Bombers slightly clarify QB picture with release of Alex Brink, additions of Max Hall, Chase Clement
It's been an offseason of change for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the most dramatic changes may have come at the most pivotal position: quarterback. The team followed up their earlier release of Joey Elliott with the release of Alex Brink Monday, but then added former Brigham Young University Wildcats and Arizona Cardinals pivot Max Hall and former Rice Owls quarterback Chase Clement. With incumbents Buck Pierce and Justin Goltz, they likely have all the quarterbacks they'll bring to camp, and they may have a better idea of who's going to be their quarterback of the future. There are still plenty of questions about their quarterback situation this season, though.
The releases of Brink and Elliott are understandable, as both never really found consistency in Winnipeg despite some solid performances. Elliott looked like one of the league's best quarterbacks some weeks, but ended his Bombers tenure with seven touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 58.0 per cent completion rate over three years, not really good enough to inspire a lot of optimism about his CFL future. Brink's stats are similar: also in three seasons, he threw 13 touchdowns against 13 picks, but only completed 56.8 per cent of his passes (including a dismal 55.8 per cent mark last year). While both quarterbacks looked great at times, their bodies of work didn't really suggest that they were set to take the next step and become a consistent CFL starter, so it makes sense that the Bombers are looking to go in a different direction. However, that doesn't mean their new plan is going to be immediately successful.
It's quite difficult for most players to adjust to the CFL game (something remarked upon when Brink was first brought in!), and that's especially notable for quarterbacks. They have to deal with everything from an extra man on the field on each side (which completely changes route combinations, coverages and reads) to the bigger field (which means throws to areas that would be out of bounds on an American field) to three downs instead of four (which adds extra pressure to make every pass count), and that's before you get into the more subtle differences such as less use of tight ends and fullbacks, added usage of running backs as receivers, extra usage of shorter receivers, more plays out of the shotgun formation, more read options, more four-, five- and six-receiver sets. Canadian football's a vastly different game, and adjusting to it often takes a considerable amount of time for even the best quarterbacks. One advantage with Brink and Elliott was that at least they'd spent a significant amount of time around the league by this point. Hall and Clement are complete newbies, and while Goltz has been with the Bombers since 2010, he hasn't seen much playing time. Beyond Pierce, the Bombers' quarterbacks look pretty inexperienced, and that could be concerning given Pierce's injury history.
That doesn't mean these new guys aren't worth a shot. Hall and Clement both found a lot of success at the NCAA level, and they've shown promise in the NFL and UFL respectively, so they can play a bit. It just may take quite a while for them to learn the CFL game, and that could be perilous for this year given the Bombers' quarterback situation. (It's notable that both Elliott and Brink were also college stars, at Purdue and Washington State respectively). The Bombers clearly decided neither Elliott nor Brink was going to be their quarterback of the future, so now that would seem to be between Goltz and the two new additions, and that could work out. Developing CFL quarterbacks takes time, though, and while the decision to start from square one with Hall and Clement has its merits as a long-term strategy, it could lead to short-term issues if Pierce goes down.