Years ago there was a television series called Kung Fu which took place in the Old West, and was a story about a Shaolin Monk called Caine. In the opening sequence a young Caine nicknamed "Grasshopper," would look up to his master and try and snatch a pebble from his hand. If he was successful, it was time for him to lead. If he wasn't, he would have to stay in the village for more tutoring.
At the risk of dating myself, I bring this up because there is a very interesting match up that has developed at the quarterback position between the East and the West divisions in the CFL this year.
In the East you have the masters. Veterans led by Anthony Calvillo in Montreal, who along with Henry Burris in Hamilton, Ricky Ray in Toronto and Buck Pierce in Winnipeg, have a combined 606 starts under their belts. Compare that to the "Grasshoppers" in the West, the likes of Travis Lulay in B.C., Darian Durant in Saskatchewan, Drew Tate in Calgary, and Steven Jyles in Edmonton (we will go with Jyles at this point even though that may not be a done deal just yet) who have started a total of 106 games combined. That is a difference of 500 more starts for the veterans in the East versus the young guns in the West.
A further examination of the numbers really shows just how much more experience the QB's in the East have over their young counterparts.
For instance, Anthony Calvillo alone has 154 wins as a starting quarterback, which is exactly 103 wins more than the West combined.
The average age in the East is 34.5 years old with all four starters over the age of thirty, compared to the combined average age of the West at 28.3 with all four starters south of thirty. That 6.2 year difference may not seem like a lot, but when you throw in the fact that the Eastern quarterbacks have thrown for 790 more touchdowns, and have passed for about 127 kilometers more than the West, you get the idea of just how much of a discrepancy there is between the two divisions with regards to experience.
Over their careers the Eastern veterans combined have completed exactly 10,368 more passes in live game action, than the Western division starters.
However, before the numbers lead anyone to assume that the overwhelming edge in experience automatically means that the East will dominate this year, remember that the reigning Most Outstanding Player of the league, who led the Lions to a Grey Cup championship, is one of those Western young guns in Travis Lulay. Despite the fact that Lulay has just 27 total starts in his career, which is 226 less than league leader Anthony Calvillo, he was just 403 yards behind the Als vet, and closing fast at the end of the regular season last year. You could say based on last year that Lulay has a pebble in his pocket already.
It should also be pointed out that Darian Durant in Saskatchewan may have just 57 starts in his career, but in his first two seasons as a starter led the Riders to the Grey Cup game both years. The more experienced Calvillo won the match up in both of those years vs. Durant, and you could make the argument that the edge in experience was a factor in those wins. However, as we look forward to the 2012 season that experience doesn't necessarily guarantee success. For every athlete there is a small window where youth and experience mesh perfectly, however, that window can close quickly where there becomes a fine line between being experienced and being, "over the hill."
The masters in the East say they feel great physically, and can't wait to kick things off. The grasshoppers in the West say they have fresh legs, and are ready to take a run at the Cup.
So as we get ready to kick off the 2012 regular season the question is, will the grasshoppers in the West snatch the pebble from the masters in the East, or will it be back to the village for more tutoring?