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Better teammates, coaches make Buck better in B.C.

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With the way things have gone this season at the quarterbacking position, it makes perfect sense the pivot traded away seven weeks ago would put together his best body of work in the last four years at the helm of another football team.

In case you missed it on Friday, Buck Pierce came off the bench for the B.C. Lions and single-handedly propelled them to victory over the Edmonton Eskimos.

Pierce ran the football for first downs and touchdowns. He threw blocks downfield on multiple occasions to spring his ball carrier, and instead of taking sacks he escaped and improvised with shovel passes. He hit his receivers in stride and in only three quarters of work, he led the Lions to four scores on his first five possessions.

In short, he was everything the Bombers wanted and needed him to be this season, but he was somewhere else.

In fact, it was such a convincing performance, you didn't have to wait long for the threads to appear on the Internet, questioning why this team traded away the best quarterback on the roster in the first place.

Before we start second-guessing ourselves, though, we must first address the audacity of Wally Buono, former head coach and current GM of the Lions. When the Bombers initially landed Pierce from the Leos, after the 2009 season, Buono had seen enough of Buck. Due to a legacy of injuries and trauma he incurred in B.C., he publicly questioned not only whether Pierce should be playing professional football at all anymore, but parted ways with him without any compensation.

Fast forward a couple seasons, and after beating Pierce -- and us -- in the Grey Cup in 2011, Buono watched Pierce struggle with both his health and his on-field performance in 2012, and again in 2013, including a stanza where he fell to the bottom of the depth chart.

So what did Buono do? Naturally, King Midas traded for the QB that three years ago he gave up for nothing, and, of course, it is working out perfectly and making him look like an even bigger genius than his reputation already suggests.

So why the sudden change of heart by Pierce's old ball coach? Because Wally no longer needs Buck to be what Winnipeg needed him to be.

Buono has three pivots in B.C. he knows can play. One is his franchise QB who is hurt (Travis Lulay), another is the work in progress (Thomas DeMarco), and Pierce is now the stop gap. Buono doesn't need Buck to start 18 games for him, or even play every quarter in the games he does play. He needs Buck to be a temporary measure when the situation calls for it, which he did so very elegantly in the Lions last win.

Add to this mix a better offensive line, superior wide receivers, running backs, and coaching, and Buck is certain to look better than he ever could have here.

As we all know, when Pierce is a healthy Buck, he can play with most anybody. And when you don't need him on a week in and week out basis, and only use him in spurts, he is the perfect guy for the job. When you ask him to be your No. 1 for 18 weeks, like Winnipeg was forced to in 2010 through most of 2013, he has shown he won't be able to withstand the rigours of a full season of hard knocks.

Going into the final week of the regular season, where it seems like the Bombers are forced to choose between a badly hurt QB, and just a bad QB, it is salt in a festering wound to see a player that wanted to stay here, play so well somewhere else.

While many of us wish Buck the best, and even hope that he goes on a tear with the Lions and wins a second Grey Cup, the Bombers need a Travis Lulay and a Thomas DeMarco on their roster before they can ever entertain the idea of having a player like Pierce again.


Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and the days following game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2013 C6


Updated on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM CDT: Switched picture.

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