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The Great Canadian Quarterback Hope has become anything but. Debates over the chances of a Canadian quarterback and the rules that make it extremely difficult for non-imports to catch on at QB have raged for years around such names as Danny Brannagan, Marc Mueller and Brad Sinopoli, but one name always stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the prospects: McMaster's Kyle Quinlan. However, he's now given up on his CFL career to take a college coaching job with the Marauders. Quinlan told The Hamilton Spectator's Scott Radley his passion to continue on as a player disappeared:
At the end of every season he's ever played, the 24-year-old says he's been so worn out he mentally checks out of football and doesn't want anything to do with the sport. Eventually, the desire always returns, but it takes time.
It was in the middle of one of these valleys when he signed a three-year deal with the Als last December. He wasn't excited about playing at the moment, but he figured his passion for the game would return well before the next season started as it always had.
Except this time it didn't.
"It was tough to get motivated," he says of off-season training sessions. "I thought that was pretty alarming for me."
As the winter went on, it never came back. The more he thought about his future, the less enthused he became. He loved Mac. He loved university ball. He loved the entire CIS experience. He didn't love his tastes of the pros.
"My only experiences in the CFL are two training camps where I frankly stood around and didn't do anything," he says. "I didn't have fun."
Quinlan was one of the most amazing college players in years, which helped boost the expectations for him to such high levels. He led the Marauders to a 2011 Vanier Cup victory in one of the best CIS games ever, signed with the Alouettes in May 2012, went back to school that fall and won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top CIS player while leading Mac back to the Vanier, then signed with Montreal again in December and looked like the best Canadian quarterback option anywhere near the CFL. However, his comments about standing around and doing nothing during training camps seem fair, and that goes to show just how difficult it can be for Canadian quarterbacks.
Simply put, under the current CFL rules, there is zero incentive for clubs to employ a Canadian quarterback. Active rosters are composed of 42 players: 19 imports (essentially, Americans), 20 non-imports (essentially, Canadians), and three quarterbacks whose nationalities aren't counted. Thus, unlike at every other position on the field, clubs are not rewarded for developing Canadian talent at quarterback, and so the vast majority of teams tend to go with three American quarterbacks. That means that over half the players on a CFL active roster aren't Canadian, which is unfortunate in this era of deep Canadian talent. Most importantly, though, it means that a Canadian will never get a fair shake at quarterback under the current system. American quarterbacks tend to come in with more high-level experience and more polish, and the belief in CFL front offices is that they take less development, so they will always be favoured under these rules. General managers like Jim Popp in Montreal, Jim Barker in Toronto and John Hufnagel in Calgary have at least tried to change that by giving Canadian quarterbacks opportunities, but there's absolutely no on-field benefit for them to have a Canadian quarterback instead of an American, which again differs from how the league handles every single other position. This could easily be fixed, but so far, it hasn't been. Thus, unless a Canadian is simply so good that he can immediately outperform American backups without any extra development, it's going to be tough for him to stick around on a CFL roster.
What's really unfortunate is that to many, Quinlan looked like the guy who had the best chance of breaking this unfair system. Given his cannon of an arm and his terrific running ability, he had enough raw physical tools that teams might overlook the disadvantage of his Canadian passport. That's one of the main reasons the Alouettes were interested in bringing him back this year. However, it's tough to fault Quinlan for getting disappointed and giving up at this stage. The CFL deck is currently stacked against Canadian quarterbacks, and it certainly wouldn't have been easy for Quinlan to make it out of camp. The end of the story for this Great Canadian Quarterback Hope is a sad one for those of us who want to see the next Russ Jackson some day, but perhaps it can also be a motivating one. If the CFL's current rules mean that even a player with Quinlan's incredible gifts can't make it at quarterback thanks to his passport, that's just more proof that the rules need to change.