Masoli and Banks win player of the month… and could be gone by next year

So the CFL underlines in red ink what every local fan already knows.

Jeremiah Masoli and Brandon Banks have been the major keys to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ second-half revival. The former backup quarterback and the former spot receiver are now the roaring engines of an offence which has been Lazarus-like in its revival since the arrival of interim—that’s an adjective we suspect will be altered soon—head coach June Jones.

Both were among the top three (Banks first, Masoli third) CFL players of the month for October, announced by the league Tuesday, and both are among the 19 Tiger-Cats scheduled to become free agents in the off-season.

And both represent an organizational self-examination that is not uncommon for a losing team heading into a much longer off-season than anticipated: who do we want to sign, and who can we sign?

Until only recently Masoli wouldn’t have been among the ‘want to’ part. With Zach Collaros’s contract and still-huge potential and Johnny Manziel on the horizon, the Ticats’ quarterbacking situation is a house with many unfinished rooms. And Masoli has shown such consistency of late—four straight, and five of the last six, 300-plus-yard passing games; 14 touchdown passes against four interceptions since Jones took over—that other CFL teams will be interested, if the money is right. Unless the Ticats make him the starter publicly, and for good, he’d be out of his mind not to test the free agency waters.

And Banks would be even farther out of his mind if he didn’t dip a toe. He’s a bidding war waiting to happen.

But Banks might fall into that can-we-sign-him group, assuming the ‘Cats would like him back. While he won’t talk about it, you didn’t need Berlitz to read his body language during the 0-8 start. He resentfully felt he was viewed primarily as a returner and was under-used as a receiver under Kent Austin, and the numbers indicate that he was correct.

After he was targeted six times on opening night, Banks saw a total of just 12 balls thrown toward him in the next seven games. The first game under Jones, with Masoli at the helm, he was targeted 13 times. Last week in Ottawa he caught 13 passes. He was the league’s top player of the month because he inhaled 31 passes for 541 yards. In October alone, then, he caught four times as many passes and chalked up 10 times as many yards as he had over the first eight games.

That right there, folks, has been a serious philosophical change from what Banks so clearly had disliked.

As well as a philosophical change, the players, and Jones himself, have been talking about a cultural change that’s occurred since the end of August.

Nobody defines that cultural shift, so it could be as simple as the difference between a losing attitude that spawns from an 0-8 start and the clean chalkboard of a new guy with a new approach. But, on the flip side, it could also be cause-and-effect: that one culture was a major contributor to 0-8, the other a solution to it. You can debate that one on your own.

Whatever the case Austin, while not coaching, is still at the top of the football chain of command. If there have been real cultural differences other than mirroring the winning and losing, he has been at that top for both diverse segments of this season.

How much does all of this have to do with the ability of the Tiger-Cats to re-sign the pending free agents they would like to keep who are current starters? One would assume that includes linebacker Larry Dean, defensive tackle Ted Laurent, receiver Luke Tasker, and rapidly evolving defensive lineman Justin Capicciotti.

Offensive players were not happy through the first half of this year, and that was obvious. They felt the systems were taking too long to blossom and put undue pressure on the quarterback and offensive linemen because of the lack of a believable running game and deficiencies at tackle. They were predictable and easy to stop, and some players still missed former coordinator Tommy Condell who departed just before the 2016 season. Has there been enough distance, and success, since the quagmire of July and August that free agents on offence can look forward rather than back when they have contract talks with Austin, who no longer dictates the offence? You’d think so but with athletes, you never quite know.

With Friday’s lame-ducker against Montreal to go, we’re about to find out.

NOTES: The Tiger-Cats signed Hamilton native and former Mac Marauder Kevin Malcolm, who spent two years in Ottawa. Incumbent long-snapper Aaron Crawford has missed the last two days with an injury sustained in Ottawa…as well as player of the month, Brandon Banks was No. 3 CFL player of the week…

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
Steve Milton
Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (194 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

67 Comments on Masoli and Banks win player of the month… and could be gone by next year

  1. This is a tough one! Both players have played well but the team has proven they can’t win when they need to! Last weeks and this weeks game doesn’t matter regardless of outcome! I vote to keep Banks assuming he’s not pissed off and wants the bank vault opened after tak8ng a haircut by KA! Masoli I’m less inclined to sign him, because when the games counted he came out flying but he choked every game in the second half and couldn’t get them done! So can he win the big games? I don’t think he can so I would keep Collaros and teach him!

    • Speaking of choke, what has the 1.5 m dollar man done lately? I’ll take the 2014 GC off the table as well.

  2. Eddiefelson // October 31, 2017 at 7:28 pm //

    Yep; wayne nailed it.
    Bye masoli- go make another team .500
    Collaros will rock this offense…14+ wins

  3. Masoli wins player of the month and the calls for Collaros continue. Unreal. Only in Hamilton.

    • Until fans are able to see how well Collaros can run this offense given that the tackle position has improved greatly and a running game has been added – benefits that Zach didn’t have during the 0-8 start – some (including me) are going to question whether or not the second half record might have been even better than the presumed 6-4 that the team will have after this final game. Too many are writing Collaros off as if he’s forgotten how to play and ignoring the fact that he can be a scrambler and has often run for yardage when he has been successful. I’d rather trust the future of this offense to him than to JM.

      • this may mean nothing or everything but Masoli is a graduate of St.Louis High in Honolulu and June’s last recorded position before coming to Hamilton was at St. Louis High in Honolulu.

    • Eddiefelson // October 31, 2017 at 7:59 pm //

      Yeah…cats would be in the playoffs if chokey mcgee wasnt running junes offense.
      Collaros is getting blamed for austins offense.
      They cannot get rid of a fan favorite and expect to sell tickets

      • Fan Favorite is 0-12.

      • Funny that no one blames that Offensive Co-ordinator – Patazek – maybe because he’s was with Mac?
        It’s the OC that calls the offensive plays and June Jones started calling the shots in the second half of the season

        • Conan the Librarian // November 1, 2017 at 8:01 am //

          No one blames him because it was Austin who was calling the plays.

        • Austin has said otherwise as he confirmed he called the 2016 games and that he took back the play calling after one game in 2017.

          When with Mac, and I recall the same with Laurier – there was a credible running game, in addition to passing.

          Jones was hired early in August so if he was calling the offensive plays with no input from Austin – why’s the offense for the August games looking like an Austin offense instead of a Jones offense?

          It looks more to me that Austin dictated the offense, right up until he gave up the HC job.

          • because Austin was still HC and didn’t want it changed. 50 plays, well-read by the rest of the league, confusing for players and not winning, why change?

      • Hamilton would have made playoffs if there was no penalty challenges.

        Hamilton would be in playoffs if Refs had made only half of bad calls against them.

        Take your pick

    • Come on Breeze the fact remains Masoli is not a starting qb. He can’t complete the short pass every pass under 10 yards his receivers have to work hard to get. He can’t finish drives in the red zone. The guy is great coming off the bench period. I like Masoli, lots of heart needs to make better decisions, can make the bomb down field for sure but we could be 10 and 0 with the talent we now have and in the playoffs. Coach Jones shoulders some of that blame and he knows it, bad choices take the points when you can. But he will improve as he learns our game. Zach deserves a chance to prove himself under this system and as stubborn as Austin was so is Jones by not switching up qbs when nothing is on the line.

    • Masoli has the heart of a Lion…and I don’t mean BC…this guy will take the team to the Promised Land…maybe not next year…but he will get there.

      • System makes a difference. June if back is not changing his spread and shoot or whatever you call it system. Collaros is a pro set QB. Better for TO or out west somewhere.

    • @Breeze – Like I said in a previous post, Masoli will probably go win a GC next year and some TC fans will still be bitching that they want Collaros to start…LOL!

  4. Ain’t the salary cap wonderful? Remember the old days when Toronto and Montreal could out-bid everyone because there was no cap? The cap levels the field and keeps the league viable. I just wish it were a bit bigger (like $7m).

  5. Wayne: Be guided by actions and not words and you will find the truth. They are playing Masoli and not Collaros … they have already decided to let Collaros go. It is pretty easy math. You let Collaros go and save $520,000. You pay Masoli $385,000 to keep him. You give Banks back the $50,000 haircut that he took and top it up with another $50,000 and you are still money in the bank. That leaves you with $50,000 for Tasker and $50,000 for Dean. Toronto will pick up Collaros and he will come back to haunt Hamilton like it is Halloween every game day.

    • Eddiefelson // October 31, 2017 at 7:54 pm //

      Omg…did you just suggest paying a backup q.b. 385k?
      Are you insane? Masoli is worth 100k tops…there are 10 q.b.s in the league that are better than masoli. Any of which could run this offense and win IMPORTANT GAMES

      • Your hate of Masoli is disturbing.

        • Eddiefelson // October 31, 2017 at 8:38 pm //

          Jonathon jennings, travis lulay, bo levi mitchell, mike reilly, kevin glenn, brandon bridge,matt nichols, zach collaros, trevor harris, ricky ray….thats 10 better than masoli….any arguement?

          • Collaros? No.
            Glenn? No.
            Bridge? No.
            Lulay? No
            Harris? Nope.
            Jennings? Maybe last year.

            That appears to be 6 QB’s that are not playing at Jeremiah Masoli’s level right now.

          • Peter North // November 1, 2017 at 10:01 am //

            Masoli is better than Trevor Harris? haha, that’s funny.

            You must be related to him.

        • longtimetcfan // October 31, 2017 at 8:52 pm //

          Your love of Masoli is also disturbing. Until we can see how Collaros could succeed, or not, under the new playbook and improved player situation, there are too many questions to pin all our hopes on Masoli.

      • Eddie. Masoli will be a starter next year either in Hamilton or elsewhere. If Hamilton wants to keep him they must pay starter money. They cannot keep both Masoli and Collaros. They are playing Masoli and not Collaros ergo they plan on keeping Masoli and not Collaros. This decision has already been made.

        • Eddiefelson // November 1, 2017 at 6:16 am //

          Amicus- masoli will be backup somewhere and collaros will be starting..hopefully both in hamilton.

          • Time will tell …. but I don’t see how both staying is possible.

            The only way, IMO both would stay is if they believe they will compete for the starter jobs. With how little Collaros has played under Jones as HC (three plays), I suspect anywhere else is looking more attractive.

        • Who do you think Masoli could possibly displace of current starting quarterbacks???

          • The Durant / Willy combo in Montreal looks ripe for the picking.

            Ray and Glenn as also possibilities as both teams either made a trade offer for the higher priced Collaros or asked about him.

            Jennings / Lulay is more of a dark horse, depending on whether some combo of new ownership/GM/HC switches things up.

        • Decisions not made, lots and lots of decisions to be made in Steeltown still, including QBs

    • Holy crap Abacus…your first line is so profound…like something out of the works of Plato or Socrates…Philosophy Major…? Or maybe that Confucius dude? But I disagree with your last line….the only “haunting” that will occur is the pissed off thoughts of Mitchell and Austin when they realize they threw 1.5 m into Hamilton Harbour.

      • Hmmm … if the only “haunting” is the ditched $1.5 m then the Argos clearly have lost it by offering to trade for Collaros for the playoff run.

        • Argos don’t count. They’d pitch out 1.5 for a card board cutout of a QB if they thought it would help them.

          • Missed where Argo ownership, Popp and Trestman had buckets of cash to throw at a cardboard cutout QB as well as the willingness to do it. *grin*

            Regardless, my point was that if Collaros has no chance of playing well, which you seem sure of – they are wasting their time. I have my doubts that they are that far off the mark.

            Most around here were sure that Popp and Trestman had too little time/too much of a mess to do anything this season.

  6. In my mind, most teams are set at quarterback except Montreal – I don’t see them signing Masoli to replace Durant – Masoli at best is going somewhere else to be a backup – he is not flashy enough for Toronto or Montreal – Banks has the inside track in Saskatchewan if they decide to cut Glenn loose. I expect both Collaros and Masoli in training camp – Collaros is not being played because they fear him getting injured and them being on the hook for all of next year’s contract – they will then compete in training camp. Masoli will only stay if he thinks he has a chance at being the starter but where else would he go?

    • justforkicks // October 31, 2017 at 11:18 pm //

      How does cutting Glenn loose equate to bringing Banks in? Is banks suddenly a QB?

    • Mark. Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan all need a starting QB. Ricky Ray is great but he is too great a risk to hang the whole season on. DD will not return on Montreal. Brandon Bridges is not yet a starter. Masoli will get offers from all three of Hamilton cannot sign him.

      • DD does return to Montreal in a back up role, neither Toronto or Montreal have interest in Masoli. I agree with you on Collaros, Toronto wants him, Tommy Condell connection with Trestman will haunt Hamilton like Halloween every game they play- that’s why they will never trade him to their divisional rival.

        • No interest in Masoli or they figure the Cats will keep him so that Collaros and/or Manziel’s rights are all that are possible?

  7. Billinburlington // October 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm //

    LOL Amicus— your name should be Abacus, as your interesting math reminded me of the high school word problems I hated doing!

    You are right- the Ticats could save big bucks by letting Collaros go.

    Question- if they simply released him would they be bound to continue paying him until another team picks up his contract. Also, how many teams would want to trade for him given his poor play to start the season and his recent injury?

    • Player contracts are not guaranteed. Outside of bonus money due by specific dates as outlined in a contract, players can be cut after the season and owed nothing.

      The only case where a player’s money is guaranteed is during the last half of a season for veterans who have played a certain number of years. But once the season is up, the following one and any offseason bonuses are not promised to anyone.

      Coaches and GMs on the other hand usually get paid after termination, until their deal would have been up or they sign with a new team.

      As for the trade market for Zach, it’s probably limited because of his salary, and the fact other GMs know the Cats may have to release him to make room under the SMS if he’s really not in the team’s plans. I doubt injury history matters all that much, he seems fine physically.

    • Burlington. If they release him before February they owe him zero.

    • Collaros play for the first half of the season as well as concerns about his injury IMO only mattered for offers during the season, to help a team for the playoffs.

      Now that the timing is next year, I expect what is more important to teams is the possibility that the Cats cut Collaros. As long as teams feel they convince Collaros to join them, it saves sending assets to the Cats as well as opens the door to renegotiating the high value contract.

  8. Masoli needs to be signed asap as well as jj and we need those 2 running this offence come July. Send collaros packing and use some of that salary to bolster the d side of the ball . They also need to find a way to retain banks and tasker . Banks tasker Saunders tolliver would be a potent offence. If jj is retained I think it’s almost certain Masoli will be Re signed and Manziel will be offered a contract to be in camp in June. With the ticats done after Friday and the extension for Manziel to sign expiring nov 30 we should have a few key questions answered soon

  9. Masoli is not a starter. Banks is an ego maniac. Say by to both.

  10. solara2000 // October 31, 2017 at 11:18 pm //

    Enjoyed the article. Hadn’t seen to the author’s name until I started reading about the ‘chicken and egg’ question about culture, thinking this is a well-written article and voila, Steve Milton’s pic shows up. Should have known. Another great article by a great sportswriter.

  11. So Banks and Masoli could be gone, that happens.
    Look at last year, the word was Ottawa would lose Burris, Chris Williams, LaFrance and Ernest Jackson, all instrumental in the Grey Cup run.
    They were all replaced and Ottawa likely going to the Grey Cup again.

    • You need to predicate that somewhat as well by including in your rationale that the East sucks.

      • The East being a mess helps.

        That said, change a few silly mistakes early in the season or keep Harris healthy through the whole season and I doubt the Argos would have a shot at first.

  12. Understand John but if the cats would have pulled the trigger on Austin after going 0-2
    Or 0-3 even 0-4 we might be in and ottawa out. It’s all history now. time to make some moves for 2018 .

  13. i like nothing about the Ticats(as an Argonaut fan) but if you think Collaros could run the Ticat’s offense better than Masoli you are not watching.
    Most offenses are catered to the strengths and weaknesses of the guy that can exploit or manoeuvre them best.
    as it is now, Masoli takes it.
    solid O-line by the way, i hate them so much. (:

    • What’s different about the Argo offense that Collaros would run it efficiently enough for the Argo brain trust to make an offer for him?

      Or do you figure the Collaros trade offer was a brain fart by Popp/Testman etc.?

  14. Tiger Chick // November 1, 2017 at 6:33 pm //

    Steve, before you upset the entire fan base of the Ticats, lets have facts not “maybe’s”. Sure, everyone could be gone next year. I personally went up to Masoli and thanked him for what he did for the team the night they lost to the Argos. He pours his heart onto the field, he was so congenial and had just taken one right up the yang with the loss. He buys into the Jones philosophy. He is likely the most improved player on the team save Banks who equals him. Everyone is all about dissing him and big Collaros supporter. I am a Collaros supporter. I would like to see him play on Friday, see if he has anything left in the tank for us. In a perfect world we would keep both. The thing I like about Masoli is that in several games he’s run more yards than Ray has in the last 10 years, thrown one interception and if he gets hit stands up and takes it not rolls around on the ground like Harris. Sure everyone has good parts and bad parts to a game but too many people are focussing on the bad. People have to remember we are comparing to a Collaros of 2 years ago, pre injury and pre concussion. Masoli has no problem taking the ball and running similar to Reilly, gutsy and a good read. The team needs some work on 3rd and 1 but I think that if you hand JJ a whole season that will come. Get rid of KA, the rest will fall into place.

    • Very well stated re Masoli. Team also needs to work on first and goal by NOT going into the $%#@&^! shotgun formation…does not fool anyone…and doesn’t work!

    • Talk about dumping money into the creek, termination of KA = $$$$$$

  15. Go ticats let’s see collaras friday

  16. Despite a promising second half of the season there’s still a bad smell in Hamilton…and it’s not the steel companies any more. Austin and Tillman have to go. Period.

  17. gpocatsgo // November 2, 2017 at 8:26 am //

    All the Masoli vs Collaros debates are interesting and both sides have merits to the arguments…. what we don’t know is how each player would react or be valued by the team if Hamilton signs Manziel…. would Hamilton want to pay Zach his present contract ( plus 500 K ), probably not and so would he be open to renegotiating it ( don’t think so ) or would Masoli take some kind of raise, probably not near the amount being paid to Collaros and compete with Manziel ( sounds more likely to me ) and Hamilton offers a reasonable offer to a guy who has had past issues but also has shown by his college play to have a high potential ceiling as a starting quarterback…. lot of possibilities to unfold still in this Hamilton quarterback saga…

    • Where Jones is signed as HC, Masoli re-signs and Manziel is signed … why would Collaros want to renegotiate?

      It seems the fastest route to being able to play somewhere else.

  18. Pure speculation.. You wonder why they are playing coy with naming June Jones HC. Top speculative reasons… 4. June wants to see if the Browns have any interest in him. 3. June wants to get to see if they get Manziel or not 2. June’s Doctor wants to evaluate his health at age 64 first and..most likely 1. Bob Young has not decided who who will decide on the coach for 2018

  19. Thanks your information And Banks would be even farther out of his mind if he didn’t dip a toe. He’s a bidding war waiting to happen.

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