Blue Bomber Report Record: 4–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Quarterback competition bodes well for Blue

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I tend to see things from a different perspective than most people.

For instance, many fans were elated by Joey Elliott's performance last week when he threw for over 400 yards, the first time a Bombers quarterback has done that since 2009. While that feat was remarkable, I found it more alarming that it had been three-plus years since the Blue and Gold had a QB in the stable that could put up those kinds of numbers.

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In addition, many people probably think a stewing quarterback controversy and a search for the face of the franchise is divisive in the locker-room and to be avoided at all costs. I happen to think the fact there is a bona fide argument over which QB should be the No. 1 guy is the best thing that could happen to this team.

The Bombers haven't had more than one good quarterback on the roster since Khari Jones and Kevin Glenn threw down back in 2004. Now they have four, so this is a debate and controversy this team and town should embrace with open arms. The more sound arguments about which quarterback has the skill set to be leading this team, the better off the team is. If someone's delicate sensibilities get stepped on in the process, it's the price of doing business.

This competition for the top job has already begun in earnest. If Elliott hadn't acquitted himself so well last week, Buck Pierce probably would have been pressed into action for tonight's game, and alluded to as much with his comments in the paper about his expectations to practise this past week. Yet when you are 2-5, you have to ride the hot hand, and one win in a row is as hot as it's gotten thus far this season, so continuing on with the Joey Elliott Show right now is a no-brainer.

If the Bombers beat the Lions, not only could this be the catalyst for a season-changing turnaround, it puts the debate on the back burner for the time being. Unless Elliott does a 180 from last week and is bailed out by the defence and a running game that improbably leads the team to victory, there is not even a discussion about who leads the troops into the Labour Day Classic.

Yet if the Bombers aren't so fortunate to be victorious this evening, and the quarterback performance follows suit, then the QB controversy will burn as bright as we have seen in these parts for some time.

In defeat, there will be more scrutiny on Elliott's game than a new strain of bacteria on a petri dish and it will be measured against what Pierce brings to the table.

Elliott's best foot forward tonight is a style of play that minimizes unforced errors. Last week, he was fortunate to not be intercepted two, possibly three times against Hamilton. If he can balance his bravado and aggression with caution and patience, he may remain in the driver's seat no matter the statistics or outcome. If the CFL's best defence gets one step ahead of him though, and throws looks and pressures at him that rattle him and reveal his lack of experience, a changing of the guard may be in order when the Prairie rivals square off in nine days.

There is no question Elliott's performance last week was the strongest pivot play the Bombers have seen this season. Yet it also bears mentioning Elliott reaped the benefits from all of the tools that surround him in the offensive workshop, against likely the weakest possible defence.

Whether he was the catalyst and inspiration should be answered emphatically tonight. In fact, it made me wonder how Pierce would perform with Chad Simpson in the backfield and a legitimate running game, with the offensive line playing their best football and with Cory Watson and the receiving corps coming into their own against a defence that scared nobody.

But how many more valuable starting repetitions can you continue to offer a quarterback that may never escape the clutches of the treatment room, and therefore may no longer be the long-term solution?

Whether they keep it simple for us armchair evaluators with a convincing win tonight, or muck it up with a less-than-decisive performance in a loss, for the first time in a long while, I'm optimistic about the most important position on the field since Jones and Glenn were a talented tandem for this ball club, and a QB controversy, seemingly a lifetime ago.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2012 C3

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