Pivotal moment for Stampeders

Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate (left) adjusts his hair and helmet as backup Kevin Glenn looks on...

Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate (left) adjusts his hair and helmet as backup Kevin Glenn looks on during practice at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta., Nov. 6, 2012. (JIM WELLS/Calgary Sun)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 AM ET

CALGARY - Asked to describe the meeting in which John Hufnagel’s quarterback decision was revealed, Kevin Glenn smiled.

“The lights were really, really dim, some candles were burning …” deadpanned Glenn.

Asked if he slept the night before, Drew Tate shrugged.

“I didn’t even care about it,” he spat.

As for Nik Lewis’ preference?

“No preference — they both know their success rates go up if they get me the ball.”

In other words, despite the lead-up to D-Day for the Calgary Stampeders’ quarterback situation, it was business as usual at McMahon Stadium: Glenn was all class, Tate was all brass and Lewis was a gas.

How they reacted said a lot about Hufnagel’s decision to choose Tate as his starter in Sunday’s semifinal.

After all, one of the most important factors in determining whether he made the right call is how the team responds.

If anyone’s nose was out of joint, it was sure hard to tell.

In the end, the Stamps head coach/GM dumbed the decision down and made it like it was Week 1 of the season, when both pivots were healthy and had a similar grasp on the offence.

This had been anointed Tate’s team from the start and if Hufnagel believes the 28-year-old is fully recovered from (non-throwing) shoulder surgery and has displayed few signs of rust, it’s clearly his job again.

It was appropriate on U.S. Election day Hufnagel reinforced his commitment to four more years of Tate, making the move even easier with an investment in the future he hopes will pays instant dividends.

Make no mistake, his focus is choosing the best man for the job Sunday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and that means starting the quarterback with the biggest upside — there’s never been any doubt that’s Tate.

Hufnagel said Tate’s athleticism played one of the largest roles in his “gut” decision, pointing to Tate’s ability to use his legs to get out of trouble or create more problems for a defence, especially if the weather turns.

Surprisingly cocksure for a man who has won just five CFL starts in his career, Tate reacted to news of his starting assignment as if he expected it all along.

While he was appreciative of the opportunity, and respectful of the process and Glenn, his swagger shone through, as always.

This young man has never lacked confidence, which is another reason why he’s been tabbed a leader.

Before being told the good news at the stadium Tate was informed at home his grandmother had died. Yet, he maintained his composure in front of the press.

The runner-up was refreshingly diplomatic, leaving the door open for the possibility he’ll be called on once again to save the season. Teammates no doubt felt for him, but appreciate his reaction as the consummate team player, pointing to the fact “this is much bigger than Kevin Glenn — it’s about the team.”

Was it a tough day, Kevin?

“No, it was really nice outside,” he smiled, refusing to show his obvious disappointment in any way.

Hufnagel had to know Glenn would react that well.

It’s unlikely Tate could have done the same.

Aside from suggesting he didn’t know why there was so much hype about his decision, full marks to Hufnagel for putting the issue aside for both fans and his team, allowing the focus to be on preparation with limited distractions.

The next question on everybody’s mind will revolve around how long — or short — the leash is on Tate in Sunday’s semifinal against Saskatchewan.

After all, Tate’s lone loss as a starter came in last year’s semifinal loss to Edmonton when he passed for under 100 yards in the first half, prompting Hufnagel to start Henry Burris in the third quarter.

Given his rocky relationship with Burris, surely ol’ Huf has far more confidence in Glenn. Whether that translates into being more or less patient, should Tate struggle against a tough Saskatchewan defence, remains to be seen.

Huf had said Monday the starter will have the chance to play the whole game but, well, things happen.

With Tate at the helm, at least one debate is over.

But given Glenn’s success as a fill-in, is another set to begin?

Dim the lights, folks, and burn some candles, this could get more interesting yet.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @ericfrancis


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