Quarterback carousel

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

"No one's touching the quarterbacks but me." -- Dec. 2/08

(The shotgun) is "for flag football, and guys that haven't coached quarterbacks very well." -- June 18/09

They remain two of Mike Kelly's more brazen quotes, and that's saying something.

Nine games into his career as a CFL head coach, however, the head honcho of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has begun to backtrack, just a tad.

At practice yesterday, assistant coach Manny Matsakis was actually working with the Bomber quarterbacks. Kelly has even intimated Matsakis could call some of the plays in the Banjo Bowl, Sunday.

And if you haven't noticed, the shotgun formation, ill-suited as it is for the CFL game, according to Professor Kelly back in June, has made an ever-increasing appearance in the Bomber offence, ever since quarterback Michael Bishop took the controls, Week 4.

You know what they say about desperate times.

At this rate, Kelly will have a full-fledged offensive co-ordinator running six-receiver, shotgun sets by, say, the end of the 2010 season.

At this rate, he'll also have gone through a couple dozen quarterbacks by then.

The current number is eight, and counting, with the signing of Casey Bramlet this week.

Let's review.

Going into training camp, there were five: off-season acquisition and projected starter Stefan LeFors, backed up by returnees Ryan Dinwiddie and Bryan Randall, plus newcomers James Kilian and Darrell Hackney.

Dinwiddie received the axe June 6, after a three-day rookie camp.

Enter Richie Williams, pivot No. 6, the next day.

Exit Hackney, a day later, Kilian a couple weeks after that.

Fast forward to July 26, barely three weeks into the season, when the fallout from one of the worst offensive days in Bomber history brought Bishop to town.

That made it seven.

Yesterday, No. 8 took the field, wearing No. 13.

It would be surprising to see Bramlet in the huddle this season, but you never know. Stranger things have happened in what's turning into a Bomber season to remember, even if it's not for all the right reasons.

Is that the end of it?

Probably not.

In case you hadn't noticed, Kelly hasn't played LeFors or Randall since that Week 3 disaster, even when Bishop has struggled. Yesterday, he stuck LeFors on the injury list for the rest of the season.

Randall will likely be next to go -- why keep a guy you're not prepared to use? -- making room for yet another new face. That would make it nine players at the most pivotal position.

Anybody want to bet this team hits double digits in pivots?

It's a refrain I hear from Bomber fans all the time: why can't this organization develop a topflight quarterback?

The last one it developed, and kept, was probably Dieter Brock, three decades ago.

I don't think anyone is demanding another two-time Most Outstanding Player Award winner.

But how about someone who can complete around 60% of his passes, throw for more touchdowns than interceptions and win more than he loses?

Well, at least Kelly is trying.

Trying so hard that, three games in, he abandoned everything he said about LeFors going into the season. Abandoned his preference for a quarterback who simply "manages the game" by signing Bishop, the ultimate gunslinger.

The results, though, have been dismal.

Eventually, Kelly had better find a keeper, someone who fits that difficult offence of his.

You're only as good as your quarterback, the man acknowledged yesterday.

He was talking about the team.

But he could just as easily have been talking about the head coach.

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


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