TORONTO — A career performance over the weekend may have put Brandon Banks in the driver’s seat for Most Outstanding Player.
A different race, however, is just heating up, as three rookie bench bosses lead a strong list of coach of the year candidates.
Craig Dickenson, Orlondo Steinauer and Khari Jones all faced unique challenges in their head coaching jobs, and all three are playoff bound with the Grey Cup in their sights.
In Regina, Dickenson faced incredible expectations following the departure of Chris Jones. Yet the Riders’ head coach not only maintained a high standard on defence, but also engineered an exciting offence while developing a long-term answer at quarterback in Cody Fajardo.
For Steinauer, the opportunity was long overdue — and the longtime coordinator proved he was ready. The Ticats overcame injuries to Jeremiah Masoli and Delvin Breaux — and the departures of coordinators June Jones and Jerry Glanville — to lead the CFL in points scored, points against and wins.
Jones was a last second call-up following the dismissal of Mike Sherman immediately after training camp. But the former quarterback made the most of a hectic situation, leading the Alouettes and their high-octane offence to nine wins and their first home playoff game since 2014. Jones deserves plenty of credit for what’s been a transformative season in Montreal.
Who deserves to win coach of the year? More in the Weekly Say.
Who deserves to win CFL Coach of the Year?
Jamie Nye: The finalists should be rookie coaches Craig Dickenson and Orlondo Steinauer. Khari Jones’ magic has calmed down in the last few weeks but Dickenson and Steinauer are taking teams led by backup QBs deep into the post-season. I’d give Steinauer the edge thanks to the wins.
Don Landry: Leaning towards Orlondo Steinauer. In his rookie year, he has not only met, but surpassed expectations. Keeping the Ticats at the top in the face of a number of critical injuries – Jeremiah Masoli, Delvin Breaux, Luke Tasker, pretty well everyone in the offensive backfield – is impressive. But I’ll also say this: It’s easy to make a case for Khari Jones, Craig Dickenson or Dave Dickenson. All worthy.
Marshall Ferguson: Orlondo Steinauer. From the outside he took a good team and made them great, but being close to the team I’ve seen all the little changes he’s implemented that have helped create results.
Matthew Cauz: Orlondo Steinauer. Team loses their starting quarterback and they will end the year with the best record.
Jim Morris: As much as I want to say Craig Dickenson, I would vote for Khari Jones. The Als were making headlines for all the wrong reasons leading into the season and seemed to be on a train going nowhere early in the season. Jones got them back on track and Montreal is a legitimate contender to come out of the East.
Which late-season audition is most intriguing?
Morris: Dakota Prukop. A guy named Dakota who played for Montana State? You have to pull for that story.
Cauz: Michael O’Connor. Give me a chance to watch a starting Canadian quarterback any day.
Ferguson: Micheal O’Connor. He’s got all the tools, I just want to see them come to life.
Landry: Michael O’Connor. He looked decent last week in a relief role. But that was against an Ottawa team that had already lost the game. I don’t know how many Hamilton starters are playing this week, but I’d like to see O’Connor open up at quarterback for the Argos.
Nye: I’m currently enjoying Chandler Worthy getting a shot in Toronto. He needs a new jersey but as he gets more reps on offence he starts to remind you of some smaller receivers who made it big in the CFL
What are the chances both Masoli and Evans are Ticats in 2020?
Ferguson: Seventy-five per cent. I think the organization respects both enough to want them back.
Morris: I think it’s about 50-50. Teams that need a quarterback will be looking at Evans. But does one good season make a quarterback? The Tiger-Cats will have to decide if they can keep both.
Nye: Ten per cent – never say never. The price may be low on the injured Masoli but Evans can request big bucks and the Tiger-Cats need to move forward with their new guy. Ottawa, Toronto and maybe Winnipeg could all be in the market for a quarterback of Masoli’s ability early next year.
Cauz: One per cent, only because I try to stay away from absolutes. Jeremiah Masoli is a soon to be free agent and Evans is signed through 2021. Hard to see a scenario where Hamilton can afford to have both on the roster and would either be all right being the backup? Personally it would make for great drama but I don’t see it playing out. Masoli will have suitors this off-season.
Landry: Depends on Masoli’s health when free agency draws near. If it’s apparent he’ll be ready to go to open 2020, I’d say zero per cent. Every team would love to have two starters. No team can afford it. If Masoli’s health remains up in the air, I can see the Ticats offering him an incentive-laden contract, based on playing time. And I could see him taking it, affording him a comfortable place to be as he works his way back to health.