When Mike Kelly traded for Stefan LeFors last January, it was quite apparent — even though the head coach didn't come right out and say it — that the left-handed passer was Winnipeg's new starting quarterback.
When new Blue Bomber boss Paul LaPolice officially announced on Tuesday that the team had acquired Steven Jyles via free agency, he was adamant that nothing will be handed to the former Saskatchewan Roughrider.
“We are not making Steven Jyles our starter,” LaPolice said. “He will compete for a job. We’ve said from the get-go there’s no entitlement here, whether you’re a kicker or whether you’re a wide receiver.
“So we’re not naming him the saviour. He’s here to compete for a job just like everybody else.”
Jyles told the Sun last week that all he wants is a chance to compete for a starting job. It’s an opportunity he would not have gotten had he returned for a third season in Saskatchewan, which has an established No. 1 in Darian Durant.
“It’s time for me to go out and establish myself,” said Jyles, who is entering his fifth CFL season but has only one career start. “I’ll have the opportunity to compete for a starting job. That’s all you can ask for as a quarterback trying to get established in the CFL.”
Jyles signed on for one year and an option with a base salary of approximately $100,000 and a chance at an additional $3,000 per start.
As expected, the Bombers released last year’s starter, Michael Bishop, and backup Casey Bramlet on Tuesday. As of now, Jyles will compete against LeFors, Ricky Santos and Adam DiMichele for the starting job.
While LaPolice said all starting spots will be up for grabs, Jyles should have a leg up considering he spent the past two seasons with LaPolice and Bombers offensive co-ordinator Jamie Barresi in Regina. The 27-year-old Jyles, who hails from Louisiana and is friends with LeFors from their days in Edmonton together, feels his familiarity with LaPolice’s offence won’t give him that much of an advantage.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an edge, because as far as the offence is concerned it’s not as complicated,” Jyles said. “There’s a lot going on, but it’s not as complicated.
“The edge kind of comes from knowing what coach Barresi wants and what coach LaPo wants. I have a complete understanding of the offence now, but I think it’s something the other guys will catch on to pretty quick.”
Jyles spent his first two seasons in Edmonton and was then traded to Saskatchewan in 2008 for current Bomber defensive end Fred Perry.
“What I like about Steven Jyles is he’s an athletic kid who can use his legs and run,” LaPolice said. “He’s got the ability to throw the ball down field. He’s got a very strong arm. And he’s a very intelligent kid who really cares about football.”
Jyles has completed 92 of 152 pass attempts (61%) for 1,085 yards, five touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his four-year career. He can also run with the ball, as he has a five-yard average on 61 carries.
“Physically, I can do pretty much anything,” he said. “You just gotta get to the mental part, and I believe that I just reached the mental part with my last two years in Saskatchewan.”
LaPolice said the team wanted to go in a “different direction” when it came to Bishop, who rode to the rescue last July after LeFors struggled and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. The 33-year-old journeyman completed 50.4% of his passes, throwing 15 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
Bramlet joined the team midway through last season, but he had the same number of completions (two) as interceptions in three appearances.