Wally masters arms race

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Wally Buono is in another jam -- the type of delicious predicament only Buono seems capable of creating.

It happens year after year because, quite frankly, he's a bloody genius.

Dealing with the type of dilemma that makes him the envy of the league, Buono once again finds himself in the middle of a quarterback quandary.

At a time when a chunk of CFL teams don't even have one legitimate starter, the B.C. Lions boss is being second-guessed as he tries once again to juggle two of 'em.

Mere days after Jarious Jackson earned CFL offensive player of the week honours for a relief role that saw him throw four majors and pick up the club's first win, the beefy quarterback will be back on the bench tomorrow when the Calgary Stampeders visit B.C. Place.

Instead, bouncing back from a first-quarter head shot that knocked him from last week's action, Buck Pierce will resume being the starter Buono anointed him in the off-season.

Consequently, all the buzz this week revolves around an intriguing decision that will reduce last week's top star to this week's top cheerleader.

"That happened to me once, too," laughed Stamps offensive assistant Dave Dickenson, who knows better than anyone the type of pivot pickles Buono has been in the last 19 years while juggling many of the league's best quarterbacks.

"It was 1998 with Jeff Garcia. I started in Winnipeg, was player of the week, and he came back and started the next week. I was OK with it -- he was the starter and I was glad to play well."

Dating back to 1995, when he drew criticism over sitting Garcia for the playoffs after Doug Flutie returned from elbow surgery, Buono has been a "victim" of his own brilliance as his ability to find and develop great young pivots has given him the embarrassment of riches that create such quarterback controversies.

"You won't get into predicaments if your backup isn't very good," said Dickenson, who was Buono's go-to guy most of his time in B.C., albeit with bumps in the road involving Casey Printers, Pierce and Jackson.

"He's probably had some bad luck injury-wise with his starters, too. When I was in B.C., with me, Buck and Jarious, something always seemed to be going on with injuries."

That's the case this week, with Buono pointing out Pierce did nothing to warrant losing his job last weekend. He went further by insisting there needs to be an "order" on the team, so everyone is clear who the leader is.

"I think he learned that," said Dickenson, whose injury in 2004 allowed Printers to emerge as league MVP only to see Dickenson replace him late in the West Final and start the Grey Cup (albeit due largely to injury).

"I felt like there wasn't much clarity with the Casey situation. Casey would say the same thing. To me, it's always best to have clarity and guys know their roles and just fit in from there."

Or should the coach stay with the hot hand, which Buono has learned does little to build trust between either player you hope will take you to the top?

"I think he's doing the right thing as long as Buck is healthy," said Dickenson.

"I've talked to both those guys, and I don't think Buck should try to be this trooper and play if he's not feeling right just to try to hold onto his job or something. Jarious is pretty dynamic off the bench, too, so I think the team feels good with the situation."

For now.

"It will be interesting how Buck plays because after a (backup plays like that), a starter, to me, has to come back and play well or the hook comes out a little earlier and the controversy does start," said Dickenson, who says luck has played a part in Buono's ability to find players who fit the league and his system.

"There's really no magic answer. I think after the last few times it's happened to Wally, it's always a good idea to at least have a pecking order. That can change, but it's got to last longer than one game."

Or we witness yet another Buono Bind.


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