Calgary’s 30-16 loss to the BC Lions on Sunday not only meant the end of the season, but likely signalled the last time Bo Levi Mitchell would be seen in Stampeder colours.
Trailing by two touchdowns in the 4th quarter, Dave Dickenson turned the Stampeder offence back over to a familiar face. After being replaced as starting quarterback in August, Bo Levi Mitchell once again found himself under centre for the Stampeders. Mitchell provided Calgary with a spark, completing 8-11 passes for 147 yards, but ultimately fell short of being able to ignite a comeback win.
Mitchell’s surprise playoff appearance was very likely his last in Stampeder red and white.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in this stadium, and it won’t be the last time I play in this stadium,” Mitchell told reporters ahead of Calgary’s final home game of the season against Saskatchewan. “I’ve talked to Dave and told him I don’t need a hoorah moment.”
The next day, Mitchell got the moment he didn’t ask for. The all-time passing yards leader in franchise history took the field late in the game and received a well-earned standing ovation from Calgary fans.
“It was awesome to be able to have that moment with the fans and my teammates,” Mitchell told reporters following the 36-10 victory over the Roughriders. “I’ve loved every second I’ve been here.”
Mitchell’s comments over the last number of weeks all but guarantee that his departure is imminent. Speculation continues to build on where the Stampeder legend will call home for the 2023 campaign. He will celebrate his 33rd birthday before the beginning of next season, but the veteran signal-caller is still eager to prove he has more football to play.
“Sports is marriage where you’re always going to get divorced,” Mitchell told reporters ahead of the game against Saskatchewan. “I’ll never say a bad thing about anybody in this organization.”
The Katy, Texas native’s illustrious resume will leave no shortage of quarterback-needy franchises interested in his services. Both of the West Division teams that fell short of the playoffs, Edmonton and Saskatchewan, are rumoured to be among the teams that will be looking to bring in Mitchell.
The Elks division-worst 4-14 season ended with the team dropping seven of the last eight. After failing to win a home game in a CFL record 17 attempts, adding the two-time Grey Cup Champion to Chris Jones’ group would give a desperate fanbase something to get excited about.
In Saskatchewan, the Roughriders fell short of the playoffs for the first time since 2016. A motivated Mitchell could be the remedy the Riders need to quickly get back to winning ways.
With the resume that Mitchell has amassed in Calgary, it’s easy to imagine that East Division clubs with question marks at quarterback will kick the tires on Mitchell as well.
The uncertainty of Mitchell’s future is a direct result of Calgary’s newfound certainty in other options at his position. Despite a less than ideal playoff performance, 25-year-old Jake Maier had a strong 6-3 record after taking over the starting spot mid-season. He was rewarded for his performance with a 2-year contract-extension in late September.
“The writing’s on the wall when you pay another guy,” Mitchell told the media following Calgary’s playoff loss to the Lions. “Obviously, things can change and all that, but if you’re looking, you can see what’s going on.”
In addition to Maier, Indiana native Tommy Stevens didn’t do anything to hurt his case for some additional reps next season after his performance in the final game of the regular season.
“I am hopeful that Tommy gets some time because I don’t know as much about Tommy,” Dave Dickenson told reporters prior to regular season finale.
Dickenson’s interest in Stevens surely piqued when the quarterback took off for an 85-yard touchdown run in the first half. The 25-year-old finished the game 17 yards short of the single game CFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
No matter how promising the future looks for both Maier and Stevens, Mitchell’s lengthy list of accomplishments as a Stampeder surely creates some mixed feelings for fans about his impending departure. The Texan brought home the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award in both 2016 and 2018, and is the all-time Stampeder leader in completed passes.
Any Stampeder fan would be able to list off plenty of fond memories they’ve amassed while watching Mitchell since he took over the starting spot in 2013. Watching him go on to have success for either the rival Elks or the Roughriders could be difficult for some fans to swallow.
Some of Mitchell’s teammates, particularly those who were a part of the 2018 Grey Cup Championship team, might feel the same.
It was hard to find a Stampeder player who wasn’t encouraging the crowd to rise to their feet and applaud the long-time face of the franchise as he entered into the game against Saskatchewan. Prior to the game, Jameer Thurman joined Mitchell’s media scrum to heap praise on his long-time quarterback.
“You’re the greatest quarterback in Stampeders history, probably one of the greatest quarterbacks in the CFL ever,” Thurman said to Mitchell. “I’ve been there with you, I’ve won a Grey Cup with you, and we’ve won a lot of games together. You are my QB1, always.”
“I’ve loved every minute I’ve been here,” Mitchell said in response. “I look forward to every minute I get to play against you too.”