Buck Pierce gives Blue Bombers best chance to win

Edmonton Eskimos Weldon Brown tackles Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce during first...

Edmonton Eskimos Weldon Brown tackles Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce during first half CFL action at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday, July 13, 2012. AMBER BRACKEN/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:11 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Just like Peyton Manning in Indianapolis a year ago, Buck Pierce has become Winnipeg’s most valuable player by not even playing.

 No one’s stock has risen this season like Pierce’s, the oft-injured quarterback who will return to the lineup on Friday night against Hamilton after missing eight games with torn tendons and a torn muscle in his left foot.

He’s not Superman, but he does give the Bombers their best chance to win. That’s all there is to it.

Many fans, in addition to yours truly, felt it was time for Winnipeg to move on from the man who has finished only 15 of Winnipeg’s 47 regular-season games since signing with the Blue and Gold in April 2010. The Bombers needed to find their quarterback of the future.

Unfortunately, however, it became crystal clear during Pierce’s latest injury absence, which was the second-longest of his career, that the Bombers don’t yet have a quarterback-in-waiting. Maybe he’s wearing No. 14 or No. 7 or even No. 18, but no one stepped up and grabbed it, that’s for sure.

The Bombers had the league’s second-fewest two-and-outs when Pierce got hurt in mid-July. Now they have the most.

The Bombers were converting 41.3% of their second downs, as good as or better than three teams, when Pierce got hurt. Now they’re last at 36.2%.

The Bombers were averaging 258 passing yards per game when Pierce got hurt. Now they’re dead last with 241 per contest.

Pierce could have stood up at Thursday’s pre-game press conference in the Blue and Gold Room and said, ‘Take that, all you naysayers,’ but he didn’t. In fact, he took some of the blame for the other quarterbacks’ struggles during his time away.

“My stock hasn’t gone up. I have to play. Bottom line,” Pierce said, appearing a bit agitated by the question. “It’s not gratifying for me at all. It’s been hard for me to watch. I’ve done everything in my power to help whoever else is in that position be successful. That’s really what it’s about.

“The quarterback position sometimes isn’t all about your performance and stuff like that. It’s about helping the team win.”

Pierce, more often than not, helps the Bombers win, and his latest absence just proved that fact even more. Since he got here in 2010, Winnipeg is 10-8 when Pierce is the quarterback of record. The Bombers are 6-23 with Steven Jyles (3-7), Joey Elliott (1-7), Alex Brink (2-8) and Justin Goltz (0-1).

Pierce’s return should give the fragile Bombers a boost. They’ve lost four in a row for the second time this season, and they’ve been obliterated in two of their last three outings. In the last three home games, however, the Bombers have lost by one point and three points, and they beat Hamilton 32-25.

The Ticats (4-7) snapped a five-game losing streak last week with a 51-8 throttling of the Edmonton Eskimos, but they can all but bury the Bombers (2-9) with a victory. They know that’s not going to be easy, as the Bombers are coming off a 44-3 road loss to the Calgary Stampeders during which players were caught laughing on the sideline.

“It’s not a team that reflects their record necessarily and it’s going to be a team that’s going to be very unhappy because they’ve had a bad week, to put it mildly,” Ticats head coach George Cortez said. “They’ve taken a lot of abuse and ridicule, and I’m sure they’re embarrassed and want to go out and prove that they’re not the team that played last week.”

As long as Pierce is under centre, they are already better than they were last week.

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If there’s one thing the return of Buck Pierce will bring, it’s leadership.

It’s difficult for an injured player to speak up when his teammates are out there laying their bodies on the line. Now that he’s back, Pierce won’t hesitate getting in someone’s face if he’s not pulling his weight, which we assume he would have done during last week’s Calgary catastrophe.

“He’s kind of felt chained up a bit,” left tackle Glenn January said. “I was in the situation two years ago with my injury. You kind of feel a little weird really calling guys out … when you’re in the training room. He definitely has come back with a vigour that excites us.”

It should be noted the Bombers have never been blown out like they were in Regina and Calgary when Pierce has been at the helm. The worst loss during Pierce’s reign was the 45-23 setback in the 2011 Banjo Bowl, during which he threw five interceptions. Other than that, the Bombers have always fought to the bitter end when No. 4 is leading the charge.

“Huge difference,” January said. “He’s a veteran leader and has the ability to provide a bit of spark. Whenever things fall apart, he has the ability to freestyle and make us all look great.

“He’s got that confidence you look for. He’s going to try to make a play no matter what it takes.”

CREAM OF THE CROP

He can’t stay healthy, but Buck Pierce is Winnipeg’s best chance for victory. A look at Bomber quarterbacks’ records since the start of 2010:

Record

Buck Pierce     10-8

Steven Jyles     3-7

Alex Brink         2-8

Joey Elliott       1-7

Justin Goltz       0-1

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TOTAL 16-31 

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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