Head coach Tim Burke to decide on Bombers' starting QB

Marcel Bellefeuille will call the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offensive plays but is letting Tim Burke decide who'll start at quarterback for the struggling franchise.

New offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille says decision in coach's hands

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke will ultimately decide on who will be his team's starting quarterback going forward. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Marcel Bellefeuille will call the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' offensive plays but is letting Tim Burke decide who'll start at quarterback for the struggling franchise.

Bellefeuille met with reporters Monday, a day after being named offensive co-ordinator to replace the fired Gary Crowton. Inconsistent offensive play has plagued the Bombers (1-6), who have dropped five straight, with Max Hall, Justin Goltz and veteran Buck Pierce all having taken turns under centre.

Bellefeuille said Burke will ultimately decide who'll start Saturday when Winnipeg visits the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-4).

"I've been a head coach in this league and the head coach makes that decision," Bellefeuille said. "We will sit down as an offensive staff, I'll meet with coach Burke, we'll make our recommendations to him and then the decision will be made.

"Whoever we decide to play, we'll put him in a position to make plays just like the rest of the players and we'll go with that person and I'll support that decision."

Burke said he won't waste any time making his decision. 

"[The media] will know by [Tuesday] morning because whoever is out there with the first-team reps will be the starting quarterback this week," Burke said.

Crowton's firing was just the latest in what has been whirlwind for the Bombers organization. On Aug. 9, general manager Joe Mack and president Garth Buchko were fired and former Bombers player Wade Miller was named acting CEO.

Shortly afterwards, Miller named assistant GM Kyle Walters the acting general manager.

Pierce, 31, began the season as Winnipeg's starter and led the team to its only win, a 19-11 decision over Montreal on July 4. But the oft-injured Pierce lost his starting position to Goltz after suffering an abdominal injury in a 35-19 loss to Toronto on July 19.

Quarterback shuffle

Pierce was 66-of-108 passing, a solid 61.1 per cent completion average, for 854 yards. But he threw more than twice as many interceptions (five) as TDs (two).

Goltz made his CFL debut as a starter in 37-24 loss to Calgary on July 26, completing 19-of-35 passes for 194 yards with two TDs and an interception. But on Aug. 1, he was named the club's No. 1 quarterback for the remainder of the season.

But on Aug. 13 — just over a week after a 27-20 loss to B.C. — Goltz was abruptly demoted to No. 3 as Hall took over the starting job and Pierce was promoted to No. 2.

Goltz, who's 45-of-78 passing for 476 yards with two TDs and two interceptions this season, said afterwards he felt "betrayed" by the demotion.

Hall made his CFL debut Friday night, completing 18-of-30 passes for 241 yards and a TD but also threw two interceptions in a 37-18 home loss to Hamilton. Afterwards, Hall felt he did enough to remain the starter when Winnipeg visits Guelph, Ont., to finish the home-and-home series with the Tiger-Cats on Saturday.

Bellefeuille joined Winnipeg last week as a offensive consultant after spending the 2012 season with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. Bellefeuille was Hamilton's head coach from 2009 to 2011 and also served as an offensive assistant with Saskatchewan and Montreal as well as the Ticats.

Burke said Bellefeuille will help give Winnipeg's offence a more CFL look. Crowton joined the Bombers in 2012 having coached before in the NCAA and NFL but arrived in Manitoba with no previous experience in Canadian football.

"Obviously it's going to be more of a CFL approach to the game than a U.S. approach," Burke said. "Obviously we want to score more points but we'd definitely like to control the ball more and keep our defence off the field.

"Some of it is moving the pocket around a little bit more so there's different launch points for the quarterback. Probably some simpler reads for the quarterbacks. I think without disparaging anybody we might've had too many reads for our quarterbacks, asked them to do too much."

'Finding an identity'

Bellefeuille, an Ottawa native who led the Ottawa Gee-Gees to the 2000 Vanier Cup title, wasn't promising a quick turnaround for the Bombers' offence.

"The biggest thing is finding an identity and calling the game to your identity," he said. "I feel overall we haven't necessarily had an identity.

"There are some excellent elements to this offence, but there are some elements that, I guess the simplest way to say it, have been adjusted to fit the CFL field but not necessarily the style of CFL defences."

With almost two-thirds of the regular season still remaining, Bellefeuille said there's still plenty of time for Winnipeg to contend for a playoff spot in the East Division. However, his mandate isn't limited to just 2013.

"We still have an opportunity to compete this season, there's still playoff positions that can be made," he said. "That's important, too.

"But it's also important to find out exactly what you have under a certain evaluation tool that we're going to put in place now with a regular CFL-style offence to see if the long-term answers are in house or not. We have to balance those two things."

Bellefeuille certainly faces some major hurdles in his new job. With the '13 season well underway, Winnipeg can't overhaul its current roster or make wholesale changes to the playbook because there's simply not enough time between games for coaches to teach and install or new players to become comfortable.

"It's always a challenge coming in midstream, but I did say when I came in I would do whatever I could to help the organization," Bellefeuille said. "I'm fond of Tim and I want to do whatever I can to help the organization.

"If you're asking me if this is an ideal situation professionally to step into, not necessarily. But I'm excited to be a Blue Bomber and excited to be a part of this organization. Whatever they need, I'm there to do it."