got bigger things in mind.

“I can’t complain, though. It’s been great this year. I got to play all 18 games. I was healthy. Nothing held me back physically.”

When weighing the two Bo editions strictly statistically, ’16 against ’18, maybe the current edition comes up a trifle short – 5,124 yards as compared to 5,385, 60.9% completion average as compared to 68.0%.

But the touchdown tosses are up, 35 to 32 and the TD-to-INT ratio, 35 to 21 as opposed to 32-to-8, is comparable.

And, well, there are things beyond statistics in a world obsessed with numbers and percentages.

Just ask Travis Lulay for veritification.

“We’ve become,” said the B.C. Lions’ QB, here working the Grey Cup for Sportsnet, “a Fantasy Football culture. People only see value in high numbers, big statistics, but it’s really silly to think they’re the only way to rate value. Throwing a ball away, for instance, decreases your passing percentage but more times than not you’ve helped your team by not taking a sack.

“I understand stats and they can help reflect performance but they can also be really misleading.

“Look, Bo’s been on good football teams since he got here. He’ll tell you that. He has a great relationship with Dave as a play-caller. Those things are in his favour.

“But this year more than any other in his career, you could see that people are looking at him to win football games for them. In the past, if Bo played average or even a little under, they’d still win. That wasn’t the case this year after all the injuries. He didn’t have that wiggle room.

“And Calgary still won more games than any team in the league.”

Stamps’ QB coach Ryan Dinwiddie is also among the faction that believes Mitchell’s only true measuring stick is himself.

“You name me a quarterback in this league who’s thrown for over 5,000 and not had at least one thousand-yard receiver,” Dinwiddie said, stumping for his candidate. “Bo did it this season. I’m not sure can’t think of another one.

“That says to me that whoever we use there, and we’ve had to plug-and-play more than few guys in those positions, he’s helped them rise to the occasion; plays them up, not down.

“Obviously, stat wise, in (2016) he played out of his mind, a whole new level. But some of the things we ask him to do,

“Sometimes we take that for granted. He’s probably the most intelligent QB I’ve been around, in Canada for sure, and the guy’s win/loss record is nothing short of amazing. He just finds a way to get it done. Look at last week against Winnipeg. Perfect example. When we need him, he’s there.

“He’s set the bar so high a bit of an off performance and everybody thinks it’s the end of the world. Other guys have the same performance, those same people would be saying ‘Wow! That guy’s lights out!’

“I guess the gift he gives us is that even average games in his mind are very good games for anybody else.”

With the individual awards set to be handed out, Mitchell insists he’d prefer his teammates and coaches stay at the team hotel Thursday night, watch on TV if they feel like, but just chill and continue to gear up for Sunday’s Grey Cup kick-off at Commonwealth.

Still, if a guy’s gonna get dressed up, he might as well have something to celebrate.

“A second MOP would, in my mind, be even more satisfying,’’ he confessed, “because after you win one, I think it becomes tougher. The first one, people are pulling for you. Then the feeling becomes almost: ‘OK, he’s got one, can’t we give it to somebody else?’ You really gotta fight for it. And I get that. I do.

“So, yeah, it’d be sweet. Special.

“But two years ago I won and we didn’t and it just felt hollow, man.”

Tonight, on a comparatively quiet night on the Stampeder awards front, the better Bo than the best Bo goes in search of a second MOP.

“Whether he wins or not I don’t think it’ll affect him in any way; he’s a confident person,’’ says Dickenson. “That award is not what he’s been playing for, not why he’s here this week.

“That prize comes Sunday, but it’s always nice to be recognized and we know how much he means to our team and our success.

“So we’d sure like to hear his name called out.”