‘This is your team’: QB Dane Evans not looking to unseat Vernon Adams Jr. as B.C. Lions’ starter

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photo: Trevor Hagan/CFL.ca | Paul Yates/BC Lions)

Quarterback Dane Evans is thrilled to be getting a fresh start with the B.C. Lions but he isn’t gunning for Vernon Adams Jr.’s job.

The former Hamilton Tiger-Cat spent just one season as the undisputed starter in Steeltown before being traded to the Lions on Thursday in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2024 CFL Draft. In his first address to the media, Evans made clear that becoming a number one quarterback again was not high on his list of priorities when pushing for a trade destination.

“I don’t even have a list to tell you the truth. There’s no piece of paper that I have with any goals on it; my only goal that I’ve ever had is to win the Grey Cup and I feel like this is the best team, the best opportunity to do it,” Evans said. “Whatever my role is in that, if I stay on the sidelines and hold the clipboard the whole time, your name still goes on that trophy.”

The Lions will have a new franchise quarterback in 2023 after Canadian sensation Nathan Rourke signed with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. They have been vocal in their confidence in Adams for that job, after the former Alouette was acquired via trade mid-way through last season.

Adams steered the Lions whilst Rourke recovered from Lisfranc surgery, throwing for 1,504 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. He posted a 4-2 record as a starter and helped B.C. finish second in the West Division, earning the confidence of the coaching staff and a two-year contract extension in January.

However, the 30-year-old signal-caller has been in similar circumstances before. Despite a fresh extension and frequent assertions from then-head coach Khari Jones that he was the face of the franchise, Adams was benched by Montreal in favour of veteran Trevor Harris mid-way through the second game of the 2022 season. He was never given back the reins and was eventually traded.

Adams’ emotional response to Harris’ signing a year ago, which involved deleting his Twitter account following an angry post, suggested he knew the writing was on the wall. However, his public comments regarding Evans were markedly calmer, welcoming him into the fold despite similar circumstances.

For the incoming backup, ensuring a good relationship with Adams was priority number one after the move was made.

“The first person I talked to after I got off the phone with the coaches was VA. I literally called him as he was calling me,” Evans said.

“We talked, we caught up, and I just told him, ‘This is your team, I completely understand that. I want to do anything I can do to help you, much like I have done in the past with Jeremiah [Masoli]. Whatever that is, no matter how small it is, I just want to be here to help you because if the team sees how we’re pushing each other and how we’re competing at the most important position on the team, it’s just going to feed the rest of the team.”

The two quarterbacks have history, having briefly played together in 2018 with the Ticats. It marked one of the darkest stages of Adams’ career as he was momentarily converted to wide receiver and cut early in the year, while Evans was just beginning to establish himself as a backup.

“I was so fresh and so new. I was just trying to figure out how to make the team, whatever it took,” he recalled. “We’ve both kind of went our separate ways but now we’re back together, so it’ll be fun to see what we’ve each picked up along the way and bounce ideas off each other.”

Evans’ CFL career has since been marked by what he has been able to accomplish in tandem with other quarterbacks. He rose to prominence in Week 7 of the 2019 season after Ticats’ starter Jeremiah Masoli tore his ACL, throwing for 3,754 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions while leading the team to a Grey Cup berth.

He returned to the Ticats in a backup role in 2021, again assuming duties in Week 4. Evan missed half of the CFL’s pandemic-shortened season due to a lower-body injury and finished the year with 787 passing yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions, starting a second consecutive Grey Cup loss — though he was unable to finish due to injury.

Evans was named the full-time starter in 2022 after the team decided to move on from Masoli but seemed to regress once handed the mantle. He threw for 3,883 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions, leading the league in turnovers and eventually being used in tandem with backup Matthew Shiltz. The Ticats brought in Bo Levi Mitchell following the season, sealing his fate.

The five-year veteran can’t explain why he has traditionally functioned better when complimenting another passer but hopes to recapture the magic behind Adams, though he refuses to get ahead of himself.

“The biggest thing I want to do, and I think the biggest thing I’ve got to do, is I’ve got to just earn my spot, whatever that is,” Evans insisted. “If that’s the backup, if it’s short yardage, if it’s the holder, whatever it is I want to earn my spot on this team. I don’t want anything handed to me; I’ve never been that guy.”

Much like Masoli did, Adams plays the position in a radically different way from his new number two. However, Evans believes they can both bring something to the table.

“VA is a fantastic runner, I’m nowhere in that category, but I think there’s some things that I can do that other guys can’t do and there’s definitely things that other guys can do that I can’t do,” he remarked. “That’s the beauty of this game and that’s the beauty of the quarterback position. Whoever’s back there, it’s always gonna look a little different but also the same.”

While taking over a starting job is not at the top of his list of priorities, coming to the Lions was. Evans used what leverage he had to get his former employer to ship him out west, where he has long felt a connection and could work with respected offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic.

When it came to making that decision, lining up behind Adams was seen as a step forward, not a step back.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.