Thursday, Joey Elliott gets his first real turn, the third starter of the year and 26th since The Great Famine began.
Oh, Elliott had two starts as a rookie, in 2010, but they don’t count. The Bombers, 4-12 and decimated at quarterback, were playing out the string, and he barely knew the playbook.
This time, he’s in because the coaches want him in. At least, until Buck Pierce gets back.
His assignment: to guide the league’s most-sacked, most-intercepted and lowest-scoring team to just its second win of the season against Hamilton, Thursday, halting a death-swoon and keeping the wolves off the doorstep for at least another week.
Tough gig, eh Joey?
“Not that hard,” the 26-year-old was saying, Wednesday. “Coach LaPo and Coach (Gary) Crowton just want me to be myself.”
That would entail strutting into the huddle like he’s Matt Dunigan and throwing bombs his first two plays.
This isn’t your typical third-stringer without a clue.
“This is not a situation where we’re taking a guy who is a rookie, first-year, third-string guy — he’s been with us a little bit,” head coach Paul LaPolice said. “He was the No. 2 out of camp last year. So he certainly has a better command on what we want to do.”
He’s also something of a swashbuckler, the owner of more confidence than he probably deserves.
“Some people would say that,” Elliott acknowledged. “But I was talking to Coach Crowton yesterday about it. My job is to prepare, prepare, prepare and when it’s game-day, I’m going to go out and have fun. You’ve got to love what you’re doing.
“But then there’s that other side of me that has that competitive edge, that you want to win. You don’t ever like losing.”
All too often newbie quarterbacks have that deer-in-the-headlights look, scared of the extra man in the secondary, scared of the pass rush, basically scared, period.
Elliott’s never looked like that, either because he’s a hell of an actor or because he’s not the least bit afraid of losing.
“If you’re scared of failure,” he said, “you won’t ever succeed.”
That confidence may have raised a few eyebrows when he first arrived, but those same teammates are starving for it now, desperate to recapture even a hint of the swagger from days gone by.
At 1-5, this team is teetering on the brink, a simple push the wrong way threatening to send it tumbling down into the land of the finger pointers, the back stabbers and the mutineers.
Its identity seems lost, as if left behind, or maybe squashed, at last year’s Grey Cup.
The margin for error now is razor thin, another loss to another East Division opponent all but crippling to its playoff aspirations.
“We’re a frustrated football team,” is how LaPolice described it.
With a frustrated fan base that, I’m guessing, is getting a little tired of filling the Ruins at Polo Park and getting nothing in return.
Thursday, they’ll put their faith in yet another quarterback they hardly know, this one wearing No. 14, with the hope that he provides just that — hope.
And not just another footnote to another lost season.
UP IN ARMS
Bombers Quarterback Starts Since 1990
1991: Tom Burgess 16, Danny McManus 2
1992: Matt Dunigan 12, Danny McManus 4, Sammy Garza 2
1993: Matt Dunigan 16, Sammy Garza 2
1994: Matt Dunigan 11, Keithen McCant 6, Sammy Garza 1
1995: Reggie Slack 9, Sammy Garza 5, Kevin McDougal 2, Shawn Moore 2
1996: Kent Austin 11, Reggie Slack 4, Kevin McDougal 3
1997: Chris Vargas 12, Kevin McDougal 6
1998: T.J. Rubley 11, Troy Kopp 7
1999: Kerwin Bell 18
2000: Khari Jones 13, Kerwin Bell 5
2001: Khari Jones 17, Brian Ah Yat 1
2002: Khari Jones 18
2003: Khari Jones 16, Pat Barnes 2
2004: Khari Jones 10, Kevin Glenn 8
2005: Kevin Glenn 15, Tee Martin 3
2006: Kevin Glenn 16, Mike Quinn 2
2007: Kevin Glenn 18
2008: Kevin Glenn 15, Ryan Dinwiddie 3
2009: Michael Bishop 14, Stefan Lefors 4
2010: Steven Jyles 10, Buck Pierce 5, Joey Elliott 2, Alex Brink 1
2011: Buck Pierce 16, Alex Brink 2
2012: Buck Pierce 3, Alex Brink 3