Jason Maas

Infobox Gridiron football person
team=Edmonton Eskimos


Width=
status=Active
import=yes
position1=Quarterback
number=12
College=Oregon
DateOfBirth=Birth date and age|1975|11|19|mf=y
Birthplace=Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
Height_ft=6
Height_in=2
Weight_lbs=210
years=1999
2000 - 2005
2006 - 2007
2007
2008 - "present"
teams=Baltimore Ravens
Edmonton Eskimos
Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Montreal Alouettes
Edmonton Eskimos

Jason Maas (b. November 19, 1975 in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin) is a gridiron football quarterback. He is best known for his career in the Canadian Football League, which has been largely spent with the Edmonton Eskimos. On December 2, 2005, Maas was traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with a draft pick for veteran Danny McManus, offensive lineman Tim Bakker, defensive back Imokhai Atogwe and a first-round draft pick.

Amateur career

During his high school career in Yuma, Arizona, Maas gained his first notice as a football player when the "Phoenix Prep Sport" magazine selected Maas as the most outstanding high-school quarterback in the state of Arizona as a senior.

Maas went to college at the University of Oregon starting in 1994 but was buried deep on the depth chart for the first two years of his career. In his second year, Maas threw only eighteen passes in unimportant situations. However, in his third year, Maas was considered a solid bet to take Oregon's starting job, until the arrival of high-profile transfer Akili Smith. Smith was drawing rave reviews from the football establishment as a better pure athlete, but Maas's numbers early in the year were comparable. Maas drew rave reviews by throwing for five touchdowns in a game against Stanford, but it was Smith who ended up taking the long-term starting job.

Maas spent the rest of his time at Oregon riding the pine, finishing with career totals of 120 completions on 226 attempts, 1,763 yards, nineteen touchdowns and eight interceptions. Both Maas and Smith left Oregon in 1999, and while Smith was drafted third overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, Maas took a Bachelor of Science in sociology and, undrafted, tried to continue his professional career the hard way. The pattern of losing a starting job to a flashier new arrival despite his own strong play would repeat itself twice later in Maas's career.

Professional football

Unsurprisingly, as a career backup in college Maas drew little interest through the professional ranks. On April 23, 1999, Maas signed with the National Football League's Baltimore Ravens during preseason. He appeared in a single preseason game and did not impress the coaching staff enough for them to give him a spot on the roster.

Joining the CFL

For the 2000 CFL season, Maas signed with the Edmonton Eskimos, the coaching staff intending to use him as a backup and (with Dan Crowley) the holder on field goal and extra point attempts. The Eskimos were, at the time, one of the league's deepest teams at the quarterback position, with Maas, Crowley, and incumbent starter Nealon Greene all eventually assuming starting jobs somewhere in the CFL during their careers. Maas dressed for all eighteen games but saw significant action in only one, going 16 of 25 for 165 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The Eskimos were eliminated in the Western finals by the British Columbia Lions.

During the preseason of 2001, Eskimos head coach Don Matthews was fired in a famously messy separation, allegedly for health reasons, and was replaced by Tom Higgins. Higgins would later develop a reputation for changing quarterbacks like most people change socks, and although the flashy Greene had been the starter in Edmonton for two years, his spotty arm was beginning to draw criticism from fans. The door was wide open for the two backups, Crowley and Maas, to show that they could take the reins from the faltering Greene. Crowley was strong and Greene fought valiantly to keep his job, but by Week 7 it was Maas who had taken the starting quarterback spot that he would keep to the end of the year.

As he would again in a few years time, Higgins seemed to have caught lightning in a bottle with his former starter. Maas picked the league apart in his first year as a starter, and despite his late start was a West Division All-Star and the Edmonton nominee for CFL Outstanding Player. He threw 231 complete of 391 attempts for 3,646 yards, recording 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His performance in the 2001 Labour Day Classic, when Maas was the offensive star and recorded a late 23-yard run to set up the winning field goal as time expired, made him an instant fan favourite. Maas led the Eskimos to first place in one of the weakest Western Divisions of all time, as the Esks won the division by winning only as many as they lost. The end of the year was sour as the Eskimos were blown out by the rival Calgary Stampeders in the Western Finals, 34-18. Maas emerged with little credit in the defeat, and the local media were beginning to speculate whether, after two straight years of disappointment, the Eskimos were "ever" going to get past the Western Final.

Professional setbacks

Maas emerged from the 2001 season secure as the incumbent starter. Potential rivals Crowley and Greene were gone for 2002, Crowley to the newly minted Ottawa Renegades in the expansion draft, where he would become their starting quarterback, and Greene to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a big trade. The two backups were Bart Hendricks and an unknown named Ricky Ray, neither of whom were expected to challenge Maas for the starting job. And during pre-season, neither did. Maas was named Offensive Player of the Week in Week 2, and was on pace for another All-Star season.

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, and in Week 4 against Nealon Greene's Roughriders, Maas suffered a separated shoulder in his non-throwing arm. The injury was serious enough to sideline Maas for a few games, and one of the backups would have to come in. The nominal number two was Hendricks, but he was unavailable, and the third-stringer Ray temporarily took over the starting role for the Eskimos.

However, Ray seized the chance with both hands, and in his first CFL start threw for four touchdowns against the strong B.C. Lions. As fans watched with delight, Ray piled up remarkable numbers during Maas's recovery, leading to an inevitable showdown when the former starter returned.

It is an axiom of sports that you can't lose your job through injury, but that is precisely what seemed likely to occur to Maas. After missing three weeks, Maas returned against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and was utterly forgettable. One mediocre game was all Higgins needed to see and Maas was immediately sent to the bench in favour of Ray, who started the next five games.

However, in a scene reminiscent of Maas's junior season in Oregon with Akili Smith, Higgins seemed unable to make up his mind. In a game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ray struggled and Maas came in, successfully engineering an Eskimos comeback. Ray started the next game but in the game after, the second-to-last game of the season, Maas again appeared in relief and was again solid. Finally, in the last game of the year, Maas got the start and played well.

In his first season, Ray had recorded almost 3,000 yards and a quarterback rating over 100, helping the Eskimos won the West Division for the third consecutive year with the third consecutive starting quarterback. Maas had played less often but still well, and had started to win back the confidence of the fans and of the team with a strong end to the season. But for the playoffs Higgins returned to Ray, who led the Eskimos to the 90th Grey Cup, which they lost to the Montréal Alouettes, coached by Maas's first CFL head coach, Don Matthews.

In 2003, Maas was looking to regain his starting job from Ray, but suffered a back injury during the off-season. The condition was severe enough to require surgery and Ray became the starter out of training camp. Maas was the holder for kicker Sean Fleming as he healed, but by Week Eight he was completely healthy. However, Higgins had drawn criticism for his "quarterback by committee" in 2002, and had little desire to repeat the adventure. Maas was finally firmly entrenched with the team, but he was entrenched on the bench and it was officially Ray's team. The new star did not disappoint, as he brought the Eskimos the 91st Grey Cup in a rematch with the Alouettes.

Opportunity knocks

After 2003, Ray was a hot commodity, both within the CFL and, more significantly, without. NFL scouts were known to be looking at Ray, and during the off-season Ray was able to stick with the New York Jets. The loss of the star quarterback dismayed Eskimos fans, but this was tempered with calm knowing that Maas was around to fill the void in 2004.

The pressure on Maas was high, but his performance was up to it. Maas threw for an incredible 5,274 yards, well higher than Ray's 2003 total of 4,640. Maas threw for "only" 31 touchdowns, four fewer than Ray's 35 in 2003, but his 105.1 quarterback rating ranked among the great seasons ever. In a scene that must have seemed cruelly ironic to Maas, he lost out on the Most Outstanding Player award to the deserving Lions quarterback Casey Printers, who took over the starting role after an injury to incumbent superstar Dave Dickenson that conjured memories of Ray taking over for Maas.

Maas had a strong playoff performance in his single game, throwing for 369 yards in the West Semi-Final. But despite this strong number the offense was just not there as the Eskimos lost a wet and miserable game to Henry Burris and the Saskatchewan Roughriders 14-6. Maas's career playoff record fell to 0-2, and head coach Higgins was fired as a result of the loss.

Return to the bench

Unfortunately for Maas's individual numbers, Ray struggled south of the border. He never threw a regular-season pass with the Jets, and after being released tried in vain to catch on with another NFL team in time for the 2005 NFL season. Conjecture immediately ran high that Ray would be lured back to the Eskimos with a relative big-money deal, and this is precisely what happened. On top of that, Maas faced additional competition from recently signed former Most Outstanding Player Khari Jones.

Former offensive co-ordinator and new head coach Danny Maciocia had led Maas's offense during his 2004 season, but he also knew that the starting quarterback had to be decisively selected and stuck to. After preseason, Maciocia chose and stuck to Ray, returning Maas to the bench for the 2005 CFL season. Maas saw little game action in the regular season, appearing only in relief for the final game, a blowout loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

However, entering into the next week's Western Semi-final game against those Stampeders, Ricky Ray was being criticized for his recent play, and after a relatively poor first half, Maciocia put Maas in for Ray for the second half. Maas re-ignited the dormant Eskimos offense and led them to a comeback victory, resurrecting the old quarterback controversy that had plagued the Eskimos for years. Maas followed this up by again appearing in relief during the fourth quarter over Ray in the West Division final against British Columbia, scoring the winning touchdown and leading the Eskimos to another victory. Once again, perhaps because of rumours Maas had already been traded to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for veteran quarterback Danny McManus and lineman Tim Bakker, Maciocia opted to start Ray in the 93rd Grey Cup. Ray played the whole game and won it, being named MVP in the process. After the game, confirming what TSN called "the CFL's worst-kept secret", Maas was traded to the Tiger-Cats.

tarting in Steeltown

The Tiger-Cats had a busy off-season after the 2005 season. Along with Maas, the Tiger-Cats also acquired running back Josh Ranek from the defunct Ottawa Renegades, running back/return man and reigning Most Outstanding Special Teams Player Corey Holmes from the Saskatchewan Roughriders in exchange for the first overall pick in Ottawa's dispersal draft (Saskatchewan selected quarterback Kerry Joseph). Significantly for Maas, the team also added his former favourite target in Edmonton, receiver Terry Vaughn, from Montréal as a free agent.

In spite of the big names added to the offense, the Tiger-Cats struggled immediately and badly. On July 10, 2006, the Tiger-Cats relieved head coach Greg Marshall of his duties after an 0-4 start, appointing 67-year old veteran head coach Ron Lancaster as his replacement. [http://www.tsn.ca/cfl/teams/news_story/?ID=171004&hubname=cfl-tiger_cats "Ticats fire Marshall, Lancaster returns"] (URL accessed on September 4, 2006)] The team also fired offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao, offensive line coach Kani Kauahi, and replaced interim general manager since 2005 Rob Katz with former Montréal assistant GM Marcel Desjardins later in the season. [http://www.tsn.ca/cfl/teams/news_story/?ID=175683&hubname=cfl-tiger_cats "Desjardins hired to GM Ticats"] (URL accessed on September 4, 2006)] Before the Tiger-Cats Labour Day Classic game against Toronto, Maas was seventh in the league in passing yardage, tied for seventh in touchdown passes, and tied for second in interceptions. Two of the players ahead of Maas in yardage and touchdowns, Dave Dickenson and Kerry Joseph, had struggled with injuries during the season, and the player tied with Maas's seven touchdowns was British Columbia backup Buck Pierce. With a 2-9 record, the Tiger-Cats were last in the CFL (the Tiger-Cats would fall to 2-10 "after" Labour Day, with Maas getting no credit in a 40-6 pummelling by the Argonauts).

For the 2007 CFL season Maas began the year as the starter for the Tiger-Cats. They again had a rough entry into the season, starting it 1-8, prompting the pick-up of NFL castoff, and 2004 CFL MOP, Casey Printers.

Traded to Montreal

On Sept. 7, 2007, in the wake of Hamilton's signing of Casey Printers, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, Hamilton [http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5j217pc6BDzuOzrZXpsIlKzikpxgw traded Maas] to the Montreal Alouettes in exchange for Canadian fullback Jeff Piercy. Maas initially refused to report to his new club, a move which momentarily held up formalization of the transaction. Maas served as the team's third string quarterback behind Marcus Brady and Anthony Calvillo. Mass saw limited time on the field with the Alouettes and was released on December 31, 2007.

Back to Edmonton

January 16th, 2008 the Edmonton Eskimos announced Jason Mass was back in the green and gold. Come training camp, Maas and Lefors battled for the second string quarterback spot but were both named 2 and 2A by head coach Danny Maciocca. Maas saw about two quarters of playing time in the second pre-season game of 2008 and impressed, completing 16 of 19 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown. Mass' new tenure is quietly rumored to be an apprenticeship for a coaching job within the organization.

Personal

Maas's father, a police officer, was shot and killed when Maas was only ten. Maas is married and lives year-round in Sherwood Park, Alberta with daughter Makaela and wife Marjean.

References

External links

* [http://www.ticats.ca/index.php?module=roster&func=display&ros_id=111 TiCats.ca page]
* [http://www.montrealalouettes.com/ Montreal Alouettes official site]


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