Blue Bomber Report Record: 4–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Willy's the starter -- unless...

Blue GM Walters says QB search will continue until camp opens

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Drew Willy will be the starting quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2014. Unless he's not.

That was the takeaway from a confusing and sometimes bizarre news conference at Investors Group Field on Friday as the Bombers unveiled Willy -- who they acquired from the Saskatchewan Roughriders earlier this week -- as the club's newest quarterback.

So is Willy the starter or not? Well, that depended on who you asked on Friday.

When Willy was posed that question by a reporter, head coach Mike O'Shea interrupted before his new QB could formulate an answer and made it clear there was no doubt in his mind who will lead his offence in 2014.

"Drew's the starting quarterback," O'Shea interjected.

'I went to the University of Buffalo when we won zero games. We ended up going to a bowl game and winning a... championship. I guess you could say that was intimidating, but I went at it and we became successful. So, we're looking forward to doing that here' -- new Blue Bombers quarterback Drew Willy

That answer seemed to leave no room for ambiguity on the quarterback issue. But remember, this is the Bombers -- the same team that declared on the team Twitter account last Aug. 1 Justin Goltz would be their "starter for the remainder of the 2013 season" only to give Goltz the hook a couple of weeks later -- so nothing is ever entirely clear when it comes to quarterbacks.

And Friday was no different, as moments after O'Shea declared Willy his starter for next season, his boss -- Bombers GM Kyle Walters -- made clear the team's search for a starting QB is still far from over.

Asked if he is now "comfortable" starting the 2014 season with his current stable of quarterbacks, which also includes Goltz and Max Hall, Walters paused before answering this way.

"It's an interesting question," Walters began. "Am I comfortable? I'm comfortable with our quarterback situation right now. Am I going to try to improve it? Yes, like I'm going to try to improve every other position that we have. And what happens between free agency potentially and exploring all trades -- I've said all along that's the way you try to improve your team and that's what I'll be trying to do between now and the start of training camp."

So, in other words, Willy's the starter unless Walters can find someone better between now and the start of the regular season. And he's going to try to do that. Got all that?

Lost amid the glaring contradictions on Friday was the new man himself, who showed up for his first news conference in a natty suit and with his girlfriend in tow.

While he started just two games for Saskatchewan in 2013 -- and just four in his professional career -- Willy insists he's got what it takes to be a starting pivot in the CFL. "I do think I'm ready," said Willy. "This is the place I wanted to be... Obviously the fan base, you have a great fan base. And I'm looking forward to being a part of something great and I think we can do that here."

Willy was asked if it's intimidating coming from a Grey Cup winner in Regina to a franchise that was dead last in the CFL last season with a 3-15 record.

"I went to the University of Buffalo when we won zero games," said Willy with a laugh. "We ended up going to a bowl game and winning a... championship. I guess you could say that was intimidating, but I went at it and we became successful. So, we're looking forward to doing that here."

O'Shea said he thinks Willy is exactly the right man at the right time. "You see a tremendous amount of pocket presence, you see a guy who's been tutored by some good coaches. I think he's confident," said O'Shea. "His time has come. It really has. He's ready for this...

"I can't tell you how excited I am... It's important to this franchise to have a quarterback and a guy everyone can believe in."

Walters seemed to agree, even while keeping the door open to finding someone else to lead the offence. "What Drew put on film showed that he's ready to be a starting quarterback in this league," said Walters. "Everything that we've pieced together says he's ready. He's paid his time, he's paid his dues and now it's time to step up and play."

While Walters may insist that, there is no denying the chronology of the past week, in which the Bombers first offered their starting-quarterback job to Zach Collaros and then Henry Burris, only to be turned down by both men in favour of signing with Hamilton and Ottawa respectively.

That would seem to suggest Willy was Winnipeg's third choice, but Walters denied it and bristled when asked to comment on Burris's decision this week to spurn the Bombers.

"I can assure you we're happy with the way things have unfolded and we're excited to have Drew here," said Walters, "and that's all I'm going to say."

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2014 C4

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