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This article was published 25/7/2016 (1728 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The most confusing aspect of the Bombers' underperforming offence so far is that the conservative, quick-hit scheme they came out of the gate with is precisely what most of us thought Drew Willy & Co. needed to be successful.
Under the category of "careful what you wish for," it wasn’t long ago that the generally accepted cure for what ails Drew Willy & Co. was better O-line protection and getting the ball out of his hands quicker.
In the first seven games of 2015 before his season-ending injury, Willy threw for eight touchdowns, had been intercepted just three times and was wearing a sparkling quarterback rating of 106. After he went down, there seemed to be only one conclusion left to be drawn: protect him at all costs, and speed up and simplify his decision-making in the pocket.
Those of us who watched Willy work with just a little more time — on occasion — during the past couple of years saw a quarterback who could be considered among the top pivots in the CFL. He was decisive, judicious and accurate... when he wasn't running for his life and getting pounded into the turf.
"If only we had kept Willy healthy for the entire season... we were one player away from making the playoffs." Recognize those song lyrics?
So the off-season brought a new offensive co-ordinator and philosophical changes: protection would be the priority, along with high-percentage plays such as swing passes completed before a free rusher sprinting off the edge arrived at his destination.
But addressing the obvious problem created another on the field; Willy wasn't Willy anymore. The conservative, vanilla scheme took the fireworks out of his bag of tricks. Any hint of danger? Dump the ball into the flat. And do it fast.
Although opponents continued to pad their sack stats, Willy wasn't getting hit as hard or as often. The result was a healthy, functioning quarterback with the CFL's second-highest completion percentage and second-highest passing yardage. That's the good news. The bad is that he is putting up, on average, one TD and 19 points a game in a league designed to expose defensive flaws.
Careful what you wish for, indeed.
Which brings us to head coach Mike O'Shea's decision over the weekend to sit Willy and start backup Matt Nichols this week against Edmonton. Willy, heralded as the quarterback of the future and paid accordingly, hasn't played with confidence since recovering from last season's injury, many observers have suggested. Others believe he's been stymied by deep-sixing the deep ball.
Either way, the conventional wisdom had a healthy Willy, armed with high-octane off-season acquisitions, clearing the last obstacle keeping the Blue Bombers from a winning record. So much for conventional wisdom.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.