With more eyes that expected for preseason action, the Manziel effect was in full force for the Ticats this year. But, the regular season is now upon us and the excitement of first glimpses of Johnny Manziel in the black and gold are over, it’s time for the real work to begin. It all starts with one golden question: Who starts for Hamilton?
Texas fans, Cleveland fans, and migrant NFL fans look away, because this job was never meant to be given to Manziel. Tiger Cats head coach June Jones is right to not just roll over and hand the scrambling, talented, QB the keys to the castle just yet. It is Jeremiah Masoli who earned the job, kept the job, and will start come the weekend for the Tabbies.
Why is it Masoli’s job? Well when he took over last season the Hamilton Tiger Cats were 0-8 and the season was effectively finished for them. A change was needed and Masoli and Jones represented that. The tandem worked magnificently together and made a respectable season out of a disastrous one in a quick turn around.
That disastrous season started 0-8. Zach Collaros was the quarterback and while struggling often with injury, he was always touted as a top class talent and showed it in previous years. However in 2017 he couldn’t seem to manage games in a way that would see out wins, or capitalize on opportunities presented to him. His coach Kent Austin was relieved of his coaching duties and Jones took over on August 24th. Jones never looked back, seeing out the rest of the season with a 6-4 record on the back of his newly promoted starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Masoli had shown his offensive prowess the previous season filling in for the injured Collaros. He threw for 2695 yards and 15 touchdowns in ten games in 2016 and surpassed this in 2017 with 3177 yards and 15 touchdowns, reducing his interceptions from 12 to 5. Masoli is a talented QB and it is his job to lose as it stands for the 2018 season. The bond between Jones and Masoli should be extremely strong and will take a lot for the head coach to drop his QB for Manziel.
Manziel has done his best to force the hand of Jones in his decision on his starting QB. Manziel contributed to a Hamilton win over Montreal, as the Ticats scored 30 unanswered points to steal the game away from the Alouettes. Manziel finished the game 12-20 with 88 passing yards, added 19 rushing yards, and threw a very nice touchdown pass rolling to his right on a three-yard throw. Masoli rested, which is good and bad news for Manziel – good because he had more time to shine, bad because it pretty much solidified Masoli as the week one starter against Calgary come June 16th.
This is probably disheartening news for onlookers and passive, if not non-existent, CFL fans who were tuning in this season to see Johnny Football light up the Canadian League. He will be reduced to a clipboard player for the start of the season, as he should be, but not all hope is lost for Money Manziel.
It is a shame that these two can’t both be starting because they both have that fiery attitude that smaller, scrambling QB’s tend to have. They are quick, explosive, and keep plays alive with their feet. Just last season Masoli carried the ball 70 times for 446 yards and 4 TDs! Their style of play, while not mirroring each other exactly, is similar and you’ll see some related style of play between them.
With injuries popping up all over the league QB vacancies are a realistic situation for Manziel to monitor. As well, Manziel and the Ticats management team know he has elite talent and a ton of potential. This should keep Masoli on a tight leash, which will either see him off with the increased pressure, or keep him motivated by knowing he can’t slip up.
As it stands now the biggest winner is the Hamilton Ticats and the CFL. From a team that started 0-8 last season to one that boasts two immensely talented QB’s vying for the starting job, Hamilton is poised to have the collective eyes of the CFL fans and media upon them this season, not to mention Manziel trackers from Texas to Cleveland who will want to see some money signs being flashed.