Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 04/23/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The most accomplished athletes and coaches I've been around don't ignore or gloss over their weaknesses. They identify these imperfections in their arsenals and attack them in such a way that they become strengths.
That being said, everybody and their sister knows the weakness of the 2013 Winnipeg Blue Bombers is their lack of experience behind their starting quarterback, and how they will literally be one play away from coming face to face with the season's mortality.
The question is whether this vulnerability will be addressed at every opportunity, or will it be swept under the rug until, and if, they are forced to reckon with it?
The contemplation starts this week in mini-camp, should extend to the pre-season and continue in the regular season. I'm talking about preparing for the transition to whoever will be the new face of the franchise. Buck Pierce is no longer the future of this team. He is the present, on a game-by-game, quarter-by-quarter basis.
Whether the team has accepted this reality or is in denial about it will be revealed to us by how they approach mini-camp this week.
In my mind, there is no reason at all for Buck to take any repetitions in this camp. The protection protocols may have changed, some of the players and plays might even be different, but this is the same offence and the starting pivot is an eight-year veteran of pro football.
Pierce has started 62 games in the CFL and has thrown for more than 14,000 yards. The next guy on the depth chart, Justin Goltz, has completed seven passes for 75 yards. He won't be at the mini-camp as his pregnant wife is due very soon.
If Max Hall and Chase Clement aren't given every single rep in this three-day tuneup, I'd dare say the coaches are missing the point as well as the obvious.
A while ago, TSN's Duane Ford tweeted that with the dismissal of both of the backups with experience on this team, "... the Bombers replaced the 'W' on Buck Pierce's helmet with a large bull's-eye."
The criticism of his statement was that in every game, of every football contest, defensive co-ordinators attack the QB as much as possible, so what makes this any different?
The difference is when your pivot has proven more vulnerable to physical play than his counterparts, and the contingency plans don't have a lick of experience, the reward for pulling out all the stops to pepper a QB with plastic becomes far greater than normal.
As I acknowledged last week, there was no obvious solution to the Blue and Gold's dilemma at QB. There are arguments to be made for keeping Buck, for keeping one of the backups with experience and Buck, for getting rid of Buck, and for getting rid of all of the above. But now that the team has declared to go with the best talent, and the least durable, they must plan for a rainy day, and it starts tomorrow.
Not only should the reality of two rookies relegate Pierce to the sideline for mini-camp, but once training camp starts in June, I'd argue it would be best for Buck and Goltz (or whoever is No. 2) to be splitting all the starter repetitions.
If we learned anything from last season, it should be that throwing a passer into the mix without an extensive feel for the game plan that day is a difficult scenario, let alone when said player has few experiences to draw on.
There needs to be an accounting of how much it costs the team to limit one player's reps, as opposed to how greatly it will benefit another.
With only two pre-season games to get the No. 2 comfortable with taking the reins at a moment's notice, he should be given a minimum of three quarters of playing time in both. In fact, I wouldn't even put Pierce on the field in the pre-season for more than a series in the final contest, and that would simply be for his peace of mind.
The Bombers stuck their necks out and declared the path that will either sink or swim this franchise in 2013. If they don't take advantage of every opportunity in front of them to shore up the weakness and underbelly they exposed to the rest of the CFL, they are not being realistic about the situation before them.
For it is one thing to throw caution to the wind and take a flyer with the man capable of taking your team places. It is another thing altogether to not prepare for what statistics tell us is more probable than not.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2013 D4
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