Scrambling to reach mediocrity

Bombers’ struggles at the pivot position aren’t a new issue

Photo by Bram Keast

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Despite not posting the worst record in the CFL, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can still be considered the worst in one very important area: their depth at the QB position. Without a capable backup behind injured starter Drew Willy, the Bombers have nowhere to go but down.

After losing Willy to a knee injury in a 38-8 week-seven loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the Bombers have gone 1-3 and are quickly watching their chances of hosting the upcoming Grey Cup in Winnipeg go down the drain.

Now I’m aware that the Bombers won 22-7 this past weekend against Saskatchewan with recently signed six-year CFL veteran Matt Nichols. That means nothing, in my opinion. Saskatchewan is in the bottom three in every important defensive category, and the win is not indicative of the Bombers’ abilities offensively.

Before analyzing Nichols’s background, it’s important to first discuss why Winnipeg needed to sign him in the first place.

Winnipeg’s two previous backups that saw time in Willy’s absence – Robert Marve in weeks eight and 10, and Brian Brohm in week 11, failed to pick up a single victory, and neither one passed for over 210 yards in any of those three games.

Their experience level in the CFL doesn’t help either. Marve and Brohm combined have been in the league for two years less than Nichols. While both strong-armed QB’s were talented in the American college ranks, they haven’t been able to adjust to the change in defensive schemes and alignments put together by their opposition, and at times have looked simply confused.

Let’s take this conversation back to Nichols now. His record as a starter is a mediocre 6-7, with all six wins occurring this year. His decision-making has been questioned at times as well: he’s thrown 20 touchdowns, but also 19 interceptions. Let’s also remember that Edmonton has the best defence in the league and doesn’t require many points out of their offence.

This isn’t the first time the Bombers have run into an issue with depth at quarterback. It dates all the way back to 2007, when backup Ryan Dinwiddie made his first career CFL start in the Grey Cup, after proven starter Kevin Glenn went down the week before.

Following 2007, CFL no-names continued to find a place with Winnipeg at the pivot position, with Stefan LeFors, Joey Elliott, Justin Goltz, Alex Brink, and Max Hall being just a few players whose careers never skyrocketed in the Canadian game.

Meanwhile, teams across the CFL found capable backups turned starters seemingly with ease. Bo Levi Mitchell, Travis Lulay, and Henry Burris are just a few quarterbacks who started with a clipboard and now have Grey Cup rings as starters.

This is a team that ranks last in the league in sacks allowed and has a predictable offensive playbook. Those two factors equal a number of pressures on the quarterback and a higher chance of injury. If the Bombers can’t find someone to replace Willy both now and in future years, then chances are they’ll see their enormous Grey Cup drought continue.