TORONTO — One of the biggest questions heading into the 2019 Grey Cup Playoffs? The Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback situation.
It’s no secret the Bombers miss Matt Nichols, winning just three of eight contests with Chris Streveler behind centre. Beyond losing four of their last five, Streveler has averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt, completed 67 per cent of his passes and thrown more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (7) in eight starts.
To be fair, Streveler is 24 years old and playing just his second professional season. This is his first extended playing time in the league, and there are have been plenty of bright spots that seem to predict long-term success in his CFL future.
Still, the offence’s struggles of late could make for an uncomfortable decision for Head Coach Mike O’Shea going into the playoffs: With the Bombers’ Grey Cup window wide open, would starting Zach Collaros maximize their odds?
On one hand, Collaros has an expansive CFL resume that includes eight seasons, 73 games and an appearance in the Grey Cup. Conversely, the 31-year-old has barely played in 2019, and is several years removed from playing the best football of his career.
Meanwhile, with Streveler operating the offence, Winnipeg has run the ball better than anyone. Only once have they been held below 100 rushing yards in eight games, averaging 169 yards per contest. Of course, history tells us that quarterback play is the driver of playoff success, and ultimately Grey Cups.
Would the Bombers be better with Collaros? More in the Weekly Say.
Does Zach Collaros give the Bombers their best chance to win?
Jamie Nye: Streveler again proved that with the right system and the right calls and strong success on first down he can win a big game in the playoffs but winning three straight as they’ll need to do is a stretch. But we don’t know about Collaros until he plays, which he MUST this weekend against the Stampeders.
Chris O’Leary: Probably not. His resume is the best in the Bombers’ QB stable, but he hasn’t played since Week 1 and wasn’t that effective when he played in 14 games last year. A trade with the Argos wasn’t a bad idea, but maybe they should have pushed for McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Marshall Ferguson: Last time we saw him play feels like forever ago and the Bombers have created a unique style to get through with Streveler. Having the late bye doesn’t help either so have to say no.
Jim Morris: No, I don’t think so. For the Bombers to advance in the playoffs they need Chris Streveler to be consistent, some great running from Andrew Harris and their defence to be solid. Collaros had never led a team to a Grey Cup. He also has hardly played all season. I don’t believe he is the answer to Winnipeg’s Grey Cup riddle.
Don Landry: I wouldn’t say so. If Chris Streveler is healthy enough to go, he should be the guy. The Bombers have spent weeks investing time and toil into rebuilding the offence around him and that’s a process that ought to continue. If Collaros is up to speed on the offence enough that he can be used as a change of pace or on an emergency basis, that would be beneficial.
Matthew Cauz: This is a case of too little too late. Yes, the Bombers could use a boost after going 1-4 in their past five games, but it is difficult to think that Collaros can be a magic elixir to their offence with just one more regular season game to go.
What’s more important before the playoffs: Rest or reps?
Ferguson: REST! This thing is a grind and all that matters now in the East is executing every assignment properly in the Eastern Final. Rest can go a long way to help that.
Nye: REST!!!!! Time and time again, we see the healthy team look fresh and ready to go for the playoffs. Plus, why risk a major injury in a meaningless game?
Landry: I’d lean towards rest. It’s been a long, brutal season and a starter could use a little down time over the last couple of weeks in order to feel as fresh as possible for the playoffs. Now, rest doesn’t mean keeping them out of uniform completely. Prep your starters through the week but be smart with their workload during games.
Cauz: I’m going with reps. Yes, we usually focus on health, but for Montreal it should be all about getting Vernon Adams Jr. as many winning game situations as possible.
O’Leary: A little of column A, a little of column B. I think coaches will start to ease vets out of games this week. I expect both teams’ regular-season finales to look like pre-season contests, even if that means the Ticats sacrificing their perfect home record.
Morris: There is always that thin line between rust and rest. I think at this time of the season keeping your best players healthy is the key.
Can the Stamps continue to win without success on the ground?
Landry: With a passing attack like that? With solid protection like that shown by their O-line against Winnipeg? Of course they can.
Morris: Yes. Weather is always a factor come playoffs, but good teams find ways to win with the talent they have.
Ferguson: It’s not how they’d like to do it I’m sure, but if anyone can it’s Bo.
Nye: It’s going to be very tough but the way that offence is set up they can be more than efficient by pass to run plays. Short swing passes, screens, etc. that are practically run plays and the way Milanovic-Litre has run the ball with a bit of power, I like it for the playoffs. I wouldn’t be at all concerned in Calgary.
Cauz: You mean you are not sold on the Ante Milanovic-Litre era? Calgary can win the West with a hodge podge of running backs but I’m not sold on that strategy winning in the playoffs. They don’t have the star studded defensive roster to make up for such a lack of talent at that position. They’re going need someone to step up soon.
O’Leary: This week and next week, probably, but this could be a major issue in the playoffs for them.