Aerial supremacy

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

We may not know much about the team that'll take to the field Thursday night at McMahon Stadium, but one thing is certain:

It will be led by the best quarterback tandem the Calgary Stampeders have ever entered a season with.

In an organization powered by some of the CFL's most dynamic chuckers over the last few decades, the reunion of Henry Burris and Dave Dickenson once again makes the Stamps offence as formidable as the league has.

Oh sure, there was a rather dynamic duo comprised of Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia here in 1995 who combined for 41 touchdowns. However, heading into that season all we knew about Garcia was that he was a skinny redhead from the Garlic Capital of the world. We only found out after Flutie's elbow surgery the only thing that stunk about Garcia was his breath.

This year, the Stamps go in with a man who was the league's best quarterback last year before he got hurt, and a backup who was a recent Grey Cup MVP.

If one should falter, the fans and media will be quick to remind John Hufnagel he's one of few head coaches in football who has a viable option standing behind him.

"I don't think either one of us necessarily has a ton of improvement in us but we've been through the wars already -- the experience is there," said Dickenson, the CFL's Most Outstanding Player in 2000 while with Calgary.

"I think it's a good tandem and we should work well together. I think personally this is similar to Casey (Printers) and me in B.C. We play a different game.

"Henry's the guy and I think he understands there's pressure to win, but it's a long year and not every week is going to go as well as you want, just keep competing and move on."

Or, take a breather and watch Dickenson, who approaches the game in radically different fashion than the rocket-armed Burris.

"They're the best in the league plain and simple, and with our receiving corps ... c'mon," smirked offensive lineman Jeff Pilon, whose offence was one of the league's best last year ... until Burris got hurt.

"It makes our job so much easier up front. To have Hank who can run, scramble and throw and Dave who can pick apart a defence like there's no tomorrow. It just gives the defensive guys something to think about and prepare for and makes us a really well-rounded team. Not to take away from anything we had last year (Akili Smith and Ben Sankey) but we have two proven quarterbacks who've done it."

With all due respect to Toronto's twosome of Kerry Joseph and Michael Bishop as well as B.C.'s Jarious Jackson and Buck Pierce, Calgary's combo forms, by far, the league's most impressive one-two punch.

"I've followed the league for a long time and they had Warren Moon and Tom Wilkinson in Edmonton and their revolving trio of Tracy Ham, Damon Allen and Matt Dunigan," said Burris, asked to rank the best duets.

"Here there was Flutie and Garcia, Flutie and (Danny) Barrett, Barrett and Garcia, Dickenson and Garcia and Dickenson and Burris. There have been some pretty good duos over the year but this is a pretty good one. How this team does will determine how we're ranked in terms of good tandems."

Last year, when Burris went down with a shoulder injury, Stamps backups were unable to win a single game. Similarly, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers chances of winning the Grey Cup game were all but ended last year when Kevin Glenn went down in the East final, thrusting the oh-so-raw Ryan Dinwiddie into an impossible starting gig in the Grey Cup.

While rare, depth at quarterback gives teams a huge advantage.

Burris added more than 20 lb. of muscle to his frame this winter in an effort to enhance his durability. But given the nature of the sport and the unproven o-line in front of him, it's likely the 33-year-old will need time mending.

Thus, Dickenson was signed as a free agent, a possibility given the injury-riddled 35-year-old was willing to take a pay cut to return to his off-season home.

And the Stamps are a better, deeper club because of it.

Granted, the success of the club will hinge largely on how quickly its revamped defence and coaching staff can get comfortable.

However, in a passing league, it is no secret success can only be achieved by way of the quarterback.

And Calgary has two of the very best.


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