December 5, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
You'd think it would be a simple enough question to answer:
Will veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce be in training camp to compete for the starting job in June?
The fact neither Bombers general manager Joe Mack or head coach Tim Burke would provide a definitive answer during interviews last week tells you everything you need to know about just how uncertain the Bombers' quarterbacking situation remains.
Listen in. Here's Mack first:
"We've had discussions with Buck and I still want to have more discussions with Buck," he said. "That's the crucial question I think for the Bombers in 2013. I've had a lot of discussions with Tim and (offensive co-ordinator) Gary (Crowton) about it.
"It's an evolutionary process for us. I think the world of Buck. Obviously, the issue is still the injury factor. You can't deny that's an issue. And that's something we're still discussing...
"What I can say, right now, in an ideal world, we will have Buck in camp with us. But what his status and situation would be, that still hasn't been determined."
Now here's Burke, answering the same question about Pierce's status:
"It's hard to tell," he said. "There's lots of factors. We have all our quarterbacks (Pierce, Joey Elliott, Alex Brink and Justin Goltz) from last year under contract. But if we dip into free agency, that could change things. Or then maybe we could bring up some guys who are on our negotiation list. It all just depends on what the outcome of our acquisitions at quarterback are as to where Buck fits in."
Does that clear it up for you? Me neither.
But that's not to say some outstanding matters relative to the Bombers' QB situation haven't been resolved so far this winter.
For starters, it is now clear that the Bombers have no interest in the services of Calgary's Kevin Glenn, former Hamilton Ticat Quinton Porter or Montreal's Adrian McPherson.
Glenn lost whatever shine he might have had when he proved in the 2012 Grey Cup game that he's just good enough to lose. And the Bombers' brain trust just doesn't think Porter -- who became a free agent this week -- or McPherson -- who could become a free agent next month -- are any better than what they've already got. And if you think Tim Tebow is going to ride to the rescue in Winnipeg now that the New York Jets have turned their back on him, you're dreaming. While there were stories coming out of the U.S. in the past week that the CFL might be the next logical stop for Tebow's unusual style -- giving himself a chance to prove himself as a bona fide starter just like Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia did in the CFL before him -- it's a big jump from that to Tebow taking over the controls of the Bombers in 2013.
For starters, another NFL team still seems Tebow's most likely destination, possibly even in Jacksonville where new GM David Caldwell said last week he couldn't "imagine a scenario where he would be a Jacksonville Jaguar" or, now that his old tutor Marc Trestman is the new head coach, in Chicago.
And even if he cannot find work down south, it's the Montreal Alouettes and not the Bombers who own Tebow's CFL rights. While Als GM Jim Popp has been publicly lukewarm to the idea of pursuing Tebow, you could see a long-shot scenario where he convinces the youngster to study under Anthony Calvillo in 2013 with the understanding Calvillo will almost certainly retire following this season and Tebow would get a chance to be the starter in 2014.
And even if the Bombers could pry Tebow's negotiation rights out of Popp, you'd have to think the price would be high given the Bombers' current desperation and his potential upside.
Would you be willing to give up 2012 CFL rookie of the year Chris Matthews for Tebow's negotiation rights? Me neither.
All of which brings us back to where this Winnipeg quarterback discussion was left at the end of the 2012 season -- B.C. backup Mike Reilly.
With a new $450,000-a-year contract extension for B.C. starter Travis Lulay announced by the Lions Thursday, Lions GM Wally Buono served unequivocal notice to Reilly that whatever future he might have in the CFL ain't going to be in Vancouver.
Of course, it might not be in the CFL either. Reilly, who can become a free agent on Feb. 15, has had at least one unsolicited NFL workout this winter already with the same 2-14 Jaguars.
Here's what Reilly told the Vancouver Sun's Mike Beamish last week:
"I'm still obviously very open to exhaust the possibilities in our league," Reilly said. "And I'm not closing the door on other options. I could end up in the NFL. I'm not ruling that out. And there's no guarantee I'll leave B.C. The Lions are a great organization, and a championship contender every year. (But) Travis (Lulay) being where he is at this stage of his career, and where I am in mine, the opportunities to play are pretty scarce. I'd like to see the field in a greater role. That said, it would have to be a perfect opportunity to leave the Lions and the CFL. I truly do enjoy where I am, and I don't take a decision to leave lightly."
If Reilly does decide to stay in the CFL, it could create the bizarre scene where a quarterback with the grand total of 77 career passes in the CFL becomes the centre of what could be a bidding war between the Bombers and the equally desperate Edmonton Eskimos.
And so put it all together and it becomes more clear why Mack and Burke are reluctant to talk right now about who will be competing for the starting job come training camp -- they have absolutely no idea themselves.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 C4