Despite several significant issues remaining on the Canadian quarterback front, we've seen some notable progress over the last few years. One of the more memorable steps along the way happened Friday night, as third-string quarterback Brad Sinopoli led a remarkable late comeback that saw the Calgary Stampeders come from eight points down in the final two minutes of action to take a 20-17 victory over the Edmonton Eskimos. Sure, it was only a preseason game, sure, it was only really one drive where Sinopoli looked incredibly impressive, and sure, this doesn't even guarantee him a roster spot once camp ends, but even with all the disclaimers, it was amazing to see a CIS-trained Canadian quarterback get the ball in the final couple of minutes of a CFL game, drive his team the length of the field, throw a great touchdown pass on third down and then calmly throw another pass for the two-point conversion that tied the game. For a few minutes, it was a Canadian calling CFL signals, moving the sticks and leading his team to an implausible comeback, and although the showing of a third-string quarterback against another team's backups in a preseason game may not seem all that significant in its own right, it suggests that maybe we're not as far from Canadian quarterbacks in the CFL as many thought.
Of course, qualifiers remain. Sinopoli only played part of the fourth quarter in this one, and although his final statistics (five completions on eight passing attempts, a 62.5 per cent completion rate, 55 passing yards, the Stampeders' only touchdown pass of the night and no interceptions, plus 20 rushing yards on four attempts) look reasonably impressive, he wasn't terribly effective on the first few series he played. Some of that was thanks to the Edmonton pass rush and some of it was thanks to receivers dropping passes, but before his touchdown drive, it looked like this game would be a net negative for Sinopoli.
That's especially true when you consider that another young Stampeders' understudy (American Bo Levi Mitchell) was quite solid on the night, completing eight of 12 passes for 81 yards. Sinopoli impressed with his drive and his late composure, particularly on the perfectly-thrown 15-yard touchdown pass to Marquay McDaniel on a crucial third down and on the subsequent pass to McDaniel for the two-point conversion, but his outing before that was largely forgettable, and it's not even clear if he or Mitchell came away with higher stock from Friday night's game, as a lot depends on what the coaches are looking for from each. Still, Sinopoli demonstrated what he's capable of, and he gave plenty of people some hope for Canadian quarterbacks in the process.
Does that mean that efforts to get the CFL to change the import rule that doesn't consider quarterbacks' nationalities are no longer necessary? Not from this corner. At the moment, there's no on-field benefit for a team to develop and play a Canadian quarterback (although there likely is at least a partial marketing one, given the amount of attention paid by fans and media members to the Canadian quarterback question), and thus, most teams are going to stick with Americans who have played more games in the intense environs of the NCAA. That doesn't always work out, as Tate Forcier is no longer in the CFL and Brad Sinopoli still is, but there still have to be on-field incentives for teams to give Canadians a look at quarterback, ideally identical to the incentives they have to play Canadians at other positions. Sinopoli is proof that the right Canadian quarterback can still rise at least partway through a system seemingly designed to keep him out, though.