Orlondo Steinauer foresees ‘great competition’ for Ticats starting QB job

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/AlexLupul.com

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are not handing the starting quarterback job to anyone, it’s going to be a battle for the right to earn the No. 1 QB designation.

Jeremiah Masoli re-signed with the Ticats for the 2020 season and Dane Evans is under contract for two more years in the Hammer. Masoli went down with a season-ending ACL injury in Week 7 last year. Evans took over at the game’s most important position and helped the black and gold reach the Grey Cup.

“That will reveal itself over time. Assuming that they’re both healthy and ready to go, yeah, I think it’s going to be a great competition to see how it plays out. But again, to predict how it’s going to go exactly, that’s one thing. Because you can start off camp healthy, and not end camp healthy,” head coach Orlondo Steinauer told TSN radio 1150 in Hamilton.

“So there’s so much more that goes into it than just saying: ‘you’re the starter.’ Now everybody is going to want to see who runs out there with what we refer to as our “A” group. It will be, I’m sure, equal reps, but between Tommy [Condell] and myself we’ll have a nice plan for both of them to give the Hamilton Tiger-Cats the best chance to win consistently.”

Masoli missed the final 12 games of the schedule in 2019 after suffering the major setback to his left knee. He went down with a non-contact injury and didn’t want to believe his season was over. Last August Masoli had surgery to repair the ligaments and he’s been rehabbing ever since.

“He’s doing well. Until he can do everything, as far as full lifting and full sprinting and cutting and those things, I think how your knee responds that’s when the real tell will show,” Steinauer said.

“But in the meantime, reports are fine. I think he’s on a good schedule and we’ll see how that proceeds as we go down. It’s too early to tell or make any type of predictions of where we’re at currently.”

The 31-year-old Masoli led the Ticats to their best start since 1998 at 4-1. Masoli completed 71 per cent of his passes for 1,576 yards with nine touchdowns against seven interceptions, adding 17 carries for 79 yards and four touchdowns in parts of six games. Hamilton wanted to keep Masoli and Evans wanted him back too.

“There’s always a process to go through. We were actively in communication with Jeremiah and he needed some time for himself, and obviously his agent and his family, just to digest where they were at and where they wanted to go,” Steinauer said.

“We respected that and if we could get something done before the new year, we made a point to say, ‘let’s not drag this out’ or if this isn’t the direction we’re going to go, then everybody is happy and has direction.”

Masoli made over $335,000 last season and Evans signed a three-year extension prior to the last season, which means he’s under contract with the Ticats through 2021. Because Evans was inked at an affordable rate — which has playtime and performance incentives included — there was room to fit Masoli in.

“You have two competitive people and I think deep down in their hearts they both want to be starters and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Steinauer said. “That’s called competition.”