Milton: Collaros departure leaves “melancholic aftertaste”

One holding penalty away from a Grey Cup win.

One torn ACL away from what could have been the greatest season in franchise history.

But this is not horseshoes nor hand grenades, so ‘close’ means exactly the same as ‘not’.

The Zach Collaros era was officially terminated in Hamilton Wednesday, four months after it unofficially ended with June Jones replacing Jeremiah Masoli’s clipboard with a football.

It was as inevitable as nightfall but when the sun did, as expected, go down with Collaros’s trade on Wednesday to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it still left the melancholic aftertaste of this-might-have-been-so-different.

Collaros was well on his way to becoming Hamilton’s first homegrown marquee quarterback — OK he, like Masoli started elsewhere (read, Toronto), but he became a real star here — in at least three decades when he was bushwhacked by a severe knee injury in September, 2015.

Two seasons later Collaros’s team started 0-8, Kent Austin stepped down, and Jones brought in the committed running game (abetted by superior situations at offensive tackle), that would benefit Masoli, but not the man he replaced …. now permanently.

If Collaros doesn’t get hurt in 2015, if Austin makes the coaching move earlier, if the tackles had been sorted out, if Speedy Banks had been used more regularly as a field-stretcher ….

But it doesn’t mean squat, especially in the CFL, the iffiest of all leagues.

So here is what Ticats fans are looking at, now and in the near future.

The local heroes received a 10th overall choice in this spring’s CFL draft for a quarterback who likely has a lot of life left in that arm, those legs and, particularly, that studious mind. Doesn’t seem like much but remember that Collaros carries a salary which was going to be the CFL’s largest this year. It will likely now be renegotiated downward in Saskatchewan but wasn’t going to be renegotiated here, meaning the Ticats would have had to cut him a check for $200,000 — weighing against the salary cap — on Feb. 1.

As in all deals like this, there had to be an asking price before that deadline, and a much higher asking price after it. The Riders, as they should have, chose Door One.

The Ticats, while arguably shorted on the return, still benefit by having far more money to spread among Masoli, their other prioritized free agents and, possibly, Johnny Manziel.

They also now have four of the first 15 picks in a draft in which, Austin says, there is more quality “especially at positions we might need.” You can decipher that a number of ways but receiver is a need, and so will the defensive line be if Ted Laurent’s free agent asking price carries him out of town.

All this said, Masoli is not yet signed, but trading Collaros indicates that’s imminent. It’s been reported that both he and Banks are in town, ready to ink deals.

“Nothing official,” Austin told The Spectator of Masoli’s status. “But stay tuned.”

And Banks?

“Nothing official, but stay tuned.”

You might argue that Masoli does not have the long-term potential for ultra-stardom but you’d get a debate from Jones and does that matter now? What has happened lately is that Masoli was 6-4 for a team that ended the season on an upswing, actually became a concern for opponents and can’t wait for 2018 to begin. He’s also shown some of the true growth that comes with being an uncontested starter, protecting the football in a way that didn’t seem possible earlier in his career. As Austin says, his mechanics still need work, but he’s one of the hardest-working players on the team.

“We value self-awareness,” Austin says, “a real understanding of where one is in his development, and what one has to do to work on it. It’s a type of humility … and Jeremiah has that.”

For his part Collaros, frustrated all season, gets a new start and told Spectator football writer Drew Edwards, “When I signed the contract extension (in 2016), it was the place where I wanted to finish my career. The last year, things didn’t work out the way anyone wanted them to. Am I disappointed in how it ended? Obviously. I’m not going to win a Grey Cup in Hamilton.”

Staying in the quarterback realm, the Ticats have until Sunday at noon to offer Manziel a contract, even one he doesn’t accept, and they’ll retain his exclusive CFL negotiation rights for another year. Austin says he’s been in constant contact with Manziel’s agent Erik Burkhardt, but says the team probably won’t announce to the public whether or not they’ve made him an offer.

But he’s an asset and, therefore, they will make him an offer. If they haven’t already.

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
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (209 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.

28 Comments on Milton: Collaros departure leaves “melancholic aftertaste”

  1. Well, best of luck, Zach. You’re a better quarterback than Jeremiah. You’ll be missed here.

  2. Ridersnhabs // January 4, 2018 at 10:39 am //

    What a punk ass comment “the CFL the iffiest league ” . Such a stupid comment , every league out there you can say the same things . Here is a hint , if you don’t like the CFL don’t write about it . You are probably more suited to writing in the gardening section of the Hamilton spectator.

    • Ridersnhabs. “what a punk ass comment “you made there
      Steve Milton is one of the two best writers in sports journalism. Drew is the second.
      JMHO

    • Milton is in the football reporters hall of fame you loser. Go change your tampon already.

    • I think you’ve taken it out of context… Milton used “iffiest” because “what ifs” are such a regular part of every game (and much postgame commentary), and also very apt regarding Zach’s time in Hamilton.

      • Habsnriders // January 4, 2018 at 2:57 pm //

        Yes I understand the comment , but it was dis on the CFL . He called the CFL the iffiest league . Every league in every sport there are what ifs why call out the CFL as the worst . Typical eastern bashing of the CFL
        The fact that he is a hof writer makes it even worse

  3. It boggles my mind that fans hang the 0-8 start on Collaros and give Masoli full credit for the 6-4 finish.

    The turn-around on this team had FAR more to do with Reinbold getting the boot than a change at QB. This team was easily the worst at almost every position to start the season. The defense couldn’t stop anybody and the offensive line was a sieve to start the year. Collaros never had the benefit of a solid line to play behind and had a rotating cast of sub-par receivers most of the time.

    Jones and Lolly came in and cleaned a lot of that up and for it, most of the fans hand all the credit to Masoli. Anyone who knows a lick about football knows that Collaros was and still is the better QB. Trading him for almost nothing will haunt this franchise for years to come.

    • Not sure why when anyone watching over the last several decades would be surprised.

      Many QBs have been assigned more than their fair share of blame and more than their fair share of the credit for a team game.

      Like it or not … part of Jones’ cleanup was to go with Masoli, whose running provides a far more effective third threat to defenses.

    • ProB = Well said. I couldn’t agree more! There’s NO way that the poor start can be hung on one person, especially Collaros, who was often in some respects playing with “one hand tied behind his back”.

  4. Is another rehash needed today?

    News that seems to have come out after the deadline is that Masoli has re-signed for two years, quashing the speculation he would want to test FA due to all the talk about Manziel possibly being starter a game or two into the 2018 season.

    Time will tell whether both the Riders and Cats end up being happy with this move.

    • I think that the Riders are ecstatic with this move. The Ticats are in “wait and see” mode to see if this is going to help them become a championship team as they were so close to being with Collaros at the helm.

      • If the Riders are ecstatic then I guess they are waiting for a signed contract to name Collaros the starter, like Trestman did for Ray?

        IMO both are moving forward where any changes will depend on what plays out in the season.

  5. RalphInTheCreek // January 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm //

    I happened to really like Big Zach attack.

  6. Well I tbink collaros is not the qb we thought he was glad Masoli is here and is gonna lead this team!

  7. As much as I like Zach,June Jones chose Masoli over Collaros. He could have kept Zach but chose Masoli instead.
    We have to assume that Jones believes he chose the better suited QB for his offense.
    Based on what I saw last year it’s difficult to support the idea that Collaros is better than Masoli.

  8. I don’t think they chose the right QB. I would have wanted to have seen Zach play once they had the line sorted, and the playbook, and the running game, and the D for that matter. It was all a mess when he played. He’s not old, and should just be entering his prime now. So I totally expect him to play at an elite level again. I’m sorry to see him go. Anyway, he’s a good guy and I do wish him well in Sask.

  9. 3 decades? Good grief Steve. McManus was here in 1998-2005…damn good QB, non?

  10. Zach: “I’m not going to win a Grey Cup in Hamilton.” But the big question is he going to ever win another game anywhere?

    • So far, it is shaping up that we may find out … as opposed to those who figured no CFL GM would try a trade for him.

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