The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have one game left in the season before they move onto either the semi-finals or the finals, making their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Following their loss to the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night, Winnipeg will need to win their final game against Calgary and hope that Montreal loses one of their remaining two games.
Last season, the Bombers brought in quarterback Steven Jyles from Saskatchewan, and a short time later signed free agent Buck Pierce after he was released from B.C.
Pierce has started 21 games in his two seasons with Winnipeg. In 2010, through five starts, Pierce finished 1-4. Looking ahead to 2011, where Pierce would start 16 games, he’s finished with a 10-6 record.
On paper, that looks great for Pierce after the struggles he had through the 2010 campaign. However, upon further review, you will find that the Winnipeg defense attributed to a majority of, if not all, those wins.
Offensively, Pierce was unable to move the ball for long stretches in the first half of each game, averaging only 10 points in the first half this season.
For some time, Pierce dug the team into a large hole with turnovers that the defense would have to dig them out of with careless tosses or throw-aways.
And while it’s no question that Pierce has the heart, determination, and knowledge to lead a football team, the end result just doesn’t equate to what the fans expected when the Bombers signed him.
There is, however, a quality back-up who has spent the last two years on the sidelines, learning and taking in all the knowledge he could.
Alex Brink has started only two games in his two-year career but has come off the bench several times, most recently in the 27-22 loss to the Toronto Argonauts.
By the time Brink came into that game, the Bombers were already down 17-3, seven of those points coming from a pick-six courtesy of Buck Pierce to Byron Parker.
Just like the game against Montreal on September 30th that Alex Brink came in for relief of Pierce, the damage was already done and the hole too deep.
However, through his tough play, excellent pocket awareness, and putting together several key drives, Brink was able to bring the Bombers back to within two points until a late field goal promptly put away the game.
Alex Brink has grown as a quarterback during his time with Winnipeg and certainly has put forth the effort to be given an opportunity to take the starting job away from Pierce.
Next season at training camp, should Pierce be brought back, Alex Brink will certainly play him out of a starting job, depending on how the other quarterbacks fair.
Brink's start last Thanksgiving Day was rough in which he was flushed with boos from the crowd, but he has come a long way and has been praised for his play by the fans in more recent times.
With Pierce nursing a leg injury following Friday’s tilt and possibly out for the final game of the regular season or longer, now is the time for Head Coach Paul LaPolice to hand the reigns to Alex Brink.
Put this young quarterback in positions to win games and allow him to work through mistakes, and the Bombers may just be successful in claiming their first Grey Cup in 20 years.