Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bombers hope Goltz can help them let go of addiction to Buck

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Most addictions will lead to some form of ruin or another. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' addiction to Buck Pierce is no different.

In the beginning it was easy. A little taste of Buck went a long way. He was the only proven CFL quarterback available to Bombers GM Joe Mack in the winter of 2010. Mack needed a fix at quarterback and despite Pierce's already extensive injury history, the GM deemed the risk worthy.

Since then, and while there were the highs of 2011 and a trip to the Grey Cup, Pierce has mostly been a disappointment.

The sentence, "Buck Pierce will be our starter this year," baffled all of Canada this spring. The track record just didn't support another go-round with the likeable -- no, lovable -- Pierce.

Bombers head coach Tim Burke told me during the winter, while mulling over Pierce's status, there would be no discussion if Pierce wasn't such a good guy.

"No. Probably not," grimaced Burke.

But Mack, for one reason or another, has stuck with Pierce. And it's not like there haven't been options.

Henry Burris, Kevin Glenn, Ricky Ray and Mike Reilly have all changed teams in recent history but Mack has not been in on any of those deals.

The Bombers find themselves at a crossroads today. And don't believe what they've been spitting out this week about not knowing who will start at quarterback on Friday night. It will be Justin Goltz.

Mack, along with Burke and anyone else employed by the football club, are praying Goltz shows them something so they can call his name next week, too. And the game after that. The Bombers are ready to kick the Buck habit, it seems, but only if they have a suitable alternative.

Burke cannot simply say he's going with Goltz the rest of the way. He doesn't have that kind of job security and, maybe more importantly, neither does his boss.

Burke and Mack need wins. So does their boss Garth Buchko, who could have a major financial issue on his hands if the Bombers are in the cellar post-Banjo Bowl.

Bad team plus cold weather equals empty seats, which translates into red ink.

So Pierce isn't done just yet. Not if he remains the clearest avenue to wins and any chance at a playoff berth. But he's no longer the preferred choice of management. They would like nothing more than for Goltz to show he's capable of becoming a starting quarterback in the CFL.

Pierce has often used the expression, "a hurt player is a bad player." Well, in this case, a healthy Pierce has also been a bad player this year.

Maybe it's not his fault. Maybe it's the offensive co-ordinator or the receivers or the offensive line.

Doesn't matter. The results have not been there this season and Mack needs results. The time for excuses is long past.

Mack -- and this would be second-guessing if half the city hadn't been screaming it for nearly two years -- should have come to the decision to move away from Pierce during the last off-season, at the very latest.

Both Glenn and Reilly were on the market but Mack refused to get deep into trade talks. Neither was as good an answer in his mind, one must presume, as Pierce.

B.C. Lions GM Wally Buono, the undisputed godfather of the CFL these days, worked his half of a deal that sent former Lions backup Reilly to the Edmonton Eskimos.

"You've got to give Ed (Hervey) a lot of credit, I think he did what I probably would have done if I needed a No. 1 quarterback or a guy to come in and compete with who I had," said Buono. "I probably would have done what he did, put his neck on the line a little bit and give up something for (Reilly)."

Reportedly, the price Buono wanted from Mack for Reilly was Winnipeg's 2013 first-round pick. Mack balked and kept his pick to select Andy Mulumba, currently with the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

Depending on whom you talk to, Calgary wanted either a first- or second-round pick for Glenn but Mack also deemed that price too steep.

Now Mulumba might come up to Canada and be the next Doug Brown on Winnipeg's defensive line. He could be a great draft pick. But even Brown, the future Hall of Famer, couldn't win a Grey Cup without a quarterback.

It's the CFL, people. Most Canadian boys and girls know by the time they are in their second size of diapers that quarterback is the most important position in this league.

Mack knows this, far better than you or I. But he's been too frozen in his efforts or decision-making process to get anything done about it.

Unless, of course, Justin Goltz proves to be the answer.

Goltz could save Mack's job, put bums in the seats and maybe even get the Bombers a playoff spot in a ridiculously bad East Division.

The Justin Goltz era may be upon us.

It's what Mack now wants. It's what Mack now needs.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2013 D1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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