Born-again QB

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 PM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers welcomed a new quarterback into the fold, Wednesday — and he’s going to get the start in Montreal this weekend.

He’s a 6-foot-0, 207-pound right hander who can use his feet and play the possession game, but loves to air it out, striking at the heart of a defence when he sees the opportunity.

As far as stats go, they’re nice, but there’s only one he cares about: the W.

Winnipeg, meet the new Steven Jyles, a born-again Christian who, due to his benching last week, is now a reborn football player.

“It changed my whole view of being a professional quarterback,” Jyles told the Sun in a one-on-one interview, Wednesday. “It opened my eyes, that maybe you have to press a little harder.”

I know what you’re thinking: he wasn’t trying hard before he was benched?

It’s not that at all.

Sometimes, though, a quarterback gets so focused on “executing the offence,” as Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice likes to say, that he doesn’t go outside that box. The box that says “protect the football” and “just get first downs.”

A few fumbles aside, Jyles had been doing that to the letter all season. His efficiency rating, the bible of quarterback measurement, was second only to Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo, the god of CFL passers.

Something, though, was missing.

Coincidentally, Jyles thinks he may have found it on the very bench he sat down on as the backup to Alex Brink for most of Monday’s game against the B.C. Lions.

“You’re only as explosive as your quarterback,” Jyles explained. “And I’ve changed my mindset as far as how I’m going to attack. At first I was about being in control of the clock and throw completions. I truly want to be more aggressive and push the ball down field. That way, all the underneath stuff opens up.”

Jyles had it in his head that if he just moved the chains and didn’t turn the ball over, everything would be OK.

“But that’s why we were 3-10,” he said. “Because when it came time for us to make big plays, we didn’t make ’em.

“And it’s really the mindset of a quarterback. You can execute the offence perfectly fine, based on what the coaches tell you. But there’s always a throw in there where you can pierce the defence. If you don’t take that, if you don’t send your eyes that way, you’re not going to take that throw.”

In the fourth quarter and overtime against the Lions, Jyles took it. The results: 211 yards through the air and 30 offensive points in some 20 minutes of desperate football.

The new Jyles will have that killer instinct all the time.

This epiphany came sometime during talks he had with LaPolice and GM Joe Mack about why he was being demoted.

“That’s two very important people to explain it to you,” Jyles said. “So it was very clear to me. Now I understand. It was basically, ‘We’re 3-10. We’re not saying it’s your fault, but we’re 3-10.’ And you can’t argue with that as a quarterback.

“So I took it like, ‘OK, you get back on the field, you have to do a little bit more just to win the ball game.’ ”

Funny thing is, Coach LaPo’s mantra has always been that his quarterback shouldn’t try to do too much. Just make plays. Put the ball in the hands of your playmakers.

And how about this: “Don’t worry about the result. Just execute, and the result will take care of itself.”

That’s been Coach LaPo-speak, from Day 1.

Well, the result (4-10) hasn’t take care of itself.

So it seems to me the lack of evolution of Steven Jyles has been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Coach LaPo got the quarterback he created.

And when he decided he didn’t like him, he sent him away. Outside his box.

Where Jyles may have found something that can help them both.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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