Quinn's big chance

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

It happens every time. I head out to cottage country for a little R and R, and all hell breaks loose.

Again, it's the Winnipeg Blue Bombers providing the entertainment, although at least this time they didn't fire a head coach.

It seems, though, everything else has happened in Bomber-land since the last time I checked in.

There was the 100-yard miracle in Edmonton. You don't see that every day. Or every decade, for that matter.

Then there was the shutout in Hamilton -- almost unheard of in the CFL.

And just when you think the Bombers are ready to take the next step and begin challenging the hated Montreal Alouettes for first place in the East, they lose another home game, to the same Ticats, of all teams.

To top it all off, starting quarterback Kevin Glenn goes down for probably a month, and we find out Milt Stegall has cracked ribs, meaning the Bombers go into tonight's game with the B.C. Lions with somebody named Mike Quinn at quarterback and their future hall of fame receiver on the sidelines.

Sure enough, the never-a-dull-moment off-season has become the wait-until-you-see-what-happens-next regular season.

One thing's for sure: this team's first bye of the schedule couldn't come at a better time. OK, it could have come a week earlier, putting off tonight's date with the Leos.

You can't help but wonder, though, what shape this team is going to be in when it does return from hiatus for the second half of the season.

A loss tonight, and a group that showed so much promise through the first seven weeks will be staggering to the halfway point with back-to-back losses and a 5-4 mark, its top quarterback and best receiver wrapped up in one, big question mark, not to mention several feet of bandages.

Not exactly a launching pad for the season's second half, when they begin to separate the wheat from the chaff.

On the other hand, if the Bombers can find a way to pull off a win over the Lions with Quinn at the controls, they'll be 6-3 going into autumn, and secure in the knowledge they're not a one-horse team.

Talk about a swing game.

Which brings us back to Quinn, who's been to enough NFL camps to choke a horse, but has never been able to stay in the saddle long enough to prove he can shoot straight.

If the signing of linebacker Barrin Simpson was the biggest splash of Winnipeg's free-agent signings, Quinn's didn't even make a ripple.

Except maybe with Doug Berry. And here is where, once again, we'll find out something about the rookie head coach.

Coming from Montreal, Berry knows as well as anyone the importance of having a backup quarterback who can do more than wear a cap backwards and signal in plays from the sidelines.

No doubt it was Berry who recommended the Bombers sign Quinn. He saw the quarterback briefly in Montreal.

It didn't take him long to make Quinn his No. 2 man, either. This evening we'll begin to find out if that was by default, or if Quinn can actually play.

At 32, he's been around, trying to get somebody down south to notice him since he left college in '96. The guy's middle name may as well be Third String, though. And here he is, starting his first game since he was in NFL Europe eight years ago.

How he handles it will wind up in Berry's lap, of course. The boss must have known he couldn't hang his hat strictly on Glenn, given his injury history. So for the first time he'll wear the performance of the man he annointed No. 2.

How it all fits will go a long way toward determining the Bomber fortunes this season.

At least, until the next dramatic turn of events.


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