Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time to give Buck one last chance

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Joey Elliott has shown signs of promise but with the Blue Bombers' season not yet entirely lost, the club must start veteran quarterback Buck Pierce in Regina next Sunday.

The Bombers are now 2-6 and have gone seven years without a win over the Roughriders in the Labour Day Classic. Winnipeg needs everything they can have going for them as they try to avoid slipping to 2-7 and facing a near insurmountable climb at the dawn of the season's second half.

Elliott looked good in his first start against the league's worst defence and shredded the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but was ordinary, going 20-for-42 with no touchdowns and an interception in Friday's 20-17 loss to the B.C. Lions.

A nice start but Elliott did not establish himself as a bona fide starter. Not yet.

Give Pierce the ball with the understanding it's his last chance as the starting quarterback in Winnipeg. If he can run off some wins and get the Bombers back in the hunt, great. The defence has rounded into shape after a slow start and there are some signs of life on the offence. If Pierce can pull it together, the Bombers might be able to make a push for the post-season in a dreadful East Division.

If not, and the losing continues, move back to Elliott and give him the bulk of the second half of the season to gain experience and prove he is a legitimate No. 1 quarterback in the CFL.

That can't be said of Elliott right now but his audition was a more than solid. There's potential in Elliott and the Bombers could soon find themselves in position to move to him on a permanent basis.

But that's not the case today and Elliott didn't do enough in his two starts to dethrone Pierce. A win on Friday night, and he came damn close, would have been enough to keep Pierce on the bench a little while longer but the loss has to open the door for the man on the top of the depth chart at quarterback heading into this season.

The only statistic that matters in Winnipeg right now is the win-loss record and with just two wins in eight starts coach Paul LaPolice must do whatever he can to try and save this season.

Yes, Pierce has proven to be injury-prone and there's no guarantee he'll stay on the field long enough to help the Bombers. By virtue of leading the Bombers to a title game last year, Pierce has earned the chance to try and retain his job upon his return from injury.

But let's be clear -- win immediately or be prepared to step aside, Buck. The injuries have made the lovable veteran unreliable. Buck Pierce is not the future. Joey Elliott could be and that makes him worthy of a longer look.

But with a defence as strong as Winnipeg's there is still potential for this season to be interesting. Pierce's leadership ability and experience make the case for him as the best threat running the Bombers offence.

Some have argued he's done. Fine, let's find out. Give Pierce the ball in Regina and if he can collect a win and keep the Bombers' season alive give it back to him in Winnipeg the following week for the Banjo Bowl.

If he can't win and the Bombers slide to 2-7, there's no reason to hold off on Elliott.

Name him the starter and get out of his way. Live with the inevitable lumps and spend the second half of this season trying to develop a starting quarterback, something this franchise hasn't done in decades.

The Joey Elliott Era may very well be upon us. But before we kick Buck to the curb, give him one more crack.

The best scenario will see him win some games and get the Bombers back in the playoff chase. The worst will see Pierce fail and finally the Bombers can devote playing time to a young quarterback that may represent their future.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2012 C3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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