Eskimos head coach Scott Milanovich: ‘Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo could’ve started in the NFL’

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Scott Milanovich knows what it takes to play quarterback at a high level in the CFL and NFL.

Milanovich spent four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and after seasons in NFL Europe, XFL and AFL, finished his playing career in Calgary with the Stampeders. He went right into coaching, learning from Marc Trestman in Montreal prior to being hired as head coach in Toronto.

The 47-year-old football lifer went from coaching one Hall of Fame QB to another. Milanovich won two Grey Cups with Alouettes legend Anthony Calvillo and in his first year as the main Argos bench boss, Ricky Ray led the double blue to the 100th Grey Cup championship.

“I’ve coached Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo and those guys could’ve started in the NFL and they just never had a break. People don’t recognize how talented the different leagues can be,” Milanovich said on Edmonton TSN 1260 radio’s The Jason Gregor Show.

Calvillo never garnered a look from an NFL team coming out of Utah State University and had an ill-timed workout with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003. The three-time CFL MOP and Grey Cup champ played the rest of his career in La Belle Province. Following his NCAA days at Sacramento State University, Ray went to training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, but he was released among final cuts. He carved up CFL defences with Edmonton which led to one season in New York with the Jets.

Even though legitimate NFL opportunities are rare for even the elite producers who come north of the border, especially quarterbacks, Milanovich believes the CFL has lots of talent across the league. That comes fresh off spending three years as the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks coach, including a two-month stint where he called the offensive plays at the end of the 2018 season.

“Two-thirds or three-quarters of a CFL roster are guys that can play in the NFL, for whatever reason they didn’t. It’s hard for some guys, they think NFL their whole life and anything else isn’t good enough,” Milanovich said.

“This is what I tell guys that come to the CFL all the time because I went through it as a player as well… they think that they’re just going to come up and dominate and they do not realize how good the players are.”

Milanovich speaks the truth after coaching the highest levels of football on both sides of the border.