A year ago, the Blue Bombers banished the quarterback who had led them into the 2007 Grey Cup — with disastrous results.
With Kevin Glenn no longer in the fold to help guide untried young quarterback Stefan LeFors under a new head coach with a strange new system, the protege struggled. In fact, he was eventually benched and reluctantly accepted a pay cut.
Although Paul LaPolice, the newest Winnipeg mentor, recently banished Mike Bishop — who led them nowhere — and passed on aging veteran Kerry Joseph, there remains renewed optimism for both LeFors and the recently required Steven Jyles — despite their lack of experience as starters.
“I think you do need quarterbacks who have been in the league,” LaPolice conceded Thursday. “We do have two guys who are either in their fourth or fifth year, and Ricky Santos has been in the league for two. They may not have started that many games but they do have an understanding of the league. You’d love to have guys who have started and were able to win. But you also have to be able to develop a quarterback.”
Just like his old team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, did with Darian Durant — without the benefit of an experienced QB. So, what was the secret?
“Patience,” LaPolice replied. “And allowing him to make mistakes. He did a great job of getting ready week to week and the offensive co-ordinator (Jamie Barresi) did a hell of a job getting him ready. By the end of the year, he was throwing better than he was at the start of the year.”
Barresi, by the way, is now the Bomber OC.
LaPolice is also willing to give LeFors a second chance at training camp.
“After watching film of him and seeing his background, I know he handled a spread offence at Louisville,” he said. “And early on last year, he played OK until he got a little beat up. I also saw film of him when he was in Edmonton in 2007 and he looked pretty good when he started some games for Ricky Ray.”
LeFors, a lefty, had surgery on his right shoulder last year.
“He has a good understanding of the Canadian Football League and he can scramble very well,” LaPolice said. “He has a chance to become a great player in this league.”
Adam DiMichele is Winnipeg’s fourth QB.
HOGS COACH: The Bombers announced the hiring of Pat DelMonaco as their offensive line coach Thursday.
“He was the offensive co-ordinator at (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) where I was 10 years ago,” LaPolice said. “Pat was in the same position I was in when I was hired by Toronto. What I like is that he will have a good understanding of the big picture after being an offensive co-ordinator, and he’s a hell of a teacher.
“We wanted to get a little younger there and it’s easier to adjust to coaching the O-line when you come here from the U.S.”
DelMonaco, 33, spent the past six seasons at RPI, joining their staff in 2003 as the club’s offensive line coach. In 2005, he became their offensive co-ordinator as well, a position he held for the next five seasons. In 2008, he helped guide Rensselaer’s offence to lead the Liberty League in scoring (29.8 points per game), passing offence (265.5 yards per game) and second in total offence (372.7).
HASHMARKS: A number of CFL players were released late Thursday that should draw some Bomber interest but LaPolice could not be reached for comments after those cuts that included ex-Bomber DB Kelly Malveaux, who was sent packing by Edmonton, were reported. The B.C. Lions also trimmed DB LaVar Glover, RB/KR Ian Smart and DL Nautyn McKay-Loescher … The Eskimos also released DL Jerome Haywood and OL Garrick Jones, both ex-Bombers, and DBs Bradley Robinson and Lamar Herron … LaPolice has sold his house in Regina and will soon buy one in Winnipeg. His family will join him here in May … Both Lions LB JoJuan Armour and Roughriders DB Eddie Davis also announced their retirements.