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Offensive aptitude needed for young QBs to grow

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz doesn't have the experienced offensive brainpower surrounding him some other CFL teams employ.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Justin Goltz doesn't have the experienced offensive brainpower surrounding him some other CFL teams employ.

History has taught us this whole saviour thing can be an especially tough gig. That applies to the wide, wide world of sports and, specifically, the CFL.

And if you are a young quarterback trying to cut his teeth here in Winnipeg with the Blue Bombers, well, the dynamic gets multiplied by, oh, roughly a trillion.

All of this brings us to what has unfolded in the three-down game over the last week, where four different pivots all made just their first or second professional start, with three of them -- Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell, Saskatchewan's Drew Willy and Zach Collaros with Toronto -- exiting with wins.

The lone exception? Justin Goltz with the Bombers.

Now, this isn't meant to be a damnation of Goltz by any means. His numbers -- 19-of-35 for 194 yards with two touchdowns against one interception -- were decent, not spectacular, and there were enough flashes to have most at least wanting to see more from the 25-year-old.

But dig a little further and, frankly, there's actually very little to compare the situations Mitchell, Willy and Collaros are/were in to what Goltz is facing. As spectacular as Mitchell was in devouring the Bombers, and as much as his stock is represented by a distinct upward arrow, he remains third on the Stampeder depth chart behind veterans Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn.

Willy, who did come off the bench to edge the Bombers in last year's infamous Banjo Bowl loss and made his first start a week later, knows he'll be back wearing a ballcap the moment Darian Durant loses the walking boot on his left foot.

And while the headlines in Toronto on Wednesday screamed out praise for Collaros -- Collaros Brilliant, The Kid Has Arrived, Collaros Steals the Show -- the minute Ricky Ray is healthy again the young Cincinnati gunslinger will be back patrolling the sidelines.

Goltz, like Alex Brink and Joey Elliott before him, has stepped into an entirely different situation; a boiling cauldron of show-something-right-bleepin'-now expectations that means every mistake is magnified and every series -- heck, every throw -- becomes an unofficial referendum on his ability.

It's not just about now, it's about the lingering shadow of a 22-year Grey Cup drought, about a club winless in its fancy new stadium and a management regime now in the fourth year of a rebuild that has featured the shooting-star season of 2011 but a whole pile of heartache before and after.

There's more, too, that separates Goltz from his three first-start compadres. And this might be the most telling difference: the men game-planning for their fresh-faced QBs in Calgary, Saskatchewan and Toronto have considerably more experience than what is in place here with the Bombers.

Consider the Stamps are led by John Hufnagel and their offensive co-ordinator is Dave Dickenson, both ex-CFL pivots; Saskatchewan's new offensive co-ordinator is veteran coach George Cortez, the former Hamilton head knock who devised the CFL's No. 1 attack last season, while the Riders also employ Khari Jones -- a Bomber hall-of-fame pivot -- as their QB coach. The Argonauts are helmed by Scott Milanovich, a former QB and CFL coordinator, who has two ex-CFL signal-callers on his staff in Marcus Brady and Jason Maas.

Maybe that, in part, explains why Bomber head coach Tim Burke -- a defensive specialist who turned over the offence to Gary Crowton, now in his second year in the CFL -- was tossing around the idea this week of bringing in consultants to study what ails this team.

Let's face it, when it comes to offensive brainpower the Stamps, Argos and Riders are splitting the atom, while the Bombers are still fiddling with basic arithmetic.

Yes, there are two parts to the find-and-develop theory so many have pushed the Bombers to engage in at the quarterback spot. They've done the finding part in landing Goltz and Max Hall to go along with Buck Pierce.

The developing aspect takes time, patience and experience. And right now the Bombers are thin at all three.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 1, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 6:12 AM CDT: Replaces photo

9:57 AM: Clarifies four QBs all made just their first or second professional start.

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