February 25, 2019

Steinberg’s MMQB: The off-season’s forgotten man


Mike Reilly is in BC. Trevor Harris has joined the Eskimos. And Bo Levi Mitchell has elected to stay in Calgary. Yet, with so much hype and buzz surrounding quarterbacks this off-season, the 2018 East Division Most Outstanding Player has been lost in the shuffle. Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli hasn’t had his name mentioned much this winter. We’re changing that this week.

Of course, you can understand why Masoli’s name has flown a little more under the radar over the last few weeks. Unlike his top tier quarterback brethren listed above, Masoli didn’t have any uncertainty about his 2019 home. He was one of the few big names players already under contract for next season, which the Tiger-Cats couldn’t be happier about.

If Mitchell and Reilly are the cream of the quarterback crop, than Masoli is probably next in line to enter that exclusive club. In his first full year as a CFL starter, Masoli finished second only to Reilly in passing yards in 2018, while his 28 passing touchdowns ranked him third overall.

Masoli also looked great as he threw for three touchdowns in Hamilton’s 48-8 win over the BC Lions in the Eastern Semi-Final. While things were a little more difficult the next week against Ottawa, Masoli led the Ticats to a playoff win and was one of the league’s most consistent quarterbacks all season long.

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With Masoli at the controls, fans in Hamilton have to feel pretty good about their situation for 2019. There are big question marks with all three of their East Division opponents, specifically at quarterback.

Can Jonathon Jennings get the job done in Ottawa? How will Johnny Manziel look for the Alouettes in year two north of the borer? And what are the Argos going to do come June? There are next to no questions when it comes to what the Tiger-Cats are going to roll out.

As it stands right now, Hamilton has to be the overwhelming favourite to win the division. As we’ve mentioned, they were able to retain all of Brandon Banks, Jalen Saunders, Alex Green, and Luke Tasker (not to mention Delvin Breaux on the other side of the ball), which is an impressive feat.

Now it’s on Masoli to pick up where he left off last year. He has a unique skillset, which allows Masoli to do things other quarterbacks in this league can’t. With all of his favourite targets back for another season, it would be a surprise for the Tiger-Cats not to be one of the most intimidating offensive teams in the league.

Sure, it’s a little early to be giving out first round playoff byes, but unless things change drastically, Hamilton will enter the coming season as overwhelming favourites in the East Division. Masoli is the biggest reason why.

Positive outlook

I had a chance to chat with Commissioner Randy Ambrosie last week and came away feeling fairly optimistic about what’s to come later this off-season. Talks about a new collective bargaining agreement are set to begin next month and the language coming from the CFL’s side of the negotiating table seems very positive.

“I’ve been meeting with (CFLPA executive director) Brian Ramsay and (CFLPA president) Jeff Keeping…pretty regularly since I took the job in 2017,” Ambrosie told me. “I enjoy talking with them, I think they want to see the league grow and the league be more successful.”

“I’m sure there will be some points of contention, that’s just the way it is. I think if you just…if you don’t lose your head, if you don’t lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, we want a bigger, stronger CFL and that’s how everyone is going to win when we grow the game together.

“I’m hoping that if we all stay focused on what will ultimately lead us to great success, then we’re going to end up with a good outcome.”

I’m well aware that words are nothing more than just that at this stage of the game. However, when it comes to so many collective bargaining situations in professional sports, we tend to hear a whole lot more rhetoric than what we’re getting from the commissioner.


Donnovan Bennett sits down with Commissioner Randy Ambrosie to get all the details behind the global football initiative that he calls CFL 2.0.

Sure, both sides will have their sticking points and their key positions, but nothing I heard from Ambrosie seemed to suggest a group of owners ready to dig their heels in. The Players Association has been very much the same; we haven’t heard endless rhetoric or posturing from their side either, which just adds to the positive outlook.

Usually I’d suggest what’s said in public needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but in the case of CBA negotiations it’s a little different. When things truly get contentious, both sides become determined to win the court of public opinion. In this case, though, both the CFL and CFLPA seem genuinely committed to having a constructive conversation to better the game.

“Maybe along the way the elbows will get up a little bit,” Ambrosie said. “For the most part I think on their side they’re good guys and we should have a constructive negotiation.”

No one expects the two sides to enter a boardroom and softly strum guitars while singing their way to a resolution. But, I won’t lie; it’s refreshing not to see agendas being shoved in our faces. As long as we’re talking about a willingness to negotiate in good faith, I can’t see this dragging on very long once conversations officially begin next month.

And just for fun, let’s not forget how much common ground Ambrosie, Ramsay, and Keeping share. All three played the same position, which is a fraternity in and of itself. Hopefully a healthy level of professional respect, on and off the field, carries the day. Ambrosie seems fairly confident of just that.

“They’re offensive lineman, how can you not like them?”