Saturday, February 25, 2017
The CFL's Canadian QB Problem Comes Up Again
He's traded in his cleats for a tool bag, studies wiring diagrams instead of play books and slings copper cable instead of leather footballs.
The only time Jordan Yantz is still a quarterback is when he plays flag football in Regina, where teams are constantly asking him to be their “ringer.”
“I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the game,” Yantz, working as a Level 2 apprentice electrician, was saying over the phone, Friday. “It sucks not playing.”
Like virtually every other Canadian university quarterback, the former Manitoba Bison's dream of playing professionally was sacked before it got any traction.
Yantz got into two training camps in B.C. while playing junior ball there and a couple in Winnipeg with the Bombers. Each time he got a, “Thanks for coming out.”
Depending on whom you ask, the lack of Canadians in the most important position on the field is either bordering on criminal or an unavoidable fact of life.
A league that mandates 20 Canadians on every roster, seven of them starters, hasn't had a homegrown star at quarterback in nearly 50 years. The last, Russ Jackson, retired in 1969.
There are currently two Canadian quarterbacks on CFL rosters – Andrew Buckley in Calgary and Brandon Bridge in Saskatchewan -- and that's two more than there were in many of those intervening years.
How to change that, and develop the next Jackson, is something CFL types have been wrestling with for years.
Former CFL head coach Danny Maciocia, now coaching the University of Montreal, says it's time the league adjusts its ratio rules and forces teams to carry a Canadian.
“They’ve got to step forward and show some leadership on this issue,” Maciocia told the web site lastwordoncanadianfootball.com.
CFL rules say if you start a Canadian quarterback, it doesn't count towards the seven mandated starting Canadians each team must field.
That seems to provide a disincentive for teams to try out Canadians.
But Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters says it's a moot point, that forcing teams to place a Canadian at the No. 3 position would end up being little more than window dressing.
“You can mandate this, but you can't mandate to (coaches), 'Get him reps in practice.' They're going to want to play the best guy,” Walters said. “And training camps are so short. We're trying to figure out if Dom Davis has a future, and where's Dan LeFevour at – let alone mandating that this Canadian kid's going to be the No. 3 quarterback.”
There may be one or two Canadian kids good enough, but not one for every team.
Walters says most teams would have a third quarterback from the vast talent pool down south waiting on the practice roster, ready to leapfrog the Canadian in the event of an injury.
This coming from a Canadian GM who used to coach university ball and who'd love to find a way to develop homegrown signal-callers.
“Everybody's on board that of course it's a good idea,” Walters said. “Ok, how? And no one can come up with it.”
One idea is to reward teams that dress a Canadian with an extra American on the roster.
“Every team would do that,” Walters said. “We'd dress you as the third-string quarterback. In principle, that's great. And everybody would see Jordan Yantz standing on the sideline. If that's what you want to do just for the sake of appearance, by all means.
“I don't think that does anything for the development of Canadian quarterbacks.”
Unless they come to camp already better than their American competition, which rarely happens, they'll be little more than public-relations passers.
The presence of Buckley in Calgary is interesting.
The former star at the University of Calgary, a two-time Hec Crighton winner as the best player in the country, earned a role as the Stampeders' short-yardage and goal-line quarterback.
Still just 23, Buckley scored eight touchdowns as a rookie, tying a 54-year-old record for most rushing majors in a season.A record set by Jackson.
“He got in a few pre-season games and put a drive together and next thing you know he's scoring a touchdown in the Grey Cup,” Yantz said of his old college opponent. “It's times like that where I kind of kick myself and say, 'Damn, I wish I was in his shoes, or was given the opportunity to be able to do that.' It's about timing.”
Buckley's timing in Calgary might be even better this year: the Stamps traded Drew Tate to Ottawa, leaving the No. 2 position open behind starter Bo Levi Mitchell.
Or maybe Calgary will simply fill the hole with another import.
And we'll be no closer to finding the next Russ Jackson.
(Paul Friesen/Winnipeg Sun)