Bombers, Als content with pieces in place

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce walks the sidelines during the 99th Grey Cup game against the...

Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce walks the sidelines during the 99th Grey Cup game against the Lions at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 27, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Wednesday marks the beginning of the four-week countdown to CFL free agency, and hands up if the whole thing feels a little anticlimactic.

It’s still January, and this off-season has already had more action than a Vin Diesel flick.

Head coaches blown out, replacements airlifted in, marquee quarterbacks bartered and sold like Third World weaponry — there hasn’t been a winter this full of explosive news since the Great American Experiment blew up in the lab, a decade and a half ago.

Amid the carnage, two teams stand alone, not for what they did, but what they didn’t.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes have been sailing a sea of calm, compared with their pirate brethren.

Barring something completely unforeseen (if there is such a thing, anymore), the Bombers and Alouettes will be the only teams not to have a coach or starting quarterback walk the plank going into the 2012 campaign.

And some said goodbye to both.

Stability, it seems, ain’t what it used to be, what with franchises shifting direction like the wind.

Edmonton and Calgary took advantage of the prevailing westerlies by shipping Ricky Ray and Henry Burris, two of the more celebrated modern-day passers in the loop, to Toronto and Hamilton, respectively.

The prevailing wisdom was Burris had to go, what with Drew Tate’s emergence, but Ray’s move surprised everyone except resident Eskimos genius, Eric Tillman, who apparently sees things nobody else does.

So a couple of former Bomber pivots, Steven Jyles and Kevin Glenn, head out West, one hoping to finally embrace a team he can call his own, the other, presumably, to play out the string as a backup.

Burris and Ray dramatically alter the landscape in the East, even more so when you look at the new men in charge of their teams.

The Ticats and Argos went on the offensive when it came to setting new directions, Hamilton hiring quarterback guru George Cortez to run the show, Toronto dipping into the Alouettes’ pool of passing knowledge by bringing co-ordinator Scott Milanovich aboard as head knock.

The new guys join Marc Trestman in Montreal and Winnipeg’s Paul LaPolice, making it four offensive minds out of four in the not-so-mild East.

Out West, Saskatchewan (Corey Chamblin, ex-Ticats assistant) and B.C. (Mike Benevides, promoted from within) also have new sideline help, as no less than half the league’s headsets will hang on new ears this year.

Of course, those two organizations go into 2012 on opposite ends of the spectrum: the Riders’ change coming out of last-place necessity, the Lions out of Grey Cup luxury.

Meanwhile, the Grey Cup loser appears set for a second consecutive off-season of just that: being set.

Bomber GM Joe Mack says he’s not the type to get drawn into the free-agent frenzy, and he certainly proved that a year ago.

So he and LaPolice walk the fine line between consistency and complacency, a line coaches have tripped over in the past (hello, Doug Berry) but one the Winnipeg brain trust straddled perfectly last season.

Seems they’ve learned a thing or two from that other harbour of harmony, the perennial powerhouse Alouettes.

Needless to say, Montreal has a more substantial recent past to hang its decisions on, not to mention the arm of a future Hall of Famer.

But while Buck Pierce is no Anthony Calvillo, he at least had the Bombers sailing into late November, for a change.

Technically, Pierce today is four weeks from free agency. The way his team operates, and his agent is talking, he’s much closer to re-signing than relocating.

That’s just the way it goes in Winnipeg.

Also known these days as the eye of the CFL storm.


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