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55 Yard Line

Canadian QB Brad Sinopoli dressing in Grey Cup, but position change might be in his future

Neate Sager
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Former Hec Crighton winner Brad Sinopoli will be Calgary's third-string QB on Sunday (The Canadian Press)

The McMaster Marauders' all-everything Kyle Quinlan, who's trying to win a second consecutive Vanier Cup, is the new Great Canadian Quarterback Hope. Meantime, there is talk the most recent one has a position switch in his future.

Thanks to Drew Tate's injury, former University of Ottawa star Brad Sinopoli is No. 3 on the Calgary Stampeders' depth chart. A Canadian dressing at quarterback makes for a neat footnote for the 100th Grey Cup, but it has an ugly side. It is within the realm that Sinopoli, 24, who was Canadian Interuniversity Sport player of the year in 2010 (as Quinlan will be this season), might not be a quarterback much longer.

That ought to be a prompt to press the Canadian Football League, which trades on patriotism, on why there has been so much talk and scarcely little action about addressing the competitive disadvantages faced by Canadian quarterbacks. Especially when there's a remedy out there.

From Rita Mingo:

The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has been seen working out as receiver during practices — which leads to speculation that perhaps he may have to shift gears in the future to continue his CFL dream.

But now, he insists, isn't the time to talk about what may be.

"It's something we'll deal with after the season is over," he acknowledged. "For this game, I'm focused as quarterback and being ready as a quarterback, so I'll talk about that after the season is over." (Calgary Herald)

That's a bit of a non-denial denial. One really cannot slam the Stampeders if it turns out their plan is to convert Sinopoli, who is a hell of an athlete, to another position. (In his second CIS season in 2008, he played receiver for the Ottawa Gee-Gees after they were decimated by injuries.) He has been on the roster two seasons, which is longer than many American passers with extensive NCAA resumes have lasted. The Stampeders also brought him back after Tate suffered a serious injury early in the season.

Of course, that ignores an obvious fact. As Andrew Bucholtz pointed out some time back, the American QBs whom CFL teams audition usually have much more field experience, thanks to NFL stints, time spent in other pro circuits, having longer collegiate and high school seasons and receiving more sophisticated coaching from an early age.

From the Stampeders' perspective, there's simply more upside if they focus on rookie Bo Levi Mitchell. Mitchell, 22, who played for the Eastern Washington Eagles in the Football Championship Subdivision, is actually not only younger than Sinopoli, but he's actually a year younger than Quinlan, who is in his fifth and final season at McMaster.

Why would a CFL team, with the endless pressure to win and the convenience of working with more ready-made U.S. talent, bother waiting on a Canadian if they did not have to? Far be it to point, of course, that talent evaluators in other pro sports are cluing in that they have to factor in that Canadian athletes don't pick one sport and go with it at such early ages as their American counterparts (hockey not included). For instance, in the NBA, Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn recently said that what excites him most about Mississauga, Ont., rookie Andrew Nicholson didn't take up basketball seriously until well into his teens: " ... because he has a lot of growth, a lot of concepts that he hasn't been introduced to." Major League Baseball teams probably also take this into account with Canadian prospects who typically have shorter seasons.

Of course, the CFL doesn't have the resources MLB or NBA organizations have to fine-tune raw talent. But there's still a problem it should not be allowed to skate on. For the most part, this 100th Grey Cup week is epochal. For the most part, the league under Mark Cohon has moved in a good direction: better TV coverage, fewer franchises teetering on the brink of financial collapse and a franchise back in Ottawa. (It cannot do anything about Toronto apathy, but who can?)

It does feel hollow that it is a closed shop when it comes to the gridiron's glamour position. What would be the worst that could happen if teams could slowly phase in a Canadian QB over the next 3-5 seasons? There aren't eight university quarterbacks at any one time capable of stepping into pro ball, but there might be eight among the 27 teams who could eventually do it. (If Canada can find people to race a skeleton sled in the Olympics, it can certainly find some quarterbacks.) One eason the Ontario and Quebec conferences have become dominant in CIS is because of better teaching of quarterbacks. There are numerous university passers, at various stages in their growth, who have the ability to be the next Quinlan or Sinopoli — Windsor's Austin Kennedy, Laval's Tristan Grenon, York's Myles Gibbon, Regina's Marc Mueller, Acadia's Kyle Graves, UBC's Billy Greene on through to rookies this past season such as Western's Will Finch and Ottawa's Zac Lesko. Quinlan makes nine with the potential. Plus you could retroactively add athletes such as the Saskatchewan Huskies' Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren or Queen's Golden Gaels' Justin Chapdelaine who already wised up and became receivers.

Point being, the potential is there. That is all it will be until the CFL makes a rule change that makes it worthwhile to invest more time in a Canadian quarterback.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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