Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Buck's not the answer -- but who is?

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So you're a Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan. You love Buck Pierce. You'd have absolutely no problem with him coming home with your daughter for Christmas dinner.

But after he failed to finish yet another game -- the most important game this season -- in Hamilton on Saturday, you've decided you've finally had enough of the Bombers quarterback and it's time for Buck to go.

Yeah? So now what?

Heck of a good question. And therein lies the rub. While the message boards lit up this weekend with calls for Pierce to be run out of town after he was injured yet again in a 28-18 loss to the Tiger-Cats that eliminated Winnipeg from playoff contention, meaningful suggestions of an alternative to Pierce have been few and far between.

There's a reason why bona fide starting quarterbacks in the CFL are so valuable and it's precisely because they're so hard to find. It's pure capitalism -- lots of demand, very little supply.

So what are the alternatives to Pierce? There are three sources of CFL starting quarterbacks: the backups already on your roster, the quarterbacks on other CFL rosters and unemployed or underemployed American quarterbacks with potential in the three-down game but no actual CFL experience.

Here's a look at who's available in each category:

 

THE BACKUPS

 

BOMBERS fans got very familiar with Joey Elliott and Alex Brink in a season that saw Pierce miss 10 games and fail to finish four others, all due to injuries. So what would you be getting if you replaced Pierce permanently with either Elliott or Brink as starter?

Well, in Elliott, you'd be getting a graduate of a major U.S. school -- Purdue -- with all kinds of confidence and a couple of huge wins this season on his resumé -- a 406-yard outing in his first start of the year at home against Hamilton and then a 335-yard, three-TD performance in a win over the Alouettes in Montreal earlier this month.

But you'd also be getting a quarterback who has thrown 12 interceptions -- including four in one game -- this season against just five TDs; who continues to dangerously float passes out to the sidelines, raising questions about whether he has the arm strength for the wide field in Canada; who has already shredded his ACL once in his time with Winnipeg; and who looked overmatched and utterly lost many times this season.

And Brink? Well, it speaks volumes that he went from the starter when Pierce injured his foot in Week 3 to third-string behind Pierce and Elliott by season's end. Some people around the team still think Brink -- who's also the graduate of a major U.S. college, Washington State -- has a lot more upside than Elliott and he showed a glimpse of that potential with a 26-38, 294-yard performance in a Week 5 win over Edmonton that was Winnipeg's first victory of the year.

But he also went 9-of-34 and threw two INTs in a disastrous start against Toronto in Week 4 in which he looked a very, very long way from being ready for CFL primetime.

Finally, yes, Justin Goltz is also a Bombers backup quarterback. And no, he's not ready to start in the CFL.

 

OTHER PEOPLE'S QBS

 

UNFORTUNATELY for the Bombers, Edmonton's Eric Tillman ran out of future CFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks to give away when he decided for reasons that still aren't apparent to gift Ricky Ray to the Toronto Argonauts last winter.

It'd be nice, of course, if someone would do that for Winnipeg and simply give us an experienced and reliable CFL starter. But the CFL doesn't usually operate that way so the reality is whatever quarterback we could pry off another CFL roster would most likely have to be of the backup variety.

Take your pick -- Montreal's Adrian McPherson, Hamilton's Quinton Porter, Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell, B.C.'s Mike Reilly, Toronto's Jarious Jackson or even Saskatchewan's Drew Willy.

Playing in relief, they've all shown flashes at various times of appearing to be ready to take on a starting role. But if anyone tells you they know one or the other of this bunch is a stone-cold lock as a bona fide starting CFL quarterback, they're lying. A wise man told me over the weekend the last thing Montreal's Marc Trestman ever wants to find out is if McPherson is any good. You could say the same for the rest of this bunch too.

Are they any better than Winnipeg's existing backups? Some of them, maybe. But are they any more of a sure thing? Not a chance.

The one exception to all this, of course, is Calgary's Kevin Glenn, who proved in relief of Drew Tate this season that he still has an uncanny ability to win games all by himself and lose games all by himself, sometimes in the same game.

That act wore thin in Winnipeg four years ago when the Bombers ran Glenn out of town after five seasons with the Bombers and the idea the franchise would make a deal with Calgary now to put an older version of Glenn back in a Blue and Gold uniform smacks of desperation.

Of course, that's exactly what Winnipeg is after missing the playoffs three of the last four years.

 

EVERYONE ELSE

 

WELL, Vince Young is broke and needs a job.

The Montreal Alouettes added the veteran NFLer and Rose Bowl hero to their negotiation list last summer after Young got cut by the Buffalo Bills. That caused a bit of a stir, particularly since it was accompanied at nearly the same time by news from Young's attorney that his client has squandered all of the $26 million in guaranteed money he earned in the NFL and now "needs a job."

Perfect, right -- a desperate man for a desperate football team.

We kid, we kid. Vince Young isn't coming to Canada and even if he did, like we said, the Als have his rights.

So who's on the Bombers neg list for quarterbacks? Denard Robinson, who's starring at the University of Michigan; Chase Clement, the starter for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the fledgling UFL and the MVP of the 2010 UFL championship game; B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers, now on their practice squad; and Armanti Edwards, a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2010 who has been converted to a receiver/returner in the NFL.

Sound good? Sure, one of them might even be the next Anthony Calvillo. Just remember one thing: Calvillo spent four very undistinguished years in Las Vegas and Hamilton in the mid-'90s before Montreal got hold of him and turned him into the greatest QB in CFL history.

Everyone who likes the idea of waiting patiently for another four years so we can develop a quarterback with no CFL experience, raise your hands.

Yeah, exactly.

Add it all up and we're back where we started: You're a Bombers fan, you love Buck Pierce, but you've seen enough and you want to run him out of town.

Next?

paul.wiecek@ freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2012 C3

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