January 24, 2020

Nye: Off-season moves give Bombers chance to repeat

Dave Chidley/CFL.ca

What a week for the defending Grey Cup Champions.

The great, the good and the … awkward.

This is a week we may look back on and think that is where things went right, or wrong, for the Blue Bombers in their quest to repeat.

First, the extension for Stanley Bryant had to be well received. After three straight Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman nominations, two of which were wins (2017, 2018), Bryant was a man the Bombers had to get back under contract.

Whoever the quarterback is — and we’ll get into that soon — needs protection. Having Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick returning for the 2020 season is a good place to start.

Lockdown tackles aren’t easy to find and the Bombers have one on each side of the line.

» 2020 CFL Free Agent Tracker
» Bombers sign Stanley Bryant extension
» Bombers announce 2020 coaching staff changes

Offensive lineman Stanley Bryant signed an extension with the Blue Bombers on Monday. (Adam Gagnon/CFL.ca)

Another player I had on the Bombers’ must re-sign list from last week’s column was Nick Taylor. They signed him to an extension as well, which I feel was imperative to keeping some of that secondary intact after losing two big names to the NFL.

Taylor helped Richie Hall’s unit become one of the stronger ones down the stretch. Consistency in the defensive backfield is paramount to building a defence that can be as strong out of the gate as possible.

Then, news came down that Buck Pierce will indeed replace Paul LaPolice as the offensive coordinator for the Bombers.

Despite this being welcomed news for a lot of the Bomber faithful who saw this as the most logical step in the process, it does become a burning question:

Is Pierce ready to take on the job after six seasons as an assistant in Winnipeg?

Six years is more than enough time to groom as a coach before taking on the reins as a coordinator, especially for a former quarterback like Pierce.

He definitely starts off with a good offensive line and a strong run game. Any rookie offensive coordinator would salivate at the opportunity to start there.

And that’s when things get a little weird for the Bombers.

Speaking of burning questions for the Bombers in their road to repeat, No. 1 is clearly who the quarterback will be.

Reports this week surfaced that Zach Collaros is the team’s top priority this off-season, leaving Matt Nichols‘ agent more than disappointed.

But either quarterback comes with risk. Collaros’ injury history and Nichols’ shoulder are 1a and 1b in terms of the most troublesome issues for any quarterback.

This decision has far more repercussions than solidifying the offensive line and replacing an offensive coordinator does.

Yes, Collaros took some hits and kept getting up in Winnipeg after his double move to and then out of the Double Blue from Saskatchewan.

He was also the starting quarterback for the three biggest games of the year for the Bombers, winning all of them and going down as the starting quarterback that ended the 28-year Grey Cup drought in Winnipeg.

However, in making Collaros the number one target, you leave behind the quarterback who helped turn this Bombers team into a perennial contender.

Could Matt Nichols have won the Grey Cup if he’d have stayed healthy? Of course, he could have. It’s not like Collaros changed the shape of the Bombers’ offence. Nichols was leading the Bombers to first in the West until season-ending surgery derailed his campaign.

Nichols was leading the league in touchdown passes and passer rating at the time of his injury.

I’m a bit shocked that they’d move away from Nichols based on last year’s first-half numbers. But Collaros has to sign first before that’s made official.

What could happen if Collaros gets a better offer somewhere else come Feb. 11 and if Chris Streveler finds an NFL opportunity?

These are interesting times indeed.

The quarterback depth chart will continue to be the storyline to watch for the Bombers in the four months ahead of the start of the regular season.

But when the year ends, and we have all the answers to the burning questions for the Bombers, we can look back at this one week in January and say one of two things:

One: Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea are regretting those decisions.


Two: The Canadian mafia nailed it again.