Quinton’s start another sign of renewal

Courtesy Globe and Mail:

So how did the two principals in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ tag-team quarterbacking system handle the news that Kevin Glenn would be bumped in favour of Quinton Porter for Friday night’s game against the Calgary Stampeders?

In Glenn’s case, by hanging around and scarfing down a DQ Blizzard after practice – in uniform – talking about the difference between being “disappointed and upset” and “disappointed and understanding.”

Porter? He approached it as somebody who, in his own words, “has no preconceived conceptions of where my career should be,” who believes “everything is for a reason, although not always some big reason that you can think of right away, you know, in your head.”

With his 5-5 team embarking on a stretch in which four of its next five games are against the CFL’s measuring sticks – the Stampeders and Montreal Alouettes – Tiger-Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille has turned back to Porter, who played in just two series last week to get his legs under him after suffering minor knee-ligament damage on Aug. 16.

Bellefeuille tried to make it sound like a no-brainer (“The reality of it is he [Porter] was our starter and got hurt and had a 3-1 record and he’s healthy now,” Bellefeuille said, “so we have won with him.”) but also suggested he was aware that this decision has the whiff of a defining moment.

“One of the challenges they’ve had here in Hamilton is not finding the right quarterback, who can stay here for a number of years,” Bellefeuille said. “They haven’t always looked in advance, to find help for four or five years, but instead have tried a one-season turnaround.”

The fact that Bellefeuille put Porter into last Friday’s 25-22 overtime loss to the Toronto Argonauts for a couple of series – despite the fact Glenn played well in a 31-30 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos and was at the helm in the Tiger-Cats’ 34-15 hammering of the Argos on Labour Day – suggests this return was thought out well in advance. So what if it goes pear-shaped? A natural question, because as Glenn had said just minutes earlier between mouthfuls of ice cream: “Competitive sports is all about proving somebody else wrong.” And, you know, that’s what we’re here for, to help think up the worst-case scenario.

“It’s a challenge,” Bellefeuille said. “You have to look at whether it’s him [the quarterback] or the people around him who are struggling. And that’s a decision you make on the sidelines. When you have a guy like Kevin who has been productive, sometimes you don’t give the other guy the opportunity to play his way out of situations.”

Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel is prepared to see both Porter and Glenn.

“They have two quarterbacks they can parlay off each other,” Hufnagel said. “Quinton did a nice job early on. He’s a very fast quarterback, probably faster than what most people think. When he gets the edge? He’s getting some yards down the field. Kevin has the ability to make plays in tight situations, but if the protection broke down, not that Kevin can’t get a first down, I’d be a little more afraid of Quinton’s ability.”

The evidence suggests that Bellefeuille has got the plot right more often than not this season. As Hufnagel noted: The Tiger-Cats don’t take many penalties any more (second-last in the league) and they don’t turn over the ball all that much. “They don’t play a lot of bad football,” Hufnagel said.

That would bring a smile to the face of Bellefeuille, who said the first half of the CFL season was devoted to getting his team to increase the speed of its game, not just to act and react faster but to think faster.

“Play positively,” is how he describes it, suggesting a direction and a tempo more than a mindset.

The Tiger-Cats are now good enough that nagging little mistakes cost them games, as opposed to being the difference between a 25- and 30-point blowout loss. That’s progress. Considering the sense of direction Bellefeuille, president Scott Mitchell and general manager Bob O’Billovich have given this franchise, there’s no reason not to trust Bellefeuille’s reading of both his team and Porter’s learning curve, no reason not to trust him when he says they aren’t mutually exclusive.

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