On the day he was announced as head coach of the Toronto Argonauts last February, Marc Trestman named Ricky Ray as his starting quarterback. It took June Jones five days to anoint Jeremiah Masoli as the No. 1 in Hamilton after getting the top job in August.
But new Montreal head coach Mike Sherman was unwilling to make any such pronouncement last week as he took the reigns of the Alouettes.
“I don’t think we’re in a position here to determine who the quarterback is going to be,” Sherman said at his press conference. “At this point, that’s up for grabs.”
Much like the Argos when Trestman took over, the Alouettes have a proven veteran quarterback with lots of question marks. Heading into 2017, the then-37-year-old Ray had started just 12 games over the previous two seasons and there were concerns about the health of his shoulder and his durability. The Argos had traded for Drew Willy the previous September and many expected the team to hold a competition in training camp. Instead, Trestman gave Ray a vote of confidence and he led them to a Grey Cup championship.
The situation in Hamilton was different – the team was 0-8 when Jones took over – but his first big move was installing Masoli as his No. 1 pivot. Given previous starter Zach Collaros’ hefty contract and previous performance – he’d led them to the 2014 Grey Cup and was the front-runner for MOP the following season before getting hurt – it was a bold decision.
It too paid off, though less spectacularly. Masoli played some of the best football of his career in leading the team to a 6-4 record that included a surprising playoff push. It certainly helped Jones secure a contract extension that will see him back on the Ticat sidelines this season.
Meanwhile in Montreal, Durant is coming off one of his worst seasons in his 12-year CFL career. He threw for 3,233 yards, 15 touchdowns against 16 interceptions – second-most in the league – and was benched multiple times. He’s 35 years-old.
But Durant does have two Grey Cup rings and was a West Division all-star as recently as 2013.
The Alouettes also have four other quarterbacks on the roster, including the aforementioned Willy, Matthew Shiltz (who started the last game of 2017), Jacory Harris and Antonio Pipkin. Willy and Harris are set to become free agents in February.
There are other factors to consider. According to 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk, Durant is due a $150,000 roster bonus on Jan. 15 – a big salary cap hit for a guy coming off a down year. Sherman said during his press conference that he plans to hire an offensive staff and what the system will look like – Sherman is known for his use of the West Coast offence – remains to be seen. He has connections to Johnny Manziel from his days at Texas A&M and the CFL quarterback carousel still has a number of unanswered questions (including the fate of Collaros.)
In other words, it’s hardly surprising Sherman chose to punt on his starting quarterback at this point.
Still, it’s a stark contrast to the bold and immediate decisions made by Trestman and Jones and means – like Sherman’s hiring in general – there are many big questions still to be answered.