WINNIPEG - Joey Elliott woke up this morning as the toast of the town.
If it were an election year, the third-year pivot might have the popularity to take a run at the Mayor’s chair.
Kidding, of course.
But at the very least, Elliott’s campaign to be a full-time starter is quickly gathering momentum.
Such is life in a place where football fans aren’t afraid to share an opinion or two about whom the Winnipeg Blue Bombers should be starting at quarterback, either week-to-week or long term.
This latest development is a dramatic turn of events for a guy who was limited to one game last season because of a torn ACL and started this campaign as No. 3 on the depth chart, if only by a whisker.
Thanks to his solid performance in a 32-25 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night, Elliott’s stock is on the rise.
To be fair, Elliott’s popularity was already trending upward as fans waited impatiently for him to take over for Alex Brink in each of the latter’s three starts this season.
After the bye week, head coach Paul LaPolice finally called his number and that move paid immediate dividends as Elliott gave his team — and the fan base — exactly what they needed.
Simply put, Elliott gave them hope.
After a pedestrian first half, Elliott found his groove during the second and finished the day with 406 passing yards, which represented the best Blue Bomber totals since Michael Bishop put up 411 against the Montreal Alouettes on Oct. 24 of 2009.
But Elliott did more than put up numbers. He took charge in the huddle, showcasing his moxie and leadership.
“Joey is one of those guys that, regardless of his position, either as a starter or a third-string backup, he’s very confident in his abilities,” said Blue Bombers receiver Cory Watson. “It helps the entire group.”
It helped immensely when the Blue Bombers put together a 92-yard drive that led to the game-winning touchdown from running back Will Ford with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a great quarterback. I already knew that,” said Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson. “And I love having him on the field. He went out and performed the way our defence needed him to perform.”
“He’s very cerebral,” added Blue Bombers linebacker Jonathan Hefney. “He knows what’s going on. He’s always focused. He made the right reads. It’s a big offensive effort that he put out, as well as the offensive linemen.”
Naturally, there were a few bad reads and the occasional errant pass, but Elliott got the job done.
Fans were suggesting Friday that Elliott should be given the starting job full-time, even when veteran Buck Pierce returns to health, which shouldn’t be long.
LaPolice has committed to Elliott for next week’s game against the B.C. Lions and he can’t spend much time worrying about what might happen after that.
Nor should he, since Elliott will require a few more strong outings before the Blue Bombers find themselves with a potential quarterback controversy on their hands.
When healthy, Pierce gives the Blue Bombers their best chance to win and that position hasn’t changed, no matter how impressive Elliott was in his first start of the season.
That’s not a knock against Elliott.
In fact, he has a lot of the tools required to be a successful starter in the CFL.
However, more than one victory is required before Elliott — who has made a grand total of three starts and six CFL appearances — should be crowned the new King of Quarterbacks.
Joey Elliott: By the numbers
— * Aug. 16, 2012 vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-for-43 (76.7%), 406 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
— July 13, 2012 vs Edmonton Eskimos 11-for-18 (61.1%), 193 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
— July 14, 2011 vs Calgary Stampeders 10-for-18 (55.6%), 87 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
— * Nov. 3, 2010 vs Calgary Stampeders 13-for-29 (44.8%), 241 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
— * Oct. 30, 2010 vs Edmonton Eskimos 15-for-29 (51.7%), 130 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
— Oct. 23, 2010 vs Toronto Argonauts 8-for-16 (50.0%), 75 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
— Totals: 6 GP, 90-for-153 (58.8%), 1,132 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT
* denotes start