Published on September 25, 2008 10:19 PM by dbo.
David Naylor of globesports.com has an interesting post on the lack of quarterback development by the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He seems to conclude this statistical anomaly is due to the ownership of these teams (and therefore the management) having no patience to develop QB‘s and so are always looking for quick fix solutions like Casey Printers for Hamilton last year and Kerry Joseph in Toronto this year.
Certainly the pressure of the southern Ontario market is part of the reason ownership group after ownership group will feel it is important to win right now and direct their management to make it happen. A general manager and coach will not be willing to develop a quarterback over a few years as it is hard to know if your young talent will even be able to be moulded into a CFL quarterback. Taking a gamble on what a quarterback will evolve into in a year or two when your job is on the line is not something most will be willing to try.
This is the same in most sports and quick-fix plans are more prevalent with the increase in free agency but teams in a youth rebuilding phase, although shorter, still occurs. The difference in the CFL is there are eight teams and being a team without a veteran QB is like giving up on the season. Being at the bottom of an eight team league, not winning a championship regularly in an eight team league is subject to mockery. In 30 team leagues a championship coming around every 30 years can be seen as within the norm. In the CFL you need to do that every eight years and be very competitive in between. Sometimes that can only be accomplished through the acquisition of players, for going through a whole development process, looking for the missing piece can mean you miss your chance.
Toronto and Hamilton are also singled out for this practice when it is prevalent elsewhere. Saskatchewan has only developed one star quarterback in the same time frame. Kent Austin is the only home grown QB who has had any success in Regina. Even Ron Lancaster started his career in Ottawa. Winnipeg has undergone its share of quick fix quarterbacks in the last 20 years with Matt Dunigan and Kerwin Bell being hired guns for periods while their current situation started with the acquisition of Kevin Glenn from Saskatchewan. Even Edmonton used Danny McManus for a period before he moved on to Hamilton.
Sometimes the acquisition of a quarterback leads to the player rising above his previous level. Conredge Holloway didn’t really break out until his second year on Toronto. The success of players acquired by trade or free agency has less to do with their star power, but whether the system they are asked to run fits their abilities. Unfortunately, too many coaches and coordinators believe they can put any player into their system and they should have success. If they do not, then it is not the system’s problem, but the player’s.
In Toronto and Hamilton the problem this year has not solely been on the QB position. With their focus on the QB position (and spending a lot of money on that position) they have neglected other areas of their team. Hamilton’s receiving core is starting to develop but has been lacking in depth and talent. Toronto still suffers from a lack of depth and talent at receiver compared to the rest of the league and has not properly utilized their running back talent in almost a decade. Canadian talent is also very key in the CFL, and both teams have sabotaged themselves by trading away draft picks and drafting poorly.
Lack of quarterback development is an issue for the CFL though. The lack of playing time for quarterbacks exacerbates the problem. Twenty years ago, backups were getting a lot more cleanup work (quarters and halves worth). Now coaches often leave their QB‘s in until the last series. Besides practice, there is no place to see their young quarterbacks and get them reps in real live-fire scenarios. The Canadian game is so different many players hardly get any chance to play before they are replaced the next year with the latest young prospect. Without another league to give these QB‘s experience and confidence in the Canadian game and plenty of American college replacements graduating every year, the odds are against anyone developing into a star CFL quarterback.
The win now policy and an all American quarterback system results in a QB for hire mentality, which leads to the lack of fan identification and a few quarterback disasters. When they work, like Toronto’s acquisition of Doug Flutie, the fans are happy with back-to-back championships. They might like it a little more, though, if their star quarterback had been developed on their team and was going to play with them for a long time.