Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Smilin' Hank might look good in blue

Bombers surely considering it

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It sounds so simple for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- and the script goes something like this:

The doors to the CFL free-agent market swing open on Feb. 15 and GM Kyle Walters pushes a cart full of cash up to Toronto Argonauts young gun Zach Collaros and has him slap his name on a spiffy new deal.

Walters continues shopping around for more pieces, but will exit knowing first and foremost the gaping hole at the quarterback position has been filled.

Days later, the marketing campaign trumpeting Collaros as the latest in a series of saviours would be launched, his jerseys flying off the shelves soon after.

Badda-bing, badda-boom, get your 2014 Bomber tickets now.

Except... things are seldom, if ever, as clear-cut as they seem in the CFL.

So, as much as the Collaros-to-Winnipeg storyline seems a slam dunk, here's another scenario to toss out for discussion: What would be the Bombers' QB Plan B?

Consider this possibility: The club inks Henry Burris, a future hall of famer who led the league in passing yardage the last two years, and then relies on another hall of famer on staff -- new assistant GM Danny McManus -- to find the next QB prospect to sign and develop.

Now, Collaros is clearly the sexiest name out there. The 25-year-old Cincinnati product has a swagger about his game, excellent mobility and was 5-2 as a starter last season for the Argos when Ray was in sick bay.

But there's a risk here, too, given seven starts doesn't scream "proven commodity."

And Burris, who will be 39 in June, hardly lit it up in his final 10 games of the season, a span in which he threw eight TDs against 11 interceptions and was held to under 200 yards in five contests. Still, while it says something when a QB savant like Kent Austin seems ready to move on without Burris in Hamilton, he did help get the Tiger-Cats into the Grey Cup and can still scare the beejeezuz out of defensive co-ordinators.

The second part of that scenario, having McManus use his connections to find a legit prospect, is both intriguing and delicious in its irony. The director of U.S. scouting has some dandy connections in the game, currently as an executive and before that during a 17-year CFL career that led to him being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. When a guy who started games for the Florida Seminoles and led them to an 11-1 season in 1987 walks onto a campus or tryout anywhere in the U.S., folks still take notice.

And the irony in McManus scouting football fields everywhere to find the next QB prospect for the Bombers? He was exactly that when the Bombers signed him in 1990 and began to groom him behind Tom Burgess and Matt Dunigan before he opted to leave for the B.C. Lions in 1993.

One more thing to toss out for debate: A CFL source said Friday the Bombers are also intrigued by Saskatchewan Roughriders No. 2 pivot Drew Willy -- another guy headed to free agency in three weeks.

Understandably, all of this hardly moves the needle for Bomber fans desperate for some stability behind centre and an end to a Grey Cup drought that dates back to 1990. They want answers and they want them ASAP.

But the only given right now, it would seem, is this: The names on the current Bomber depth chart -- which features Max Hall at No. 1 and still includes Justin Goltz, Jason Boltus and Levi Brown -- will soon be changing.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 A1

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