Everybody loves a coach that is loyal to his players, especially when they are injured, and especially when they are the frontmen for the team. I prefer one that values the concepts of momentum and continuity even more.
After the comments I read Thursday, where Tim Burke would still not commit to Joey Elliott if he wins today, it made me wonder how much stock he puts into these intangibles that are lifelines for a young and emotionally volatile team?
While I have always enjoyed playing for a coach that plays hard to get, and makes you earn his praise, I was underwhelmed by Burke's comments once he learned that Elliott would have to play against Calgary. In case you missed it, Burke said "If Joey can have a really good game this week, certainly that would say to us as an organization, 'Hey, we've got a pretty good backup here at least.'"
When pressed as to what would happen if Elliott beat Calgary, he passed on the opportunity to once again endorse him as a starter. "Let's just wait until it happens. Then I'll give you an answer." Thanks for the pep talk coach. Are these the words of a man who believes that his former third-string pivot can defy the odds yet again?
Throw Elliott a bone, for Pete's sake. It's not like going out today and securing the Bombers' first two-game winning streak of the season is going to be easy in any way, shape, or form. He is facing a team that curb-stomped him 44-3.
Would it really have been that much of a stretch or that disloyal to Buck Pierce for Burke to come out and say, "If Joey can win two in a row and keep this momentum going, and give us hope of making the playoffs, he will get to hold onto the reins."
Is that really promising too much? Giving your young leader something to play for by dangling a carrot in front of him, when the post-season is a real possibility if they win today?
I understand that Pierce is the poster boy and franchise quarterback of this team. I know from personal experience what he is capable of and the calibre of leader he is. I understand that when healthy, when able to practise all week and finish an entire game, Buck gives this organization the best chance to win. I also understand that has not been the case this season.
With four games left in the season, I thought the decision coach Burke had to make was clear. He had to ride the hot hand. It wasn't broken, so he shouldn't be fixing it. He had to play out the momentum this team generated against the best team in the East and keep a level of continuity in the ranks.
For those of you that don't know, a definition of continuity is, "an uninterrupted connection." As soon as he was asked this week, he interrupted that connection by stating that if Buck cleared all his medical tests, he would be the starter against Calgary. Holy buzz kill Batman.
If I was a head coach, and even if I didn't want my team to build off the momentum of the last win and keep the connection the same by starting another quarterback, I would not have endorsed another player until I absolutely knew I had another option to work with. Because now Joey is a lame duck quarterback on the field today. He knows he is playing by default, and he knows even if he wins, there is still a good chance his boss won't want him to play next week either. That wouldn't exactly get me to run through a wall for him.
Last week we saw a quarterback who had thrown three interceptions the previous game, and hadn't throw a touchdown pass in five games, shrug it off and win an unwinable game. This week we wait with bated breath to see if the same quarterback can shrug off the realization that despite all he accomplished last week, he wasn't going to play today, and he had better make chicken excrement taste like chicken salad if he hopes to play again.
Maybe Joey Elliott needs to win today and receive the CFL offensive player of the week for the third time, and second time in a row, before he gains a full endorsement from his coach, -- something more definitive than a "We will see."
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.