The easy thing to do is say goodbye to Danny Brannagan.
That’s what most Canadian Football League coaches would do.
Only Jim Barker isn’t most CFL coaches.
He wants to make a statement.
He wants to make a difference.
This isn’t just about politics or nationality or public relations. There is something about this kid that Barker admires. There is something in Brannagan that he wants to hold on to, even when it makes all kinds of sense to just walk away.
“I do want to do everything I can to help this kid,” said Barker, after Brannagan made his preseason debut, maybe his only preseason playing time in the Argos’ choppy 13-10 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
“I just think it’s important. I wish the league would do something.”
A year from now, there may be a roster exemption or a salary-cap exemption for any team that wants to put a Canadian quarterback on its roster.
But not yet, not now.
Instead, Brannagan is competing for a job he has no chance of winning.
He got the reps Sunday afternoon.
He may not get any more game play this preseason.
And here was Brannagan on Sunday, fresh from the Vanier Cup champion Queen’s Golden Gaels, as big a national name as any CIS player ever gets to be, taking his first professional snaps and stumbling his way through nine difficult minutes.
In all, he took 14 snaps, handed off twice, threw 11 passes, completed three — four, if you count the one the Tiger-Cats caught — overthrew receivers twice, got two passes knocked down and in his final play was sacked for a five-yard loss — and looked surprisingly calm through it all.
It was by no means a memorable beginning, but it was a beginning: And Barker, for himself, maybe for history, needed to provide him with this opportunity, even if he can’t provide this much encouragement again.
“It was important to me to get Dan quality reps,” said Barker.
“He’s got a long way to go ... I’m not saying he’s not one of the top 3 (quarterbacks).”
But what he is saying, without saying it, is in an even competition, where nationality doesn’t matter, and there are four quarterbacks in training camp, Brannagan is No. 4.
And there should be no embarrassment in that.
Cleo Lemon and Ken Dorsey have started NFL games.
Dorsey played in NCAA championship games.
Dalton Bell spent a year running scout team for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Brannagan’s last game was against the University of Calgary.
Fair this wasn’t from the beginning.
When asked how he thought he played against Hamilton, Brannagan was forthright: “You could make a case either way,” he said, then didn’t.
“I’m hard on myself. I didn’t think I did that well ... I’m just happy to go out there and see what it was like in an actual game.
“The coaches are being good with me. They’re being fair and honest. I’m here as a quarterback, not as a Canadian ... Now it’s up to coaches.
“It’s out of my hands.”
What Brannagan needs most right now is what the Argonauts have the least of — time.
There is one preseason game to play. The season begins in 17 days. The Argos have to find a quarterback who can lead them.
They don’t have a lot of time to babysit a prospect.
Maybe after this camp, and a season on the scout team, and another camp, and another season on the scout team, Brannagan would be ready to compete at a higher level.
The thing is, he is caught in a football version of Catch-22.
He has to practice more at a higher level to play better, and he has to play better at a higher level in order to practice more.
All of which tugs at Barker’s heart.
He wants to see a Canadian get the chance to play quarterback in the CFL.
Just not at the expense of his own team’s progress.
“The tough thing to do now is hang on to him,” admitted Barker.
“He’s a great kid and we have to do what’s best for the Argonauts.”
Danny Brannagan’s CFL Snaps
FIRST PASS — Floated long pass to Keith Gooding, incomplete
SECOND — Overthrew Chad Lucas, incomplete
THIRD — Pass to Gooding, dropped
FOURTH — Pass to Derek Stanley was knocked down
FIFTH — Handed off to Bryan Crawford for 10-yard gain
SIXTH — Completed pass to Stanley for no gain
SEVENTH — Overthrew Lucas for incomplete pass
EIGHTH — Incomplete pass to Stanley
NINTH — Complete to Stanley for 20 yards
TENTH — Handed off to Crawford for three-yard gain
ELEVENTH — Pass to Andre Durie intercepted by Sandy Beveridge
TWELFTH — Pass complete to Durie for 11 yards
THIRTEENTH — Incomplete pass to Godding
FOURTEENTH — Brannagan sacked by Garrett McIntyre, 5-yard loss
Totals 14 plays
- 3 first downs
- 39 yards total offence
- 1 turnover