The Winnipeg Blue Bombers appear to have something today they haven't had since they signed quarterback Buck Pierce way back in 2010 -- a credible alternative.
And they found one in the nick of time.
A day after Alex Brink established his bona fides as a CFL starting quarterback in a 23-22 win over the Edmonton Eskimos, Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice revealed Friday that Brink will be the Bombers' starter for longer than the club was expecting.
The Bombers had initially hoped Pierce could be back as soon as four weeks after he tore ligaments in his left foot during a game in Edmonton July 13.
But LaPolice said Friday that Pierce still won't be ready play when the club returns from its bye week -- they play Hamilton Aug. 16 after getting a week off. LaPolice even went further on Friday, telling reporters that it could be September before Pierce is back.
"I know he's still a ways away," LaPolice said. "I know when he comes back from the bye week, it's still going to be some time."
LaPolice's comments came just a couple days after Pierce told the Free Press he felt his recovery was moving speedily and that he hoped to return within the original four-week window.
Pierce might still be on that timetable, but his club's urgency to get him back behind centre has been dialed down a few notches after Brink proved Thursday night he could credibly pilot the Bombers to victory.
Much was made after Thursday's game about how dramatically Brink's completion numbers -- 26-38, 294 yards, one TD, two interceptions -- improved over a disastrous outing a week earlier in Toronto in which he went just 9-34, 185 yards, two interceptions.
But that tells only part of the story. Brink's completion rate went up because the Bombers brain trust figured out that throwing 50 yards down field on every second pass, as they tried against Toronto, isn't going to work for Tom Brady, much less Brink.
So instead, it was a night of short, crisp, highly effective passes to an array of Bombers receivers -- Terrence Edwards, 7-67; Cory Watson, 7-66; Chad Simpson, 5-49. Do the math on those numbers and in each instance it averages about 10 yards per reception -- exactly what you need to keep the sticks moving.
Brink's two first-half interceptions against Edmonton hurt -- particularly the second one, which led to an Edmonton touchdown. But it bears repeating that in both instances, he was hit just as he threw the ball, just as he was on the first interception in Toronto.
Part of being a starting quarterback is sensing pressure and having the composure to know that sometimes you're just better off eating the ball than throwing up an ill-advised pass just as you get smacked. That's a skill Brink is obviously still learning, and Bombers fans will have to be patient.
But it's also true that Thursday night marked a huge step forward for Brink, if for no other reason than it also represented the first time he actually won a game as Winnipeg's starter.
Not only did he win, he did it under a microscope, second-guessed all week and feeling the hot breath of backup Joey Elliott breathing down his neck. It all earned him a prize from his boss.
"I gave him the game ball last night," LaPolice said Friday.
"He didn't make bad decisions, he ran the ball well, he put the ball in spots. There's still a lot of room for improvement for him, but I though he responded."
In a game where winning breeds more winning and quarterbacks run on the fuel of confidence, Brink went a long way Thursday night to prove he can provide his team with a legitimate chance to win, no matter how long Pierce is out of the lineup.