Quarterback options for Ticats in wake of Jeremiah Masoli’s injury

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

If this feels familiar, it’s because it is.

When the news broke that Jeremiah Masoli would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL it felt natural to remember back to the last time an all-star-calibre QB for the Ticats suffered a devastating knee injury.

The year was 2015 and the Ticats were the class of the CFL. Then on a fateful September afternoon, Zach Collaros tore his ACL and the team’s season went up in smoke. The Ticats still finished 10-8 and came within a miracle hail mary of advancing to their third straight Grey Cup, but we all knew the writing was on the wall when Collaros went down. It was once again not going to be the Ticats’ year.

You can’t help but feel the same way now as you did back then.

The silver lining in all this is that Collaros’ injury allowed the Ticats to find Masoli. If you recall, it was Masoli who engineered the team’s East Semifinal win over the Argos and nearly led the Ticats back to the Grey Cup when he out-duelled Henry Burris in the East Final, but came up just short.

Masoli then was given the reins to open the 2016 season as Collaros continued his recovery. It was those starts that enabled him to become the player he has been ever since.

Lightning probably won’t strike twice, but it’s not like the East is overrun with quality teams. The Ticats still sit at 5-1, two games up on Montreal for first in the division, and still feature a top-shelf defence and stellar special teams. While they are no longer the overwhelming favourites, it isn’t all doom and gloom in the Hammer.

That said, the Ticats will need to decide what they want to do at the quarterback position. They have a few options, so let’s look at what those are.

Stand pat (while signing a QB3)

The first option is likely the one the Ticats will take.

Dane Evans will be elevated to QB1, with rookie Hayden Moore becoming the team’s backup and somebody will be signed to be the third QB. Hamilton did not have any QB competition in training camp, so it’s not even a case of the team bringing back a guy they cut in June.

There are a couple guys who have CFL experience that are available, like David Watford or Jeff Mathews, and while neither will threaten Evans for the starter’s spot, they are capable players who have experience in the league, something the Ticats are lacking at the moment.

The Ticats have a lot of belief in Dane Evans, so much so that he was one of the main reasons they traded Johnny Manziel a little over a year ago. Evans is far from a household name, but we didn’t know most of the current starters in the CFL before given their chance to shine.

Not everyone comes with the celebrity of a Johnny Manziel or are given the ball early like Ricky Ray or Doug Flutie; most guys come from small schools and work their way up the depth chart. We once didn’t know who Trevor Harris or Bo Levi Mitchell was, so anything is possible for Evans.

I’m not saying he’s the next Mike Reilly, but with the talent surrounding him, he could very well be. Evans was signed to a three-year extension in the off-season for a reason, and now he gets a team to call his own for at least the rest of this season to show the league why the Ticats put so much faith in the second-year man from Tulsa.

Find a stop gap vet

This will probably be the most popular option.

The calls for the team to bring in a CFL veteran with starting experience will be loud. Names like Kevin Glenn, Darian Durant and Travis Lulay will likely spring up in online forums or on social media. But this just doesn’t feel like something the team would do.

If they have the faith in Evans they claim to have, and there is no reason to believe they aren’t committed to him, then coaxing Glenn out of retirement, for example, doesn’t make any sense. The Ticats kicking the tires on a recently retired veteran is always a possibility because anything could be possible, but don’t get your hopes up that any former star is heading to Steeltown to save the day.

Trade for a potential starter

This one is the most intriguing since there are a number of potential starters currently in backup roles scattered across the league.

The Montreal Alouettes have three intriguing backups in Antonio Pipkin, Matthew Shiltz and Brandon Bridge. Pipkin and Bridge have played minutes in the league, with both having multiple starts, while Shiltz has always been a guy who observers have felt could be a player if given a chance. With the emergence of Vernon Adams as a legit starting-calibre QB, perhaps the Als would be amenable to moving one of their other former starters.

Chris Steveler is a name that will likely be popular amongst amateur GMs trying to make trades for the Ticats. He’s young, plays similarly to Masoli and is in the final year of his contract. He’s probably looking for a team to call his own, and while he might not be the long-term solution for the Ticats — I still think that despite this injury the team will sign a long-term deal with Jeremiah Masoli in the off-season — he would make for an interesting one-year rental.

I’ve seen some chatter online about the team trying to bring Zach Collaros back and we all heard those silly Bo Levi Mitchell trade rumours from a few weeks ago.

I would be shocked if the Ticats made a move for either, but I just wanted to cover my bases by bringing both up. It would be a nice story to see Collaros come back and guide the Ticats once again, especially considering that Tommy Condell is back as offensive coordinator. But nice or not, I don’t see it happening. And the Stamps aren’t trading Bo. Screenshot that and save it to send to @OldTakesExposed but I bet you’re holding on to that picture for a long time.

While I don’t think the Ticats are in complete dire straits right now, they will have to do something at the quarterback position at some point soon. It’s likely that the team finds an unknown or some bottom-of-the-roster type and plugs him in at QB3, but you cannot count out the team trying to make a splash with a roster that is championship ready right now.

Masoli’s injury is a massive blow to a team that has legitimate Grey Cup hopes, but what they do next will dictate whether those hopes are just lessened or completely dashed.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.