Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are planning to play their final game at Canad Inns Stadium Saturday (3 p.m. Eastern against Montreal, TSN/ESPN3). Of course, last season's pre-emptive closing ceremonies came before construction delays on their new home forced the Bombers to stay at Canad Inns this season; all indications are that Investor's Group Field will in fact be ready by 2014. On every other front, though, this is a much less positive closing of the stadium for Winnipeg. Last year's concluding game was the East Final, a 19-3 rout of Hamilton that sent the Bombers to the Grey Cup. This year? The team's 5-12, is already out of the playoffs and has already decided to bring back their general manager, head coach and offensive coordinator, so even a win here wouldn't exactly mean a whole lot. In fact, the guy this game might mean the most for is the man who will be under centre for the Alouettes: backup quarterback Adrian McPherson.
McPherson's in one of the most unusual situations in the CFL. He's been a reasonably solid, consistent backup for the Alouettes for the last five years, and just about every one of those years, it's looked like he might soon be starting there. However, 40-year-old quarterback Anthony Calvillo has fought off age, cancer and Montreal's personnel losses and has continued to excel each and every one of those seasons; Calvillo led the league with 5,082 passing yards heading into this week's action and had thrown 31 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. That's made it hard for McPherson to get much of a look, but as he told Herb Zurkowsky, his impending free agency and the Alouettes' decision to play him here could make this game a crucial audition:
"This is another opportunity to make an impression on my teammates and coaches," he said. "I want them to believe in me. I want to show them that I have their back, they can trust me. I want to show my coaches and teammates I can play at a high level.
"In my opinion, the future all depends on this game."
As Sandy Annunziata pointed out on this site last month, the backup quarterback job in the CFL isn't an easy one. Being a backup quarterback anywhere isn't easy, but the advantage in a larger league like the NCAA or the NFL is that there are always at least some teams on the hunt for starters. In the CFL, those chances are much more limited; there are only eight teams, and every single one of those teams had at least one quarterback who'd been a proven starter heading into this season. (Those quarterbacks didn't always have the lead role initially, as Edmonton and Calgary opted to go with less-tested options in Steven Jyles and Drew Tate at first, but veteran backups Kerry Joseph and Kevin Glenn played key roles as the season went on thanks to Jyles' ineffectiveness and Tate's injury.) There just aren't many teams looking for potential starters at the moment, and there are plenty of capable guys out there. Still, a dazzling performance from a backup can get people talking, and that's certainly been the case with the way B.C.'s Mike Reilly has played recently. If McPherson can follow along those lines, this could be a crucial game for him, and he might well be able to make the final game at Canad Inns a disastrous one for the Bombers.