The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are winless through four games for the first time since 2017 and one of the reasons has been quarterback Dane Evans’ horrendous start to the season, a point even his head coach seems to agree with.
“It’s a performance-based business,” Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer said. “It’s about going out on the field and executing.”
Evans has not been executing at the level you expect from a franchise quarterback or a player who has led his team to the last two Grey Cup games.
The Sanger, Texas native has tossed eight interceptions to go along with four lost fumbles in his first four games, ignominiously leading the league in both categories. Astoundingly, Evans’ 12 individual turnovers are more than the total number of turnovers that seven of the league’s eight other teams currently have at this juncture in the season.
Evans’ turnover problems are nothing new. The former University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane has thrown 26 interceptions in 21 meaningful in-game appearances since becoming the team’s backup quarterback in 2018 following the ill-fated Johnny Manziel experiment.
“It has been emphasized since training camp,” Steinauer said about not committing turnovers.
That emphasis has not paid off, with the Tiger-Cats sporting the worst turnover differential in the league at minus-eight, while also being tied with the Edmonton Elks for the most total turnovers with 15.
For his part, Evans knows he has to be better at keeping the ball out of the hands of the opposition if the team hopes to turn things around this season.
“To win and not turn the ball over,” Evans told reporters following the team’s loss to the Elks on Canada Day. “That’s all I know how to do. That’s the only way, in my mind, I can see to not be in this situation anymore, is to win and secure the ball.”
Evans, like most of his Tiger-Cats teammates, spent the team’s recent bye week away from football, choosing to hit the links to practice his golf swing and taking a trip to nearby St. Catharines with his young family.
Opinions vary on if Evans made the correct decision by getting away from the game instead of doubling down on football in an attempt to rectify his early season troubles.
The proof will be in the pudding when the Ticats get back on the field for a critical stretch that sees them play seven divisional opponents over their next eight games, beginning this Saturday when the Tiger-Cats host the also-winless Ottawa Redblacks at Tim Hortons Field.
The Redblacks will be without their franchise quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, after the free-agent acquisition was hurt on a low, late hit by Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Garrett Marino last week. Marino has since been suspended for the hit as well as for making “verbal comments about Masoli’s heritage.”
Many players have spoken out about the hit and what occurred in the aftermath, most notably Masoli’s current Redblacks’ teammate Nate Behar, reigning Most Outstanding Player and former teammate Zach Collaros, as well as the normally soft-spoken Masoli himself.
Saturday’s matchup was supposed to be a homecoming of sorts for the San Francisco, California native who called Hamilton his professional home for the last eight seasons. Instead, either second-year man Caleb Evans or recently acquired Nick Arbuckle will start for the Redblacks against the Ticats.
While we won’t get to see the Ticats’ former one-two quarterbacking punch duel each other on the field, Dane Evans will still have plenty to prove. Despite his recent struggles, the Tabbies are not giving up on their six-foot-one, 218-point franchise pivot.
“You don’t name somebody your starting quarterback in the middle of free agency if all the boxes aren’t checked, meaning some experience, lead naturally, all the things that we would want. He brings those every day and always has since he’s been here since he was a backup,” Steinauer stated.
The Tiger-Cats do not look like they will be moving on from Evans any time soon. Sitting as one of two winless teams left in the league, they have an opportunity to regain their footing over the next two months.
For Evans and the entire Tiger-Cats organization, there is a simple solution for how the franchise can move forward despite the less than stellar start to the season.
“The only way to get all this behind us is to go out and perform and get our first win,” Steinauer said.