Bombers gamble on Pierce worth it

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

I said it before the Blue Bombers even considered signing him, I said it when his knee buckled, Week 3, and I'll continue to say it now that he's dislocated his elbow.

Saddling up to quarterback Buck Pierce was worth the risk.

The gamble was minimal, financially, with the former B.C. Lion accepting a user-friendly, incentive-laden contract believed to guarantee him less than $150,000.

And it was minimal, strategically, as head coach Paul LaPolice was planning to go with Steven Jyles as his No. 1 pivot before he and GM Joe Mack reconsidered Pierce.

At best, Pierce would grab the starting job in training camp, which he did, and stay relatively healthy, which he hasn't.

At worst -- and what we've seen is pretty much a worst-case scenario -- Pierce's presence could smooth Jyles' transition to starter.

Well, Pierce and all his early-season promise is done. Jyles says he's ready and the ball is his to run with for the second half.

For a change, it's not all doom and gloom, either.

When's the last time the Bombers could lose their No. 1 quarterback in early September and still entertain a mosquito's chance in November of making the playoffs?

That's right, we're not writing this team off, just yet.

Because what we saw in the Labour Day Classic only reinforced what we suspected about this year's edition of the Blue and Gold.

This is a gritty team that's not far away from winning games.

Sure, it needs some players, starting with receivers who can consistently get open and catch the ball.

On a related note, it's short on Canadian talent, too.

You can't count on its running game, either, and I'm not sure if that's a product of the blocking or a knock on Fred Reid's ability.

But, one fourth-quarter Riders drive aside, the defence was solid, Sunday, the special teams improving and the entire bunch still doesn't show any quit.

The coaching staff is getting better, too, starting with Coach LaPo having the presence of mind to use his challenge before it became meaningless in the final three minutes.

Would have liked to see him have the guts to challenge a potential Riders fumble on the opening kickoff. That could have quieted the crowd down, immediately.

Overall, though, that was a solid effort by a team that hasn't learned how to win the close ones, just yet.

It reminds me a little of the 2000 Bombers under Dave Ritchie, which came out of the Labour Day weekend with a 2-7-1 mark, lost a home game to Toronto, then went 5-3 to finish 7-10-1 and actually become a factor in the playoffs.

Three of that team's early losses were by four points or less.

The current crew has lost four games by a touchdown or less.

I'm not promising these Bombers will ever learn to win those. But this is not the unmitigated disaster that a 2-7 record would suggest.

You want disaster, check out the Edmonton Eskimos, a team with the same 2-7 mark on the surface, but a worm-infested core that produced yet another blowout (52-5) at the hands of the Stampeders on the weekend.

The Esks have been outscored 305-167 this season. Winnipeg, a humane 271-247.

Who cares, you say? A loss is a loss is a loss?

Bottom line, that's true.

But I'd much rather watch a tooth-and-nails defeat than see a bunch of losers quit on themselves and their fans. The former also suggests a better future.

Of course, that future, for these Bombers, is now.

A team that never learns how to win close games will go from likeable loser to forgotten also-ran faster than you can say Manitoba Lotteries Banjo Bowl.

Which brings us to this weekend's rematch.

Last year's Banjo Bowl, a 55-10 Riders laugher, told us a lot about that team.

My guess is this one will, too.


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