Article Date: Aug 15, 2015
Over the past 20 years or more, fans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have lived through some very lean times and part of the reason why has been the lack of consistent quality at quarterback.
I was born in 1961 and so I remember growing up as a kid listening to the Bomber games on the radio. I became a pretty rabid fan at an early age, probably 7 or 8. At the time, the Bombers were a proud franchise with a rich quarterback history. I remember constantly hearing stories about legendary team quarterbacks Kenny Ploen and Jack Jacobs while I was growing up.
Don Jonas was the star quarterback I remember clearly from my youngster days and I still remember the heartbreak I felt when I was in the stands as an 11 year old and watched the Bombers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 1972 Western semi-final. We should have won the Grey Cup that year (or at least that’s what I believed back then) and I clearly recall how I worshipped the likes of Don Jonas, Mack Herron and Jim Thorpe.
I recall the shock I felt a couple of years later when the Bombers traded away Don Jonas to Hamilton for Chuck Ealey. Truthfully, when the trade was announced on the 8:25 am CJOB Sports Report (which I listened to faithfully every morning), my brother and I did a happy dance because Chuck Ealey was really cool and dynamic looking with Hamilton. Alas, the trade itself was a bomb, but it did pave the way for handing over the quarterback reins to Ralph Brock, who later came to prefer to be called Dieter.
By my memory, Chuck Ealey flamed out in Winnipeg and was traded to Toronto midseason of 1975. I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure Brock’s first game as the number one QB subsequent to trading away Chuck Ealey was against the powerhouse Edmonton Eskimos. I recall being horrified listening to the game because the Bombers were pummelled and Brock was horrible.
But the Bombers stuck with him and Dieter Brock went on to become the all-time passing leader in Winnipeg Blue Bombers history.
Which brings me to the point of this article …
When did the Blue Bombers last develop a quality starting quarterback?
In my mind, based on how I choose to define “quality starting QB” … it was Dieter Brock.
Please name me one legitimate starting quarterback since Dieter Brock that the Blue Bombers actually found and developed on their own.
I just can’t recall one no matter how hard I rack my brain.
Tom Clements? Nope, the Bombers didn’t find and develop him. He turned out to be great and ironically we got him in a trade for Dieter Brock.
Sean Salisbury? Please. He might of won a Grey Cup, but he had bounced around the NFL (before and after his stint in Winnipeg) and had no staying power.
Tom Burgess? I don’t remember him as a really strong quarterback although his numbers suggest he was better than I want to give him credit for and he did engineer Winnipeg’s last Grey Cup victory. However, he was developed by the Rough Riders of Ottawa and the Roughriders of Saskatchewan — where he shared the duties with Kent Austin — before coming to the Blue Bombers.
Matt Dunigan? A great starting quarterback, but he was found by Edmonton, traded to BC and came to Winnipeg after playing with the Argos.
Danny McManus? The Bombers actually found Danny McManus, but didn’t see fit to keep him. The man who should have been the heir-apparent to Matt Dunigan was allowed to leave as a free agent in 1993.
Khari Jones? He also had some great years as the Bombers’ starting QB, but he was found and developed by the BC Lions.
Can you name me another legitimate quality starting quarterback the Blue Bombers have even had since Khari Jones? Let alone one they found on their own? According to this article by Paul Wiecek back in 2012, at that point the Bombers had used “26 different starting quarterbacks — and 41 quarterbacks in total” since celebrating their last Grey Cup victory in 1990. And that was just up to that point in 2012.
For a time, the Bombers were able to thrive at the quarterback position because they did a good job of landing already proven quarterbacks from elsewhere. However, that pipeline dried up as soon as the Bombers fortunes began to slide and for twenty some years, the lack of quality scouting and quarterback development has left the franchise floundering.
I believe that the current regime with Wade Miller and Kyle Walters at the organization’s helm is on the right track. They’ve made some important first steps in building a legitimate scouting department, ironically with Danny McManus — the quarterback they found, helped develop and then let walk away — heading the department.
Drew Willy is also not someone the Blue Bombers found on their own. He looks like he could be the real deal if he can stay healthy, but he still doesn’t qualify as someone the Bombers found and developed on their own.
Which I guess takes us to Robert Marve. Can he become a legitimate, quality starting quarterback? I don’t know the answer to that, but it will be telling to see how they go about handling and developing Robert Marve and Drew Willy over the balance of the season.