The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have wasted no time in declaring Drew Willy as their man for the 2014 season.
"Drew’s the starting quarterback," Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea interjected during a news conference at Investors Group Field this afternoon when Willy was asked if he’d been promised the starting job.
Willy was just beginning his answer when O’Shea spoke up and laid to rest any lingering doubts about what the Bombers’ plans are for a quarterback who started just two games for the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season -- and just four in his professional career.
Of course, being named the starting quarterback in Winnipeg doesn’t necessarily mean anything, judging by Winnipeg’s recent history with the subject. On Aug. 1 last season, the Bombers declared Justin Goltz would be their "starter for the remainder of the 2013 season" -- even sending out a Tweet to that effect from the team account -- only to bail on that plan just a couple weeks later.
But the Bombers braintrust insisted at this afternoon’s news conference -- which was held to introduce to Willy to the media -- that this time things are going to be different and they are confident that he is the man who’s going to lead them out of the football wilderness.
"What Drew put on film showed that he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in this league," said Bombers GM Kyle Walters. "Everything that we’ve pieced together says he’s ready. He’s paid his time, he’s paid his dues and now it’s time to step up and play."
So, what does Willy think about being handed the keys to the Bombers offence in 2014? "I do think I’m ready. I’m just looking forward to playing for coach O’Shea. I’m just looking forward to meeting all the new teammates and getting to work and just doing the right things on and off the field and making the city proud."
While his head coach has already annointed Willy his starter, Walters did seem to leave the door open to other possibilities when he was asked if he is now "comfortable" to start the 2014 season with his current stable of quarterbacks, which also includes Goltz and Max Hall.
"It’s an interesting question," Walters replied. "Am I comfortable? I’m comfortable with our quarterback situation right now. Am I going to try to improve it? Yes, like I’m going to try to improve every other position that we have. And what happens between free agency potentially and exploring all trades -- I’ve said all along that’s the way you to try to improve your team and that’s what I’ll be trying to do between now and the start of training camp."
The Bombers announced Thursday that they had traded wide receiver Jade Etienne to the Riders in exchange for the rights to negotiate with Willy, who was scheduled to become a free agent next Tuesday. The club then signed Willy to a contract extension.
But the signing of Willy only occurred after the Bombers had first struck out in their attempts to sign Zach Collaros -- who opted for Hamilton last week -- and Henry Burris -- who opted for Ottawa earlier this week.
That chronology would seem to suggest that Willy was Winnipeg’s third choice to lead their offence in 2014, but Walters insisted it wasn’t so.
"It would appear like that but it’s certainly not the case," Walters said. "It was interesting with the way the sequence of events unfolded, that were out of our control. And we just adjusted on the fly with our plans and ended up where we are today."