Although one may question its usefulness, it’s never a bad thing to hear a positive word about a new coach on the staff from one of his former players. When it comes to a coach who is coming up from the college ranks, you have to get the scoop from the prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, and that is what Brian Batko did pertaining to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ new quarterbacks coach, Matt Canada.
With a length resume across many colleges centered around serving as quarterbacks coach, and often paired also with the offensive coordinator title, Canada has been in many places, and so has interacted with a wide net of players.
Batko spoke to Maryland running back Anthony McFarland, who played under Canada in 2018 (he did not coach anywhere in 2019). This is significant, because he also held the title of interim head coach there after their head coach was placed on administrative leave (more on that in a bit).
Said McFarland of Canada, who was effectively his head coach and offensive coordinator, whom he described as a players’ coach, “he cared about us a lot, and that made us want to play for him even more, because of how he took over that job. I knew it was tough for him deep down inside, but the way he handled it, I’ve always got respect for Matt Canada, always got love for him”.
D.J. Durkin was the Terrapins’ head coach. He was placed on administrative leave after offensive lineman Jordan McNair died following an offseason workout as a result of heat stroke. This ultimately led to an investigation and Durkin’s eventual firing.
McNair was teammates with and close to Derwin Gray, a four-year starter for the Terrapins along the offensive line whom the Steelers drafted in the seventh round in 2019. Obviously, he also played under Canada, and frankly, I’m looking forward to the first opportunity to hear from him about the new coach.
You can watch a video of Gray and Damian Prince, who was an undrafted free agent last year, talking about McNair here. The entire video about their story entering their senior season is worth watching.
Canada only spent one season at Maryland, but he had to take this team through heartbreak and tragedy, and while he did it, he made an impact on players like McFarland, and that’s not something that I take lightly. He said he ran into Canada at the Combine and had to give him a big hug “because that’s still the type of love I got for him, just with what we went through in college, how he stepped in”.
Aside from Gray, Canada also coached James Conner while serving one season as offensive coordinator at Pitt, in addition to being at NC State overlapping with Jaylen Samuels, as well as fellow Steelers coach Eddie Faulkner. Could McFarland be a fourth player he’s already coached? If he is, he expects Canada to eventually have a bigger impact. “I know he’s a quarterbacks coach, but I feel like his schemes are going to translate good, because they’re hard to stop”, he said.