Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If it was up to me, I would have kept Brink and Elliott

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There has been plenty of flak over last week's decision to re-anoint Buck Pierce as the flag-bearing quarterback going into Bombers training camp. What hasn't been as abundant, though, are the suggestions of any possible alternatives that would have been that much better.

We all have difficult decisions to make in life. What makes a decision difficult is when there is no assured outcome or few other alternatives. Often, the choices that lie at our feet are between bad and worse, and that may have been what the local football club had to deliberate over for the 2013 season.

There were really only three options available when it came to who was going to line up under centre in June.

The team was either going to have to trade for or sign someone with CFL experience, they could hold their breath and give Buck another go, or they could leave the fortunes of the team in the hands of Joey Elliott, Alex Brink and a couple of uninitiated rookies.

Mike Reilly, the flavour of the month when it came to pivots with promise, was taken off the board in the early going by the Edmonton Eskimos. Whether he lives up to his hype and expectations, the Eskimos are still assured of a better deal than when they traded Ricky Ray for Stephen (I don't have a job anymore) Jyles last season. So it's a step in the right direction for them.

There were other yellow jersey wearers with CFL experience to be had, guys like Quinton Porter (now with the Alouettes) and Adrian McPherson (signed in the Arena Football League), or even a possible trade for Grey Cup runner-up Kevin Glenn, but none of these options were going to be anything more than fingers in the dam.

So that left the ball club to muse over keeping Buck and developing new talent, or keeping Brink and Elliott and developing new talent. They couldn't keep all three and go status quo for 2013, because if they did, there wouldn't be anybody coming to the games to check out the shiny new digs.

Change had to come and bring optimism with it, and with camp opening in less than two months, it had to come now.

Left at the helm of a ship looking for a sail, I would have kept the two more durable pivots with experience running a CFL offence to scrap it out all season long with Justin Goltz and either Max Hall or Chase Clement looming large in the rear view.

Without a defined No. 1 and face of the franchise, and plenty of starter reps to go around, I still think these two players may have found another gear in their games.

Brink and Elliott had both won in this league, and with a strong ground game, Brink in particular would have been a safe bet to manage a mistake-free passing attack and let a multi-dimensional offence and, hopefully, a strong defence rule the day.

But now, with this decision, which scoffs at Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant's proclamation, "durability is the most important thing a player can possess," 2013 is now either Buck or suck for this football team.

For no matter how much promise and potential Goltz, Hall or Clement may have -- and I truly think Goltz has the tools to be a special player in the CFL -- few and far between are the quarterbacks that can step into this league in Year 1 and hand you a playoff berth. They are as rare as unicorns.

As Wally Buono told me when we bickered over salary for my return north of the border in 2001, "just because you played in the States, doesn't mean you can play up here."

It only makes sense to complain or criticize if you have a better suggestion, and let's be honest, there was no clear winner in this horse race.

Many of us may be more angered by the lack of options in Year 4 of the Mack regime, rather than the decision the Blue and Gold actually hitched their horse to.


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

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2013 D4


Updated on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 11:59 AM CDT: Corrects typo.

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