TORONTO - No one has done a better job of acquiring talent than Jim Popp, no person more willing to push the envelope and no one with a better track record in the past decade than Montreal’s general manager.
When Popp makes a move, people in the CFL take notice.
After all, this is a guy who has run a team in which its practice-roster players would crack most three-down lineups.
In the past two days, Popp has signed two Canadian quarterbacks, Kyle Quinlan and Kyle Graves, two kids who will at least be given an opportunity to get a close-up look at future hall-of-famer Anthony Calvillo.
It’s unlikely either Quinlan or Graves, who each have CIS eligibility remaining, will crack Montreal’s roster, but Popp sees something other than some token gesture to appease the growing legion of Canadian supporters who refuse to accept the politics of the pigskin.
As long as the rules discourage Canadians from getting a fair shot at the pivotal position, moves such as the ones Popp engineered amount to a best-case scenario.
“They’re winners and great athletes,’’ Popp said during a conference call on Wednesday as the countdown to CFL training camps continues. “They both deserve an opportunity.”
In the spirit of nurturing Canadian quarterbacks, teams have been taking a closer look at Canadian-born quarterbacks, but only one, Brad Sinopoli of Calgary, has made a roster.
During his brilliant run in Montreal, Popp has taken a chance on Mathieu Bertrand — whom the Eskimos would later convert into a fullback — and Jesse Palmer.
Quinlan, who helped lead Mac to its Vanier Cup title last year, and Graves, who plays his collegiate football at Acadia, never did get drafted when the CFL held its annual selection process last week.
“They have size, arm strength and each has a high percentage when it comes to throwing the football,’’ Popp said of Quinlan and Graves.
With limited rosters and the shortness of training camp, it would be a miracle if either finds himself on Montreal’s opening-night roster.
At best, both Quinlan and Graves will learn from head coach Marc Trestman, who has carved his niche in football as a developer of quarterbacks and, of course, be around Calvillo for as long as possible.
With Adrian McPherson, who will enter his fifth season in Montreal waiting in the wings to succeed Calvillo, Ricky Santos and Josh Neiswander, getting reps will prove difficult.
At this point, Popp says the Als have no intention to audition either Quinlan or Graves at another position.
As long as Calvillo is healthy and capable of delivering the football, the Als will ride their veteran.
“The quarterback position is the most difficult athletic position in all of sport,’’ Trestman said. “It’s the most dynamic and complex to play
“They (Quinlan and Graves) will get a real sense of the position, their eyes will be open and their focus will be on Anthony.”
As for Calvillo, eventually the Als will have to turn the page by turning to a new signal caller, but Trestman isn’t expecting any changing of the quarterback guard any time soon.
When asked if he’ll modify Calvillo’s workload or groom an heir apparent, Trestman offered an emphatic no to each query.
“We’re going to play Anthony for as long as he wants to play,’’ added Trestman, who is entering his fourth season in Montreal. “It’s up to him.
“We’ll monitor his arm work through training camp and he’ll play minimally, if any playing time, during the pre-season.”
In a quarterback league such as the CFL, the Als have been able to dominate in part due to Calvillo’s presence and Popp’s keen eye on finding talent that suits Montreal’s needs.
In Quinlan and Graves, there’s no risk in at least having each in the same environment as Calvillo.
“The plan is to have them play quarterback and learn,’’ Popp said.
And until the rules change and perception is altered, it’s all Quinlan and Graves can ask.