The battle to back up Anthony Calvillo has suddenly become a two-man race.
Quarterbacks Kyle Quinlan and Stephen Garcia won’t be on the field when Alouettes training camp begins on Sunday at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville.
Quinlan, who signed a three-year deal with Montreal in December and was also scheduled to be at the team’s rookie camp currently under way, has decided to return McMaster University for a part-time coaching position. Garcia was released by the team last week.
The two departures leaves the Alouettes with the returning Josh Neiswander and off-season signing Quinton Porter, both of whom likely had at least a slight edge over the others to begin with for the No. 2 role. Which pivot gets the gig remains to be seen.
Neiswander, 27, is entering his third season with the Alouettes, the second on the main roster. An impressive showing early in training camp last year led the team to release veteran Ricky Santos, to move into the third-string slot. He spent the season in that role while also taking over from Santos as kicker Sean Whyte’s holder.
Neiswander moved up another notch on the ladder over the winter when the Alouettes parted ways with incumbent back-up Adrian McPherson in February, just ahead of free agency.
The Alouettes signed Porter on January 21, just six days after he was released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He spent an up-and-down five seasons with Hamilton, enjoying his greatest success in his first two CFL campaigns when he passed for 1,496 (10 touchdowns) and 1,762 yards (six touchdowns), respectively. His career hit a snag in 2010 and Porter eventually lost the starter’s job to Kevin Glenn and then remained second fiddle after Glenn was traded for Henry Burris.
With a whole new coaching staff calling the shots, Neiswander loses an advantage he might have had under former head coach Marc Trestman, given his familiarity with the team’s intricate playbook, even if he rarely took any practice reps. New head coach Dan Hawkins said at his introductory press conference he plans to use the Alouettes’ existing schemes as a base for his plans on offence, a move that will no doubt benefit Neiswander.
Of course, it depends how much of it carries over. While Porter’s last three seasons have been underwhelming, a greater familiarity with the Canadian game could tip the scales in the 30-year-old’s favour.
For now, there has been no indication of new names being added to the back-up quarterback battle. Depending how camp goes, that could always change. And for those wondering if Tim Tebow might venture north – he’s on the Alouettes’ negotiation list – general manager Jim Popp confirmed on the team’s pre-season conference call last week that he has not been in contact with Tebow or his agent since his release from the New York Jets.
The likelihood that either pivot’s duty behind Calvillo extends beyond short yardage situations and potential mop-up duty in a rout (either for or against) seems slim. Armed with a new two-year deal, Calvillo will be driving the Alouettes’ offence until the day he chooses to return the keys. Based on his play over the last few years, though, don’t expect that to be any time soon.