January 12, 2020

Who should the Tabbies turn to under centre in 2020?

Geoff Robins/Johany Jutras

TORONTO — The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are in a very enviable position heading into the 2020 campaign.

Depending on the health of Jeremiah Masoli, who is still recovering from a season-ending knee injury, there could be healthy QB competition in camp between Masoli and Dane Evans, who helped lead the team all the way to the championship game this past season.

With two extremely solid options to choose from, who should Hamilton turn to going forward?

On the latest episode of The Waggle presented by Sport Clips, Davis Sanchez and Donnovan Bennett discussed the Tiger-Cats’ QB situation and who they believe should be the starter for them in 2020.

Episode 193: Can Ottawa lock up Arbuckle + The best GM nobody is talking about

EPISODE OVERVIEW: Davis and Donnovan analyze the latest moves and news in the CFL, including Nick Arbuckle’s potential signing in Ottawa and Hamilton’s stacked quarterback room.

EPISODE RUNDOWN: The fallout from Nick Arbuckle trade (1:00); Hamilton locks up Masoli (13:00); Who should start for the Tiger-Cats? (17:10); Montreal Alouettes new owners (22:40); The most qualified GM nobody is talking about (29:30); Nick Marshall and Shaq Cooper off the FA board (33:30); Objectional Conduct (35:30).

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli rolls out of the pocket to deliver a pass. (The Canadian Press)

“It’s a good problem to have,” Sanchez said of the “predicament” the Ticats have found themselves in. “But most people at this point would tell you — and I would say as well — that Jeremiah is head and shoulders better than Dane Evans right now. So for that reason, all things aren’t equal and the tie doesn’t go to the younger quarterback.”

Heading into the 2019 campaign, there was no question as to who the leader of the offence was.

Masoli was coming in on the heels of his best season north of the border. He threw for a career-high 5,209 yards and 28 touchdowns en route to being named the East Division nominee for the league’s Most Outstanding Player honour.

He was off to a strong start in 2019, tossing for 1,576 yards and nine touchdowns through the first six games of the year. Despite his interception numbers being up, he had led the Ticats to a 5-1 start to the year.

When Week 7 rolled around, he’d suffer a season-ending ACL injury against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

That opened the door for Evans, who had joined the organization in 2018 and learned under Masoli and offensive coordinator Tommy Condell.

The 26-year-old Tulane produce helped to lead the Tabbies to a victory over the then-undefeated Bombers.

It’s not a simple stretch to say that if he’d started the entire year, Evans would have at least been a candidate for the MOP. In 11 starts, he threw for 3,555 yards and 20 touchdowns. If he had played 18 games at the pace he was on, he would’ve finished with 5,817 yards and 32 touchdowns on the year.

Evans’ breakout came on Mark’s Labour Day Weekend against the Toronto Argonauts, where he had a rushing touchdown to open the game before exploding for a 442-yard performance. From there, it seemed like he was on cruise control, making it look easy on a weekly basis.

With Evans still under contract and Masoli becoming a pending free agent, the question of who the Ticats would go ahead with arose.

Masoli re-upped with Hamilton on a one-year deal, which will allow him to prove to everyone that he hasn’t lost a step after rehabbing his injury.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans evades an incoming Edmonton Eskimos tackler during the Eastern Final. (Geoff Robins/CFL.ca)

“If you have a quarterback that you think could be really elite, that is the most coveted asset in this sport,” Bennett said. “That’s why I would say Dane Evans. 31 is not old. Anthony Calvillo and Ricky Ray were great for a long long time. But if you think that Dane Evans can be the next Bo Levi Mitchell, I think you just give him the keys to the car.”

Hamilton saw first hand just how potent a committee at quarterback could be when they went up against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw. For a team that finished with a league-best 15-3 record in 2019, adding Masoli back into the mix will only make them stronger.

Whichever man is under centre in 2020, the Ticats will be in good hands. Some teams are just looking for stability at the quarterback position. Hamilton, on the other hand, now boasts two MOP-potential talents under the same roof.