The Blue Bombers are going through a Hall problem, and it's one that pertains to Winnipeg native Monty as well as quarterback Max. Monty Hall's TV stint as co-creator and long-time host of the game show Let's Make A Deal led to a mathematical probability problem being named for him, and that problem has some applicability to the Bombers. Their decision Tuesday to shift their starting quarterback from Justin Goltz (who'd only recently taken that slot himself) to Max Hall is an intriguing one, and it represents trading a somewhat-known commodity for what's behind a mysterious door. Unlike in the actual show, though, CFL fans already have a sense of what's behind the door—and it's more likely to be a goat than a car.
This is where the Monty Hall Problem comes in. It revolves around a contestant being asked to choose from three doors, two of which contain goats and one of which contains a car. In the original formulation of this, the host then picks a door the contestant didn't select and opens it to reveal a goat, then asks if the contestant would like to switch to the other unselected door or stick with their original choice. From a pure mathematical standpoint, it's (somewhat surprisingly to many) better to switch, as the odds of hitting the car are now 2 out of 3 with a switch (as the only way to be wrong is if the car was behind the first door chosen) but remain 1 in 3 with the original (as that door was chosen before one alternative was eliminated). The Bombers' quarterbacking situation is similar, in that there are three potential choices (Hall, Goltz and Buck Pierce) and that we have information on the probabilities of each being a success (a car) or a failure (a goat). However, unlike in the mathematical problem, the most logical answer here may be not to switch.
At this point, Pierce is a well-known commodity, and one closer to the goat than the car. His career averages of a 64.3 per cent completion mark and 73 touchdowns against 61 interceptions are far from spectacular, and in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he's completed just 60.3 per cent of his passes for 1,796 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions. Those aren't the numbers you want from a starting quarterback in the CFL, and Pierce's age (31) and injury history make it seem unlikely he's the QB of the future for the Bombers. He's the goat that's already been revealed here. Goltz is the initially selected door: he may not be the answer either, and he did struggle in Week Six against B.C., completing just 13 of 28 passes (46.4 per cent) for 112 yards with an interception. However, he has several factors on his side. He's just 25 (he turns 26 later this month), so he could have lots of good seasons ahead of him, and he's been around the Bombers for several seasons learning the Canadian game. He's also shown significant flashes of potential, and carries more likelihood of being a car than either of Winnipeg's other options. There isn't a compelling reason to switch away from him just yet, making this more like an alternative formulation of the math problem where you're only offered a switch if you choose the car initially, meaning that there's certainly a goat behind the switching door. That's especially true when you consider that the third alternative is Hall.
That isn't necessarily saying that Hall is always and will always be a goat. His tenures with the Brigham Young University Cougars and the NFL's Arizona Cardinals had some high points, and the Bombers' offseason signing of him was an intriguing one. He also showed at least enough in camp to beat out fellow CFL rookie Chase Clement. However, Hall has high goat potential. Beyond the frequent struggles he had with the Cardinals (a 50 per cent completion rate and one touchdown against six interceptions), he hadn't played professional football since 2010 before the Bombers signed him, and was working as a coach at BYU. While that coach to QB transition has worked out memorably in some cases, it's far less common these days, and it gets even harder when you consider that Hall is trying to learn an entirely new game.
The jump to the CFL is more difficult for quarterbacks than players at any other position, and it hasn't always worked out (or likely won't work out) for many big NCAA and NFL names, as noted in pieces on Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, Colt Brennan, Cleo Lemon, Chris Leak and others. It takes time to adjust to the 12-a-side game (which requires rewriting a quarterback's understandings of route trees and coverage schemes), the three downs, the bigger field and more. That's what makes going to Hall at this point seem like a move likely to reveal a goat. Goltz is unproven, as he hasn't seen much game action yet, but he's at least been apprenticing with the Bombers since 2010 and learning the CFL game. Hall's a complete newbie, and throwing newbie CFL quarterbacks into the fire doesn't usually turn out all that great, as the Bombers found out a few years ago. There's a reason that most of the young quarterbacks finding success lately have been with their teams for several years; it takes time to learn this game and to learn a particular team's offence. Hall has neither, which raises his goat probability to high levels.
Of course, we don't know who in Winnipeg is actually making the call to examine what's behind door #2. New acting CEO and former Bomber Wade Miller seems to be playing at least some role in football decisions after the departures of GM Joe Mack and CEO Garth Buchko, a curious choice for someone in a supposedly business-focused role (and someone with significant business experience, but no football management experience), while assistant GM Kyle Walters is involved to some degree. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton certainly has some involvement with deciding who's under centre, and it seems likely new offensive consultant Marcel Bellefeuille will be weighing in as well.
You'd think head coach Tim Burke would also play a role here, but Burke told media Tuesday he wasn't involved (he also ascribed the decision to Crowton and the offensive staff alone, which seems somewhat unlikely.) It's been suggested that Burke's doing this to clear a path for firing Crowton once the Hall experiment flops and replacing him with Bellefeuille, and that's certainly conceivable: while it would be much more beneficial to the team to simply make that move if you're determined to do it without throwing away a game and damaging your various quarterbacks' confidence in the process, we can't expect much in Winnipeg to be done simply or logically these days. Regardless of who's actually making this decision and what their logic is, though, it's one that would seem to defy probability. The Bombers are taking a prize in Goltz that's quite possibly a winner, and trading it sight-unseen for an inexperienced CFL quarterback who probability would suggest is likely to be a goat in at least his first start. From this corner, that's a bad deal to make.