Bombers fans peruse PierceDebate about Buck's place with Blue
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Blue Bombers QB Buck Pierce throws at Canad Inns Stadium during team practice on Monday. (CHRIS PROCAYLO/QMI AGENCY)
WINNIPEG - The hot topic among Bomber fans this week is whether or not it’s time to move on from quarterback Buck Pierce.
It’s a legitimate and important question when you consider his play of late and his injury history, so let’s examine the evidence in four primary categories.
1. His injuries
Pierce left last Friday’s season-opener against the B.C. Lions late in the second quarter with a right knee injury. It was the 21st time in 56 career starts he had to leave due to injury.
More specifically, Pierce has been eligible to start 37 regular-season games since joining the Bombers in April 2010. He has started only 22. Of those 22 starts, he has been knocked out of eight due to injury.
I asked head coach Paul LaPolice on Monday if Pierce’s inability to stay healthy becomes a factor in who the team’s starting quarterback will be. “Not at this time, no,” LaPolice said.
2. His play
Pierce had 14 touchdowns and 18 interceptions last season, and his quarterback rating was the worst among the league’s eight starters, or seventh if you count Steven Jyles as Toronto’s No. 1 gun. Yes, that means Pierce’s QB rating was on the wrong side of Cleo Lemon’s.
On Friday night against the Lions Pierce completed three of nine attempts for 11 yards, and that was over nearly 30 minutes of action. He doesn’t seem to have as much zip on the ball since dislocating his elbow in September 2010.
On the other hand, he is 10-7 as Winnipeg’s quarterback of record.
3. The intangibles
One reason to keep him as the primary gunslinger is Pierce’s teammates will follow him into battle. He’s a leader, and as far as well can tell no one has ever had anything bad to say about him (other than the increasing number of calls to demote him).
Also, he was playing on Friday night behind an offensive line that featured two tackles playing their first professional games. Plus Friday was his first game with new offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton.
It could also send the wrong message to the rest of the team if the brass benches the leader and No. 1 quarterback early in the season. Everyone will be wondering if they’re next.
And technically Pierce guided the Bombers to a Grey Cup appearance last year. It would be hard to demote the guy who just signed a three-year contract extension, although it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened in Winnipeg (see Jones, Khari).
4. If not him, then who?
The backup Bomber quarterback, usually the most popular person in Winnipeg, is Alex Brink, but he has yet to show he can win like Pierce. He had ample time to pull out a victory on Friday but was unable to do it. His mark as the team’s quarterback of record is 1-5.
The Bombers are 3-12 in games Pierce didn’t start, and they are 1-4 in the contests he does start but doesn’t finish with the outcome still in question at the time of his departure.
The numbers don’t lie: Pierce is still Winnipeg’s best chance to win. So the calls for his dismissal can stop — for now.