Shot for shot.
Like two frat boys making bad life choices, that’s exactly how the Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback competition is going with a week remaining until the end of training camp.
For every play made by incumbent starter Jeremiah Masoli, backup Dane Evans has an answer. Neither have made many mistakes and the competition for the top job remains neck and neck, which doesn’t surprise Masoli at all.
“I expect that of myself and I know he does too. We’re just competitive guys by nature. If one of us rips a good ball, obviously we want to follow it up with another one,” he said.
“It’s like that all over in every position group, not just the quarterback room. It’s just the DNA of the guys that our front office brought in, just a bunch of competitive guys — it’s who we are as Ticats. We just want to compete every day and then when we do get out there, it’s iron sharpens iron over here.”
While Masoli doesn’t think the QB battle is anything special, head coach Orlondo Steinauer has no issues highlighting just how spectacular the duel has been. Two top quarterbacks, playing at the top of their respective games.
“It is fun to watch. We try to play with them a little bit. They’re doing it with different receiver group combinations, they’re not turning the ball over and they’re giving us a chance. I look forward to the decision to be honest with you,” Steinauer said, refusing to tip his hand one way or the other.
Since taking over the starting job himself mid-way through the 2017 season, Masoli has developed into a star for the organization. He led the Ticats to a 5-1 record to start the 2019 season before suffering a torn ACL against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in August. He completed 125-of-175 pass attempts for 1,576 yards, nine touchdowns, and seven interceptions in those games, also rushing for 79 yards and four scores.
Evans took over as the starter for the next eleven games, posting a 9-2 record and helping Hamilton lock-up the No. 1 spot in the East Division. He completed 298-of-413 pass attempts for 3,754 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions on the way to a Grey Cup loss.
It’s a tough choice between the veteran and the up-and-comer and the production in camp from both players is more dream scenario than it is nightmare decision.
“You would expect this to happen, but it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to happen,” Steinauer said. “Maybe you thought one would really start separating, but right now we’re not focused on the decision that we have to make. We’re just focused on getting better each day.”
In a tight race, the gambling man might put his money on the seasoned hand in Masoli to retain his job. The Ticats gave Masoli a $125,000 signing bonus to re-up with the team in January, part of a one-year contract worth $350,000. Meanwhile, Evans received a $25,000 signing bonus to restructure his contract in January 2020, but does not have any guaranteed money on the books for this year.
The Ticats say money won’t factor into the decision but experience might. Whether it was clawing the job away from Zach Collaros or climbing up the depth chart at Oregon and Ole Miss, this type of training camp head-to-head isn’t new for the Hawaiian.
“I don’t know if edge is the right word, but I definitely am confident in myself because I’ve been through all that. I’ve been through multiple position battles throughout my career and it’s no biggie, it’s just another year,” Masoli admitted.
“It really doesn’t change too much except that I’m always trying to up my level. I expect a lot more of myself this year.”
The only problem: whenever Masoli ups his level, Evans will match.