The recent news that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had released Casey Printers came as a surprise. When the worst team in the CFL can voluntarily cut ties with a player considered one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game, something’s not right.
Here’s a player who inspires extreme reactions in fans who either love him or hate him. The question is ‘How did it come to this?’ The answer reveals a tumultuous career with several ups and downs.
Born in Texas, Printers played the majority of his college years at Texas Christian University (TCU) between 1999 and 2001, quarterbacking the team to three straight Bowl games.
This included two appearances in the Mobile Alabama Bowl, highlighted by capturing the Most Valuable Player award in TCU’s 1999 victory.
However, after three successful seasons with the Horned Frogs, Printers asked to be transferred to Florida A&M after a disagreement with TCU head coach Gary Patterson over how the teams offence was run. The first hint of the perception that he was selfish had reared its ugly head.
The Texas native wanted Patterson to throw the football more, so he could showcase his talents for the pro scouts. Given that TCU had enjoyed a successful period with the system in place, and a certain LaDainian Tomlinson was running the ball, this was never going to happen.
In Florida, Printers went 7-5 as the move backfired. Only 1,517 passing yards and 12 Touchdown throws resulted in him going un-drafted in the 2002 NFL draft.
After this setback, the B.C. Lions came calling in 2003, offering a three-year contract to be their third-string quarterback. To begin with Printers saw little playing time. However, his fortunes changed in 2004, winning the backup role and then becoming the starter after David Dickenson was injured.
This led to a breakout season, displaying his talents for everyone to see. During the 2004 season, Printers passed for over 5,000 yards, adding nearly 500 rushing yards and accounting for 44 touchdowns.
The end result was the CFL Most Outstanding Player of the year award.
Entering the playoffs, Printers was confident of capping an impressive season by winning the Grey Cup. Fate had other ideas. He sustained a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of the West Division final and Dickenson came into the game to lead the Lions to an overtime victory.
Entering the Grey Cup, Lions head coach Wally Buono made the controversial decision to start Dickenson. On the biggest stage in Printers career so far, he didn’t even get onto the field as the Lions lost 27-19 to the Toronto Argonauts.
The quarterback believed that B.C. would have won the game if he’d started. A lot of people saw this as further evidence of his ‘me-first’ attitude. However, you could argue that he had a valid point given his production during the season.
Buono and a lot of Printer’s Team Mates did not see it like this, viewing his reaction to not starting in the Grey Cup as proof that he was bad for team chemistry.
However, the Lions were still prepared to offer a three-year $1 million contract extension prior to the 2005 season, which Printers declined. This proved to be a pre-cursor for his season, becoming embroiled in a quarterback controversy with Dickenson and hindered by ongoing injury problems.
In 2006, the Lions made another three-year contract extension offer, this time for $1.2 million, which was also turned down due to interest from the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfairly a lot of people viewed this as looking out for number one.
However, numerous professional athletes would and indeed have made the same decision when faced with a similar choice. Playing in the NFL had always been Printer’s dream.
The Chiefs signed him to a three-year $1.03 million contract. Unfortunately, the quarterback struggled during the preseason. This resulted in a roller coaster 2006 season as he was cut, re-signed to the practice squad and promoted to the Chiefs 53 man roster.
After being demoted back to the practice squad, Printers returned to Vancouver to attend the Lions West Division Final playoff game. Interestingly though, he was barred from the sidelines by Buono.
Furthermore the B.C players reportedly threatened to throw him out if he attempted to enter the locker room, yet another indictment against Printers character.
At the end of 2006, the Chiefs signed Printers to a further three-year contract and promoted him to the active roster. Again he was released, prior to the start of the 2007 NFL season, apparently surprised by the decision as he felt he’d done everything asked of him.
Next it was back to the CFL, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed him for $500,000 a season, making Printers the highest paid player in Canadian Football.
This proved to be a complete disaster. In one and a half seasons, he had numerous injuries. Even when Printers actually played, his form was erratic, resulting in completing only 53 percent of his passes, with a 6-14 touchdown-interception ration.
With hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised by the Tiger-Cats decision to release the inconsistent quarterback.
It’s safe to say that Casey Printers is at the crossroads of his career. The question is, ‘which way will he go?’ There’s no denying his talents, but the now former Ticat is somewhat of an enigma.
It’s all very well having ability, but there’s that double-edged word ‘potential’ to deal with. At what point does potential stop meaning someone who has the ability to succeed and start translating to a player who had all the talent in the world but failed to live up to the hype?
If we’re not there already, then we’re very close to finding out the answer with Printers.