Kyle Quinlan’s signing in Montreal seems ambiguous for the Canadian quarterback cause

There's been a lot of attention around Kyle Quinlan this year, as he bounced back from an ugly police incident and team-imposed suspension to lead the McMaster Marauders to the Vanier Cup and was widely seen as the top Canadian quarterbacking prospect out there, but wasn't selected in last week's CFL Draft. Now, Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette has reported that Quinlan has signed with the Montreal Alouettes, and Quinlan seemed to issue a non-confirmation confirmation to Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator, so it looks like he will make it to at least their initial camp. Quinlan's reported move to the Alouettes carries some positives for those who'd like to see a Canadian quarterback succeed in the CFL, and it will certainly add to the ongoing debate about non-import pivots. However, it's not uniformly great for the overall cause of Canadian quarterbacks, and that's primarily thanks to the team Quinlan has signed with.

The benefits to Quinlan heading to Montreal are obvious. While it was disappointing to the Canadian quarterback cause to see no quarterbacks taken last week (Quinlan, UBC's Billy Greene and Acadia's Kyle Graves, the three quarterbacks invited to the official CFL E-Camp, were seen as the most likely to be drafted, but none were), devotees can take comfort that Quinlan at least has managed to earn a CFL contract. That's not an insignificant step, and if Quinlan can impress the Alouettes' brain trust during training camp, it might translate into a real opportunity. Only a few quarterbacks even make it this far, so a free-agent contract for Quinlan does suggest that the Alouettes do see at least some value in him. That's not to be shrugged off.

However, joining the Alouettes seems like a particularly bad omen for Quinlan's chances of ever getting a real crack at a CFL starting job. Sure, starting quarterback Anthony Calvillo is 39, and he won't be around forever; he was performing like the best player in the CFL last season, though, so AC13's days under centre in Montreal may not be up any time soon. It's the guys behind Calvillo who are really concerning, though. No one's expecting Quinlan to win the starting job immediately, so the biggest issue for him is making the roster and hanging around as a second- or third-string quarterback (or perhaps the practice squad as a fourth-stringer), similar to what Brad Sinopoli managed to do in Calgary last season. The Alouettes have one of the league's best-regarded backups in Adrian McPherson, though, and presumed third-stringer Ricky Santos has dazzled whenever he's received an opportunity. Josh Neiswander hasn't shown a ton so far, but he did enough to stick with the Alouettes last year, so he may not be easy to unseat either. Add it up, and the Montreal quarterback depth chart looks like a very tough nut for Quinlan to crack.

Of course, it isn't easy to get on a quarterback depth chart anywhere in the CFL. There are only eight teams, each only typically carries three to four quarterbacks, and there are a ton of talented guys to choose from, especially from the ranks of NCAA players who didn't last in the NFL for one reason or another. Many guys who have excelled in the NCAA ranks, including Chris Leak, Jared Zabransky and Ryan Dinwiddie, haven't been able to stick in the CFL, so making anyone's roster is impressive. Still, just about every team has more question marks by their second- and third-stringers than the Alouettes do, and that makes Quinlan's decision to go there puzzling. Perhaps there's some factor we don't know that made Montreal an attractive destination for him, or perhaps the Alouettes were the only team seriously interested. Either way, Quinlan could still find success despite the steep odds; his landing in Montreal just isn't a clear victory for the cause of Canadian quarterbacks.