Lions backup QB Mike Reilly auditions for NFL’s Jaguars
If he stays in Canada, pivot will be a much sought after CFL free agent
VANCOUVER — News item: Atlanta Falcons’ director of player personnel David Caldwell has agreed to become the next general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Granted, that piece of NFL trivia might not mean much to fans of the CFL’s B.C. Lions. Nonetheless, the expected development Tuesday grabbed the attention of Lions quarterback Mike Reilly, who worked out for the Jags last week.
Reilly, who becomes a CFL free agent on Feb. 15, received an unsolicited invitation to show what he’s got in front of the Jags’ scouting staff last Thursday, even though the 2-14 team had fired its previous general manager, Gene Smith, just three days earlier. Head coach Mike Mularkey’s stay in Jacksonville is also in grave doubt, depending on what Caldwell decides to do with him. Most likely, he’ll be fired.
“Their scouting staff and player personnel director are still intact,” Reilly said. “But their GM had just been fired before I got there, so everything is in a state of limbo. They couldn’t say for certain that they’d like to bring me back. They told me, ‘Until we sign a GM, we’d hate to offer you something, or sign you, (in case) the new guy decides to go in a different direction.’ I’m not really sure how the invitation came about, actually. It may be because of lingering interest from my NFL days. The NFL is keeping tabs on a lot of people up here (CFL).”
“We routinely bring in several CFL players after our season for a workout,” explained Jaguars’ spokesman Dan Edwards. “This (Reilly’s workout) had been planned in advance, and despite our GM being fired on Monday (Dec. 31). The workout was still held with Mike and other players (including Edmonton Eskimos defensive back Rod Williams).”
Reilly joined the Lions in July 2010 after turning down a chance to join the New York Jets, which would have been his fifth NFL stop after a record-breaking career at Division II Central Washington. He had bounced from the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was a late cut, to the Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks and had grown tired of his peripatetic existence. He wanted to put down some football roots, though now it would appear he is on the move again after playing out his option last season with the Lions.
“I’m still obviously very open to exhaust the possibilities in our league,” Reilly said. “And I’m not closing the door on other options. I could end up in the NFL. I’m not ruling that out. And there’s no guarantee I’ll leave B.C. The Lions are a great organization, and a championship contender every year. (But) Travis (Lulay) being where he is at this stage of his career, and where I am in mine, the opportunities to play are pretty scarce. I’d like to see the field in a greater role. That said, it would have to be a perfect opportunity to leave the Lions and the CFL. I truly do enjoy where I am, and I don’t take a decision to leave lightly.”
If an NFL team reaching out to a second-string CFL quarterback might seem like something of a stretch, it’s really not as curious as it seems. Reilly has NFL size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and tosses a superior deep ball, in some minds, than Lulay, despite Reilly’s funky throwing delivery. Then again, Philip Rivers became the San Diego Chargers’ starting quarterback with a similar less-than-textbook motion — and he has been named to the Pro Bowl four times.
What’s more, the Jags need help at virtually every position — offensive line, defensive line and, yes, quarterback. Sophomore Blaine Gabbert, a first-round draft pick from Missouri who has been hugely disappointing, relinquished the starting job to veteran Chad Henne following an injury at the 10-game mark. But Henne is regarded as no better than a Band-Aid solution, and third-stringer Jordan Palmer shares only the last name with his older brother, Oakland Raiders’ starter Carson Palmer.
Plus, it’s standard operating procedure for NFL teams to bring out the deep-clean vacuum after a 2-14 or 1-15 season. Reilly saw it with his own eyes when he was a late-season addition to the Rams in 2009, the year St. Louis won a single game under rookie head coach Steve Spagnuolo. Starter Marc Bulger, and backups Kyle Boller, Keith Null and Reilly were either released or chose not to re-sign by the time the new regime was ushered in.
“They cleaned house,” Reilly said. “All four quarterbacks who came in the last four weeks were gone. The three quarterbacks they brought in the following season were all new additions. Any time you go through a difficult season, like St. Louis or Jacksonville, you know there are going to be changes, and pretty significant ones.”
A new year has the Jags hiring a new GM, a new coach and probably a new starting quarterback, the prime speculation being hometown boy Tim Tebow, the unorthodox left-hander who devolved from the cover of GQ magazine at the start of the season to a clipboard holder with the Jets by the end of it.
While the buzz for change in Jacksonville is palpable, Reilly knows the chances of a Tebow-Reilly, lefty-righty combination, at quarterback remain far-fetched. He was granted a workout by the Jags, and nothing more.
Still, it was “definitely an opportunity,” said the Lions’ prized second banana. And more of them figure to be tossed his way by the middle of next month.
Mike Beamish blogs at vancouversun.com/lionsontheprowl
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