Winnipeg – They say where there is smoke there is fire and that certainly proved to be true on Sunday night as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended a week of speculation about the future of quarterback Drew Willy by trading their 2014 Most outstanding player to the Toronto Argonauts for first and 3rd round draft picks next year and defensive back T.J. Heath. They then made sure they were protected at the quarterback position by acquiring veteran Kevin Glenn from Montreal for a 4th round pick in 2018.
The Bombers didn’t trade Willy simply because of his large salary although that was certainly part of it. The primary reasons were two-fold. Number one, the Bombers are convinced that Matt Nichols is a quarterback who can more than capably lead them to where they want to go. By throwing 7 touchdown passes and only 1 interception with his steady, if unspectacular play during the Bombers 6 game win streak, Nichols has convinced the Blue Bomber management and coaches that he is more than just a journeyman. The 29-year old Nichols played solidly after he was acquired from Edmonton last year. And during his time in Winnipeg he has completed 65% of his passes for 17 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. He has also displayed toughness and leadership and has clearly won the trust of the coaches. Number two, and this is something I can only surmise–The Bombers “football people”, and that includes GM Kyle Walters, Head Coach Mike O’Shea, offensive co-ordinator Paul Lapolice and quarterbacks coach Buck Pierce have decided that Willy is unlikely to regain the form he flashed during his first two seasons in Winnipeg. At least not IN Winnipeg and not in the Lapolice system.
It’s a gamble for sure. Willy was off to an excellent start to the 2015 season, throwing 8 touchdown passes, only 3 interceptions, with one of the top quarterback ratings in the league before a devastating knee injury ended his season in game 7. He came back fully healthy this year but mostly struggled in the early going before O’Shea turned to Nichols late in game 5. I say “mostly” struggled because Willy was very solid in a game three 28-24 win in Hamilton, completing 32 of 42 passes, and appeared to be finding his form. His next two games, against Edmonton and Calgary, were not his best, prompting the shift to Nichols. There are many theories as to why Willy struggled–a loss of confidence; a poor fit for what Lapolice likes to do; the pressure of living up to his salary and the expectations in football mad Winnipeg; the lack of the kind of offensive line protection that Nichols is now being afforded. Take your pick. What we know for sure is the man who the Bombers rewarded with a big contract after the 2014 season and who they expected to be their quarterback for many years is now an Argo.
Lessening the gamble of moving Willy and leaving the Bombers with an unproven backup in Dominique Davis was the acquisition of the 37-year old Glenn. Glenn is famous for being a quick study and should be able to step in and play, if needed, in very short order.