When top Canadian quarterback prospect Kyle Quinlan signed with the Montreal Alouettes, it didn't seem like a particularly great thing for the non-import quarterback cause given Montreal's quarterbacking depth. At first glance, the Alouettes' addition of a second CIS quarterback, Acadia's Kyle Graves, doesn't seem much different; both Quinlan and Graves aren't going to have an easy time making this team, and there were even some suggestions that they might be asked to change positions the way other CIS quarterbacks have in the past (see QB-turned-FB Mathieu Bertrand for an example). However, on a CFL season preview call about the Alouettes Wednesday, Montreal general manager Jim Popp and head coach Marc Trestman had several interesting things to say about the two Canadian quarterbacks they added, and it was easy to leave it with a feeling that this might just be a positive for Canadian quarterbacks after all.
First, and perhaps most importantly, Popp said the team has no intention of trying to convince Graves or Quinlan to change positions at this time.
"They're coming in as quarterbacks, and that's how we intend to develop and use them," he said. "That hasn't been discussed. The plan is to have them come in as quarterbacks and learn."
Popp said the team has been impressed with what they've seen from Graves and Quinlan and centre, and that's why they brought them in.
"We went after those two gentlemen because we were high on them," he said. "They're winners and great athletes and they both deserve an opportunity."
Trestman said the goal is for Quinlan and Graves to learn from CFL legend Anthony Calvillo at the Alouettes' camp and develop into better quarterbacks.
"Their days will be filled with information, and they'll have a better idea of what they're getting into," he said.
Of course, that's not an easy task, and they won't be assured of success given the challenges of being a professional quarterback.
"It's the most difficult position in sports to play," Trestman said. "There's nothing like it."
He's a strong believer that quarterbacks take time to train and develop, though, and he feels Quinlan and Graves have potential to be effective at the CFL level in time.
"Quarterbacks, they're not born, they have to be developed, they have to be trained," Trestman said. "The most important marriage in sports is a coach and his quarterback."
Popp said it wasn't surprising to him that Quinlan and Graves weren't drafted, despite his high opinion of their talents. He ascribes that to the CFL's bizarre import rules, which don't count quarterbacks' nationalities.
"The issue is the quarterback position does not count as a non-import, and a lot of teams don't want to waste their picks on a position that doesn't count as a non-import," he said.
The CFL has loosened the rules so that Canadian quarterbacks don't count against the bodies teams have in camp, though, and Popp said that's a major part of why his team will have Quinlan and Graves there.
"They've made it easier for us to give them an opportunity," he said.
It obviously isn't going to be easy for Quinlan and Graves to crack the Montreal roster, given that the Alouettes have a legendary starter in Calvillo and two very impressive backups in Adrian McPherson and Ricky Santos. Still, even if they're cut, they might develop enough from this to catch on somewhere else, and there's always the chance that one of them could shine enough in training camp to earn a roster spot with the Alouettes. These are just comments from Popp and Trestman, but they're encouraging comments, and heading to Montreal's camp may not be the ideal opportunity for these guys given the Alouettes' quarterback depth, but it still is a notable opportunity. The question now is what they'll do with it.