Mike Reilly has been one of the few positives in what is one of the worst seasons in Edmonton Eskimos history, yet the 27-year-old says the team's final three games of the regular season are crucial for future of the CFL franchise, the team and for himself.
With games remaining against three western rivals, beginning Friday at home against the Calgary Stampeders, the Eskimos' designated quarterback of the future says it's critical the team does not "roll over and die."
"It's important we compete and get some wins," he said. "It's tough to not fall into that mentality of things are lost and to hang your head. It's like when a game is over and you've lost, you have to flush it and not dwell on it. Yeah, we haven't had much success. But if we dwell on that we're never going to get better."
Reilly, who has started every game this season, says the 3-12 Esks have to treat the remaining games as playoffs "and try to get as hyped up for them as we can."
"Treat them as the most important games of the season because honestly, for the future of this franchise, for the future of this team, we need to approach it like that. We need to have success these next three games to give everybody something to get excited about for next year," Reilly said.
The native of Kennewick, Wash., vows he'll personally be fighting every down until the end of the season because his job, like everyone else's on the team, is on the line.
Reilly earned the starting job out of training camp – aided by the season-ending knee injury to his main rival for the job, Matt Nichols – and has proven himself a tough, capable competitor. But unless the Eskimos win at least one of the last three games, they will finish with the fewest wins since 1963, when they were 2-14.
As quarterback, Reilly has to share the blame.
"I think we're playing to save everybody's job," he says. "I'm working to save my job, I'm playing to save my teammates' jobs, and I'm playing to save the jobs of everybody in here because everybody here, coaching staff, players, are all important to me because they're all put in a ton of work."
It's a given there will be roster changes made and Reilly says the next three games are an "opportunity for everybody to show why they deserve to be around next year, and I'm no different."
"I'm not that far removed from a backup," he added. "I remember what it's like to stand on the sidelines and watch the game. So even through there's no playoffs this is three opportunities to get on the field and get better, try to make this team better, try to make this club better and get some momentum, get some hope going into next season.
"For so long I've been a backup and I've spent so much time and hard work trying to get on the field that it would be a shame to give up and say, 'Well, there's only three games left.'"
Those games are against Calgary, B.C. and Saskatchewan, three western teams the Eskimos have to find a way to beat if they want to become competitive and get back to the playoffs.