December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Maybe you thought the Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterbacking question would be answered with a giant present under the Christmas tree. Or that the club could pull off one of those once-in-a-lifetime fleecings of a trade that delivers a Ricky Ray.
Well, a quick update for all Bomber fans (and you might want to sit down for this): who will take the first snap from centre as the team's starting quarterback in 2013 remains very much an unsolved mystery.
And it may stay that way for weeks, if not months.
"That remains THE biggest issue for us moving forward," explained Bomber GM Joe Mack in a telephone interview Thursday. "I can appreciate the fans want answers right away. But this is probably something that is going to evolve. This is not going to happen right away and I can see it going into March and even early April before it really starts to solidify itself.
"We're giving it a lot of focus. It's just going to take time."
Now it's here where we must open up some old wounds to provide some context -- the Bombers, as a team, finished with the worst quarterback-efficiency rating in the entire CFL at 74.6 and averaged 250.6 yards passing per game and just 16 TDs, both league lows, while throwing a league-high 23 interceptions.
But it's not just the numbers that are disconcerting, it's the revolving door at the position. Buck Pierce's injury history... the questions about Alex Brink and Joey Elliott... the unknown that is Justin Goltz...
As to what the Bombers are doing to find some pivot stability Mack, not surprisingly, wouldn't go into specifics or toss out any names. But he did admit they are scouring the football map, whether it be looking at NCAA prospects, NFL castoffs or wannabes or potential free agents such as Mike Reilly of the B.C. Lions -- whom many in the league believe the Bombers should be aggressively pursuing -- or Adrian McPherson of the Montreal Alouettes.
"We will evaluate all possibilities at quarterback going into this season," said Mack. "There's people we like and we've had conversations with. We're still evaluating the guys we have on our roster, but there's also guys we'd like to see but right now they still want to see if they're going to get NFL shots.
"Although we have a strategic plan in place, we have to wait for the college and NFL seasons to finish up before we can start to make concrete decisions."
All of this doesn't rule out that Pierce, once again, may be the No. 1 gun when the curtain lifts on 2013. That said, Bomber management is also weary of living with the instability hitching their wagon to the vet brings.
Mack said he'll be chatting again soon with head coach Tim Burke, offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton as well as the medical staff to determine how Pierce fits. But, make no mistake, they do want him around in some capacity.
"Buck's definitely in our plans," said Mack. "We think the world of him with regards to his leadership and his toughness and his ability to motivate people in the locker-room. But -- and Buck knows this -- we just can't have a starter that can only have three or four starts a year. We just can't have that. The most critical position is the quarterback position. And we have to try to clarify that position for us going into training camp.
"Buck will be part of that process. I want to see what he feels. He was very, very open to me about how much he loves Winnipeg and how he wants to do anything he can to help the Bombers win."
Mack also repeated what has become a common refrain in off-season discussions: Goltz, the athletic, but untested 6-5 greenhorn, will be right in the mix for the gig when camp starts.
"Coach Burke really feels there something about Justin that hasn't been brought out yet," said Mack. "He's a hard worker, he's liked by his teammates and he's got a quiet confidence to him. He may be one of the better athletes on the team.
"In in the end, it may be that it's more of an open competition for the starter's job. We're going to have to see how all the pieces fall in place and that's why it's going to take a little bit of time for it to become a little more clear.
"I know the fans want a quick resolution, but they should know we're very focussed on this."
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2013 C1