Masoli should be the man for Ticats

Winnipeg Blue Bombers v Hamilton Tiger-Cats

In his book “Blink,” author Malcolm Gladwell puts forward the idea that mental processes work rapidly and automatically from relatively little information: first instincts are often the best ones.

So here’s one theory that’s been formulated with precious little information: Jeremiah Masoli is the quarterback who gives the Hamilton Tiger-Cats the best chance to win next Sunday’s Eastern semifinal.

Admittedly, the empirical evidence is thin. Masoli has started one regular season game in his three years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, though he’s played a significant role in a few others, including last Saturday’s loss to Ottawa. Still, the statistical sample size is meagre: 305 yards on 22 of 47 passing, two touchdowns against three interceptions and another 118 rushing yards on 24 attempts.

And yet, there is something undeniably magnetic about the way he plays the game of football, an indefinable swagger and confidence. His teammates feel it and so do the fans: It practically oozes through the TV into their living rooms.

Unfortunately, it would appear that Hamilton head coach Kent Austin is not as enamoured by Masoli’s swashbuckling ways. He declined to name a starter after Saturday’s loss — a game which Jacory Harris started and Masoli finished — and said the team would likely get two quarterbacks ready for the win-or-go-home tilt against the Argos. That means Masoli and Harris would split first team reps in practice, as they did last week.

Austin’s three golden tenets for quarterbacking are decision-making, accuracy and toughness — he’s mentioned this several times — and Masoli has only shown a proficiency in the third item on that list. His CFL completion percentage is 46.8 (Collaros’ was around 70) and he routinely eschews the safe and easy play for the more ambitious one.

Austin loves the system he’s crafted with offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell, something they’ve been honing since their days at Cornell.

Henry Burris’ inability (or unwillingness) to fully embrace it is one of the reasons he got run out of town and, sure enough, Zach Collaros proved the ideal quarterback to run it — he’s as smart and accurate as they come. Jeff Mathews’ familiarity and ability to adhere to its teachings earned him the backup job coming out of training camp.

Masoli, try as he might, he will never be a system guy. Masoli is at his best and happiest when he is running amok, creating something out of nothing, trying to make the impossible throw into the improbable window. Organized chaos made Masoli a star at Oregon, where he had his greatest success, and he returns to it at every opportunity.

Austin, like many coaches, prefers his charges stay within the confines of the system and his frustration has led to a couple of colourful sideline interactions during Masoli’s stints at the helm.

It’s also the reason that the 27-year-old has tumbled from No. 1 on the depth chart — he became the starter when Collaros went down early last season — to the practice roster to start 2015. That’s not a fall from grace, that’s getting pushed off a cliff.

But with Collaros out for the year with a knee injury and Mathews suffering from the after effects of a concussion, Masoli represents the Ticats’ best hope of beating the Argos — if he’s given the chance to prepare as the starter. That means giving him the job and the reps, not continuing the daily equivocation that doomed both Harris and Masoli to failure against Ottawa.

Two quarterback systems simply don’t work and there are precious few examples to show they ever did. In addition to limiting practice reps for both guys — which are even more valuable to the current stable of Hamilton quarterbacks given their inexperience — they create uncertainty in the locker-room. Players will say that they believe in both guys but they want to believe in just one.

In Outliers, Gladwell’s third book, he forwarded the theory that success isn’t based on luck or natural talent but intelligence, ambition and hard work. Put the time in — around 10,000 hours — and achievement will follow. It’s not a bad way to build a quarterback, either.

But the Ticats don’t have the luxury of time. Instead, they must put their faith in the instincts of a player who — if nothing else — will believe in his gut that he can get the job done.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1494 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

34 Comments on Masoli should be the man for Ticats

  1. Drew, I agree. The kid believes! Take away one bad fumble and one awful call and he could have pulled it out. Let’s not go down meekly. For good or bad let’s take it in our teeth and go at them for all we are worth. We don’t have the time or talent for a precision offense. Plan B has been forced upon us. No point in denying it. Let’s rage against the dying of the light.

  2. What you say makes a certain sense, Drew, except for one thing. If Masoli gets all the first-team reps and STILL falters right out of the gate, then you have a totally unprepared Harris coming in to save the entire season in one game. I feel that the CFLPA has negotiated their practice-time to a ridiculously low level, forcing coaches to focus on only one QB at-a-time. There simply isn’t enough practice time to get multiple QBs as many reps as they need.

    • If it’s the CFLPA practice time that’s an issue … how come Calgary is able to prepare three QBs?

      I’m not sure what the NFLPA’s limits are but from what I’ve heard/seen when the starting QB in the NFL goes down – it is the same issue.

      I don’t doubt that there are limits but it seems to me that HC philosophy has a big had in it as well.

  3. Some valuable quotes, thanks for sharing. I have been cheering for “Mazerati” since that Guelph game he started. He was very resolved before camp to get rid of poor decisions, which he seems to have finally done. (Less baby oil perhaps, though!). Montreal did not know what to do in that game and Austin looked brilliant.
    Its hard to 2nd guess coach, and Harris did look good in practice, but so did “Mazerati”.
    With time in the pocket reduced, we may need his speed.
    Have to beat the Argos!!!

    • The key for me is whether Harris can scramble. More play choices means more for the Argo defense to cover.

      Either one is going to be challenged to now be fooled by the Argo defense and manage the game.

      I’m not sure but with the rash of gaffes over the last several games, I can’t help but wonder if there is an attempt to do too much.

  4. I am a long way from sold on Masoli but he probably does give us the best chance to win although we may not be the favourites.

  5. moncton ticats fan // November 10, 2015 at 9:09 am //

    Masoli seems to be the best chance at beating TO. Harris seemed overwhelmed in a game for first place, not sure he would be any better playing in a win or go home playoff game. I agree, we’re probably not the favourites to beat TO with a 4th. stringer, but if Masoli can reduce or eliminate the fumbles and interceptions we should beat TO. We really need the D to pressure Ray, who isn’t a big fan of getting hit. If he has time to connect with all his receivers, it will be a long afternoon for the Cats.

  6. BewareofDoug // November 10, 2015 at 9:43 am //

    The chance of getting anywhere without a running game are mighty slim cat fans let alone our QB problems.

  7. I agree that Masoli’s the man. However, Kent lives with these guys every day.knows best and calls the shots. Both QB’s should be given reps this week should one falter during the game or go down with injury. Wonder how bad Matthews is ??

  8. Re Sunday: Ray’s not 100% and should be pressured. Shut down Ray, Owens and Kakhert and you win the game. Oh yah, there’s that rookie receiver too … go DEFENSE!

  9. I have never been a fan of Masoli since his first year antics with the team and he is the farthest thing for a Maserati anyone could image. His drive will only go so far as you have indicated. He does not have the full package or even close. The kid only believes in himself. Another team destroyer like Flutie we do not need. Intelligence, ambition and hard work Masoli does not have. We need to use our heads on this decision not our hearts. Sure we need this game but we need the future as well. Masoli has no room on this team and should be trade or released next year. The reason the system works for Calgary is they have found backup QB’s that are intelligence, ambition and are willing to work hard. Not a hot head that beats to his own drum. Having many good friends on the team they have informed me, and you referred to it, that Masoli is NOT the team’s choice. What are the past results in a 3rd string QB winning a Grey Cup? If we beat the Argo’s there is Ottawa and then most likely Calgary, not impossible but improbable. Going forward Harris and Matthews can fill those QB shoes. They are smart, intelligent and have the discipline to follow a plan and improvise only when necessary. This is what a QUALIFIED coach see’s NOT a fan. Get Harris 100% of the reps. Give Harris the whole game win or lose. We need him to get the experienced for future incidences like this. I have been a Ti Cat fan for over 45 years and have no problem doing what it takes to BUILD a winner and we are a winning team with one loose end. So lets tighten it up and get on with it.

    • Ken – I have to respectfully disagree with you about Masoli not being a hard worker. I read an article on the Ticats site last week about the extra time that both Masoli and Harris have been putting in after practices with a couple of the other receivers to try to improve their game. That to me shows that he IS a hard worker, wanting to get better. I doubt that has gone unnoticed by the coaching staff too.
      As for saying that he lacks ambition and intelligence – I doubt that Austin would have extended his contract last season if he didn’t feel he was intelligent or lacked the drive to be successful. Where Masoli might still fall a bit short on Austin’s QB measuring stick is in decision making and possibly accuracy but I believe that both of these have improved since he was given the start early last season. I was pleasantly surprised by his play in the last game.

  10. Masoli is likely the best choice right now. Let’s face it — any choice behind Zach Collaros was going to be a huge drop off. Other teams do have a knack of having their second or third stringer play well — fit into their systems, but the Ticats have historically not been one of those teams.
    The keys to winning for this team remain: 1. outstanding defense and pressure (which hasn’t been to the same level during the second half of this season). 2. win the turn over battle 3. solid special teams 4. maintain good field position 5. no turnovers by your offense 6. discipline (minimize penalties you can control) 7. offense needs to get the ball to its playmakers quickly ( a run game would help) 8. play with a huge chip on your shoulder.
    We certainly need a big game from Speedy Banks. And we need Masoli to play adequately — Coach Condell — needs to put a good package for him.

  11. No Fumblitis Mazola

  12. The Ticats are in a desperate situation with an offense which was the best to the weakest entering the playoffs. To depend on special teams and defense to score points and to compensate for all the offensive turnovers is unrealistic.
    Unfortunately,the Ticat season was over on September 19th.
    I just hope Austin and the rest of this organization can figure out a way of keeping this team healthier. This is the third year in a row where this team is the league leader in injuries.

  13. Lindsay Wilcox // November 10, 2015 at 11:28 am //

    Excellent blog, Drew. And all fellow commenters above – this is one of the most thoughtful blogs here yet. Everyone has excellent points, I really have little to add other than my own opinion – Masoli PLUS a running game – Gable and the healthiest of the other international RBs.
    And if we can control the ball with no significant turn-overs, tough D, AND a special game from the special teams…..

  14. Masoli, despite not being high on the depth chart all year was inserted very quickly into the game last week and at least showed that he has the ability to run if necessary. Mathews has had more game experience but is too immobile and susceptible to taking sacks and throwing the bad interception even if ready. Harris despite not making any real gaffes in his short time on the field has the least experience of the three. Anyone other than Collaros will not read coverages as well so why not go with the guy who gives them the extra mobility,…finally when people start talking about their insider information that a particular guy is not the ” team’s choice ” makes it sound like a popularity contest…. everyone on the team wants to win and go forward and is a professional and will gladly play with whoever gives them the best chance to win… I’m sure Austin will base his decision exactly on that , not the unsubstantiated claim of not being the team’s choice….

  15. I’d start Mathews – if he’s ready – and have a somewhat short leash.
    Mathews is the only backup that has won games.
    Masolli is defiantly next up if Mathews struggles.

    BTW: Not exactly sure what the MOP criteria is… BUT if Zach has not proven…(1) by way of his W-L record, Stats, Q.B rating and the great intangibles he brings – immeasurable, yet their effects witnessed by fans and writers alike this season – along with (2) irrefutable evidence that the offence (minus Z) is even less than a pale comparison of when Zach was in…. How can this man not be the MOP of a team and a league!

    • With Burris doing well plus having the wow factor of age – I can see where Collaros might not win.

      I’d have to check but I seem to recall articles when Ray missed significant time that usually, missing time lowers one’s chances. It sticks out in my mind as there was surprise when Ray did win.

  16. I just wanted to re-iterate Lindsay’s point. I completely agree. We have a strong D, with Gable and Masoli +1 more RB, we can control the clock. Masoli has an arm as well, so run the ball lots, then drop a deep one. Simple, easy, keeps the defence honest (which guy in the back to take) and just grind it out. Wish our O-Line was more aggressive…

    I am not counting us out yet…

  17. Angelo Varvouletos // November 10, 2015 at 2:26 pm //

    A 2 QB system would be great if teams had the same amount of weekly practice time as they used to. Current CBA limits practice time, so there really aren’t enough physical reps to go around.

  18. I’m with the majority here about starting Masoli, mainly due to his mobility, especially if wind is a factor again.

    I like Mathews, but even though he has more game experience since Zach went down, he has less time in the CFL which can hamper him when it comes to making quick reads off the defense. His lack of mobility or willingness to run until it is usually too late often results in the offense stalling. Of course there is no guarantee that he will even be healthy enough to play.

    Even in his short stint, I thought Harris did OK as well. It isn’t his fault that receivers dropped a couple of good passes that should have been caught and that resulted in the offense not being able to sustain a couple of those drives.

    Whoever starts may be on a short leash if Austin and Condell feel that they can get better production on offense from one of the other QBs. Ball security of course is a MUST – it has been the biggest problem in the past few games.

  19. Regarding… “We have a strong defence…”

    This defence has proven it can be beaten…

    How many times was C. Stephen beaten for a deep pass against Ottawa???

    How efficient were they at stopping Ottawa’s running back???

    How many TDs does Ellingson need to get before we cover him???

    How many sacks are they getting now???

    I will be at THF cheering, jeering, booing and of course chanting “Argos Suck”… In a hope that the Ticats can pull off a miracle and beat the Boatmen…

    It’s not impossible but highly improbable…

    Just saying…

    Cheers… Snake

    • Very well said Snake. Re: C. Stephen’s play…his coverage wasn’t bad, if he’d only look back and make a play for the ball. I thought this D was better against the run? I know Hall was injured, but still. Does anyone know his status? Why can’t they get any sacks now? They’re always a split second to getting a sack before the QB gets the ball away. And Ellington is good, but not THAT good. Are we double covering Williams? We’ve been able to contain him pretty well. He has dropped a number of balls…seems like he’s hearing footsteps and is afraid of getting hit.

  20. I still think in the Ottawa game…palin and simple….the defence was on the field tooo long…..if the offence can move the ball…stay on the field for a while and score a few points…the defence has time to recharge…and will kick some Argo butt…one game at a time. As much as I like Masoli…Austin will make the right call. It’s great we voice our opinion…but at the end of the day. Hope our coaches make the right move. I am sure they will..

    • I agree. D was on the field for over 10 mins. in the first Q. Hard to bring it when you are tired. offence and ST have to avoid early turnovers, eat the clock, at least a few series and maybe score a few early. Then the D can bring it.

  21. I agree Austin is a “systems” guy. Masoli is not and relies on improvisation and broken plays utilizing his scrambling ability – “sandlot football” at it’s best. And this is the reason, perhaps, why he may not be one of Austin’s boys? Well shame on him. Seems to me I know another professional QB who utilizes the same approach who wears #3 just 140 miles from me in Seattle and he seems to be doing just fine. My head says Argos…my heart says TC’s. Perhaps I’ll predicate that somewhat. If Masoli takes a Tylenol for Fumbleitis, and the entire middle of the TC’s D stops resembling a bunch of pylons perhaps it may sway my head as well. Oskee wee wee.

  22. Ticat Mike // November 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm //

    Good points Snake. The level of play of our defense has dropped off significantly – we’re second last in the league in QB sacks, and very soft in the secondary coverage. The team is in a bit of a shambles — but need to play at a very high level in all phases to pull out a win. Funny how it all fell apart after Zach’s injury.
    Excellent point of Ticat TO — somehow, some way, the team needs to determine why we have had a huge number of injured players three years running now. Is it our turf? practice methods? schemes? off field training/prep? or just plain old bad luck? But bad luck,3 years in a row? That’s what is hard to comprehend. Whatever it is, I hope the tide turns for this organization and the number of major injuries to key players goes down (how about — the league average). Wishing the CAts a great game vs. the ARGOs. YOu’ll know they will be ready.

  23. Snake and Ticat Mike – I agree that the D has dropped in quality lately but the “lately” coincides with Zach’s injury and the inability of his replacements to have consistent drives giving our defense time to recharge as stated above. Balance the time of possession more closely and I think you’d see the defense perform more like they did in the first 11 games. It really is a shame that there is such a drop off from our first to second string QBS, something that must be addressed in the off season. People get hurt in this sport and we can’t continually be in this position going forward. Anyhow, Go Cats Go!

  24. Re: defence and time on field…

    Most of you are probably too young to remember the 1967 Ticat defence… They did not allow a TD against for final seven games if that season on their way to winning the Grey Cup…

    The reason I mention the 1967 team is… The offence that year was at best adequate… Scoring few points but just enough to win games… It was all about the defence that year…

    Regardless of time on field… A dominant defence is a dominant defence… And never yields or gives quarter…

    Besides the opposition’s offence is on field same amount of time our defence us on field yet they don’t seem too tired to score a ton of points against us…

    Just saying…

    Cheers… Snake

    • Snake – could you imagine the number of penalties that a team would incur in 2015 if they played the style of defence that made the 1967 team great? In August, I thought this defence was even better – they were tough and more athletic and could take the ball away. In 1967 you could beat up on the quarterback a lot more, the blocking rules for offensive linemen were a lot more stringent and it was much tougher for receivers to get open because of greater contact and the referees just let them play for the most part. I believe in those days the ball was much fatter and heavier and the ball could not be thrown nearly as far. Fun to think about how good and tough that defence was though.

    • And that same defense likely would have a ton of flags thrown with the rule changes where having a receiver forced to change their path is a penalty on the defense. And that’s without considering that a finger hitting the QB’s helmet has been roughing the passer for a while now.

      As for the offense isn’t getting tired – I’m not sure how it is relevant. Doing something that has success is going to give one energy as opposed to needing high energy to make say an INT that turns into zero points.

      Don’t get me wrong … I’d love it if they dominated but under the new rules, that type of domination is much more difficult.

  25. Lindsay Wilcox // November 11, 2015 at 4:10 pm //

    I was 21 in ’67 and remember the season very well, went to a few games. Actually it was only the last 6 games, including the Grey Cup, where they didn’t allow a TD. Zuger ran and managed the offence and he has admitted that Sazio was all about the D, but says that ’67 was the best team he played on. It was too bad Smokey Stover played only that 1 (actually about 3/4) season – he was the best MLB Ticats have ever had. It seemed like he was in the opponents’ huddles as he always seemed to be right where the ball was going, stuffing the middle on runs, or dropping deeper for knock-downs and interceptions. And of course with Henley et al on D behind him, and Mosca and Barrow in front of him. I too thought the D this year could challenge the ’67 team, but the new PI rules changed that. I hope you all can go to the game !

  26. ’67 defense was better than this year’s defense. There are no Moscas, Barrows, Henleys, Sutherns or Krouses on this year’s team. Period. BTW, you can wath the 1967 Grey Cup game on your computer. Joe Zuger was mvp,BROKE HIS NOSE on a qb sneak at the goal-line and continued to play with the broken nose. I think Dr. Charters fixed the nose at the Ti-Cat bench. Those guys were tough. Hmm I guess you’d call that an “upper body” injury today. Today’s players are not that tough, unfortunately. I rest my case!

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