Wed Oct 27 03:26pm EDT
An interesting subplot of Kerry Joseph's signing in Edmonton was that he wasn't pursued by Winnipeg. The Blue Bombers are the CFL team in the direst straits at quarterback at the moment, as opening-day starter Buck Pierce was lost for the season early on and Steven Jyles and Alex Brink suffered season-ending injuries Saturday against Toronto. That left Purdue alumnus Joey Elliott (no, not the Def Leppard frontman) as the team's only healthy quarterback. Elliott (pictured above in a 2009 game against Michigan during his Purdue days) has thrown all of 16 CFL passes (eight complete for 75 yards, one interception), all of which came Saturday. Clearly, the Bombers needed to find some quarterback depth.
The way Winnipeg did that was interesting, though. In some ways, it speaks well for GM Joe Mack and head coach Paul LaPolice (who are taking some heat for the team's struggles this year, perhaps somewhat unfairly). Instead of caving to fans or media looking for instant results by going with an experienced pivot like Joseph, Winnipeg brought in untested rookies Frank Wilczynski and Justin Goltz, and announced that Elliott would be starting the next game. They also apparently made an offer to failed former Argos' quarterback Cody Pickett, but were shot down about as fast as his charge, and tried to grab Ricky Santos from Montreal (smart, considering that he demonstrated plenty of potential in relief of Chris Leak earlier this year). Those moves didn't pan out, so they're going forward with Elliott, Wilczynski and Goltz, and that might not be a bad thing.
Wilczynski and Goltz certainly aren't marquee names. Wilczynski spent his college career at Glassboro, New Jersey's Rowan University, where he played for the Professional Owls, or "Profs" (seriously, I'm not making this up), who compete in the Division III New Jersey Athletic Conference (which includes members outside New Jersey). He doesn't even appear to have a Wikipedia entry. The Bombers were apparently preparing to bring him in on the practice squad even before Jyles and Brink went down, and he even tweeted about that last Tuesday, but no one noticed until he signed with Winnipeg. If a tweet falls unobserved in the forest of the intertubes, does it make a sound?
If numbers mean anything, Wilczynski might work out well for Winnipeg. He's apparently wearing #6 in practice, the first Bomber to do so since legendary CIS quarterback, CFL punter and Canadian Football Hall of Fame member Bob "The Canadian Rifle" Cameron retired in 2002. Also in Wilczynski's favour, he does have a pretty cool highlight video:
Goltz is a little less obscure, but only a little, as he also doesn't appear to have a Wikipedia entry. He played at another Division III school, but one that's a bit more famous, Occidental College in Los Angeles. Of course, it's more famous for producing alumni like current American president Barack Obama (who went there for two years) and animator/director Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python, 12 Monkeys and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus fame) than it is for athletics, but famed NFL/CFL/AFL quarterback, congressman and cabinet official Jack Kemp also went there, as did NFL coach Jim Mora (who had his own CFL tribute this week). By all accounts, Goltz had a successful college career there and went on to a tryout with the NFL's Detroit Lions.
This year, the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions (led by another coach famous for his rants, Dennis Green, owned by Paul Pelosi, quarterbacked by Daunte Culpepper and featuring CFL alumni like Zeke Moreno) selected him with their first draft pick. However, the Mountain Lions cut him earlier this year. Now he's got a shot to show what he can do in the CFL. Much like Wilczynski, he also has YouTube highlight videos: however, he loses points for not setting them to cool music and apparently uploading them himself:
Winnipeg's quarterback moves may not help in terms of instant results, but further wins this season would only hurt the Bombers in the long run; they've already been eliminated from the playoff race, and wins in their two remaining games would only hurt their chances of receiving the top pick in next year's Canadian draft. That doesn't mean the Bombers should deliberately tank and it doesn't mean they will; their players still have plenty to prove, so they'll undoubtedly give it a good effort. Rather than bringing in a veteran solely to try and win meaningless games, it makes more sense for them to see what they have in young players like Elliott, Wilczynski and Goltz. Adapting to the CFL will obviously be a challenge for them, but any of those guys could be a part of the picture going forward even if and when Pierce, Jyles and Brink return to health, whereas a guy like Joseph likely wouldn't be. That's smart long-term thinking from LaPolice and Mack, and they should get some credit for that.