There’s been precious little that you could always count on when it came to Buck Pierce, but there used to at least be this: If Pierce could stay upright and actually finish a game, the odds were overwhelmingly in favour of the Bombers winning that game.
Coming into this season, the Bombers were an eye-popping 12-2 in games in which the Bombers QB started and finished since joining the franchise in 2010. And so for all the criticism heaped upon him — most of it centering on his inability to stay healthy — the one thing you could never take away from Pierce was the undeniable fact that he gave the Bombers their best chance to win.
Until now. What has become clear from the debacle that has been Winnipeg’s first month of the 2013 season and their 1-3 record: The question is no longer whether Pierce is durable enough to be the Bombers starting quarterback, but whether he’s good enough.
The numbers speak for themselves. In three games heading into Friday night’s contest against the Toronto Argonauts at Investors Group Field, the Bombers had won just once behind a healthy Pierce. And even that lone win — a 19-11 victory in Montreal — had more to do with a defensive performance that was one for the ages than with anything Pierce had done.
And then things just went from bad to worse Friday night. By the time the Bombers brain trust had replaced Pierce with back-up Justin Goltz early in the third quarter, the Bombers were trailing 28-6 and any lingering notion the Bombers needed only to keep Pierce healthy to win this season had been fully extinguished.
Although Pierce came out for the second half against the Argos and was warming up on the sideline prior to the start of the third quarter, head coach Tim Burke said the team decided an abdominal injury Pierce suffered when he got hit in the second quarter would not allow him to continue to play in the second half and the decision was made to give the ball to Goltz.
Whatever. The bottom line is whether Pierce was healthy or not, the time had come to give someone — anyone — a chance to move an offence that had been designed from the ground up with Pierce in mind and yet which the man himself has proven unable to run effectively this season.
And so with that, the entire equation of this season changes. Coming into 2013, of course, the biggest single question mark surrounding the Bombers was whether they could keep Pierce healthy. With no experienced backup behind him, the thinking was that the Bombers' entire season was riding on their ability to keep Pierce upright, lest they be forced to turn to an untested backup.
What no one anticipated was that just a month into the season, the fan base would be booing Pierce and the offence off the field — as they did in the second quarter Friday night — and clamoring for Goltz to be given the keys.
Pierce’s numbers in the first half were mildly respectable at first glance — 10-of-14 for 139 yards — but it was the boneheaded interception he threw into double coverage in the second quarter that cost his team most dearly. The Argos cashed it in for a TD one play later and the rout was on.
Goltz had success in relief — he was 13-15 for 170 yards — but it’s difficult to make much of an assessment one way or the other given the mess of a game he inherited from Pierce.
Maybe Goltz is the solution, maybe he isn’t. But one thing’s for sure — keeping Buck Pierce healthy is the least of this team’s problems at this point.