ULLRICH: Wally’s waffling on a starting a QB a departure from the norm

Among the reasons why Wally Buono became the CFL’s winningest coach was his ability to have an answer for any circumstance, which puts the outgoing coach of the B.C. Lions in a unique position when it comes to identifying his starting quarterback.

Buono says he doesn’t know who’ll play Saturday when the Lions attempt to recover from a horrible beatdown with their rematch against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and when he looks a questioner in the eyes it seems possible to think he’s not bluffing.

Press him up against a figurative wall and he’ll tell you as of Tuesday it will be Jon Jennings behind centre, a horrific thought all its own after his incumbent starter failed to throw for 200 yards for the third straight game.

But the Lions are in a precarious spot and a potentially dangerous one as well. Travis Lulay has not told the Lions he is ready to return from knee surgery that took place in late September last year.

B.C. will wait until Thursday before identifying a starter and that could mean the Bombers won’t know until the next day whether they will face Jennings or Lulay. It’s a scenario reminiscent of a playoff practice week, and as anyone who has watched a team that is now 3-11 in its last 14 regular season games, the Lions are some distance from securing an extra game or two this season.

If the teams played Tuesday, that would be different and the Lions, according to their coach, would know their starter.

“If you’re asking do I know who is going to start today? Yes, Jonathan is going to start today. Will I say that Thursday? That could change,” Buono said.

The only sure thing was based on the reps of the quarterbacks at practice Tuesday. Cody Fajardo only received snaps after practice and Buono all but ruled him out as an option when the first practice of the week was over.

“I look at it is the guys taking first and second-team reps are the ones being considered,” said Buono, referring to Jennings, who was up first, and Lulay.

So that’s what it has come to at the moment for the Lions, a team that must exhaust its entire practice week before making a decision their head coach has done automatically for more than a decade.

The coach quickly responded in the negative when asked if that made him uncomfortable but the fact remains the current direction of the Lions is in the hands of their oldest quarterback, and Lulay is going to make sure he is a complete picture of health.

One more major injury to the 34-year-old, who has had three surgical procedures in his nine-year CFL career, and it’s more than reasonable to conclude he won’t get on the field again. While it’s clear Jennings could use a break, the Lions can’t afford to lose him either given Lulay’s medical history, and may need to give him another chance as early as this week.

“I’m still ramping up what I’m doing but I’m really optimistic,” said Lulay. “I’ve been pushing like crazy but I believe this medical staff wouldn’t put me in jeopardy. Everything has been a well thought out process. I’m trying to close that last five per cent gap to be game ready,”

But that means Lulay feels he is not 100 percent .

“That’s a fair assessment. After last week I was (in uniform) in an emergency capacity. That doesn’t change until I do more,” added Lulay.

Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking as the Lions search for answers.

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (180 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

37 Comments on ULLRICH: Wally’s waffling on a starting a QB a departure from the norm

  1. No coach has done less with more than Buono.

    Worst big game coach in CFL history. Constantly choked in the playoffs with both Calgary and BC.

    Buono is the Kevin Glenn of coaches.

    • Stampeding // July 10, 2018 at 7:57 pm //

      Wally Buono turned Calgary and BC into the model franchises of the CFL. He won 5 Championships and lost 4. That’s a good record for a guy with 23 years as a HC/GM combined.
      People forget, this is pro football. People think the only measure of success is winning championship after championship, that isn’t realistic.

    • did your bro tell you that?
      again, you’re a savage teller of truths, my friend.

      • Stumpeater // July 10, 2018 at 11:21 pm //

        Don is sure a gem isn’t he?

      • Unlike most, I watch the games and objectively formulate my assessments and analysis based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes – – not based on what I’ve heard from others.

  2. Stampeding // July 10, 2018 at 8:32 pm //

    Well Stumpeater
    For me it was the Honky Tonk Man, but by the time I was 16 I had out grown wrestling.

  3. fannotacoach // July 10, 2018 at 8:47 pm //

    Well, that was enlightening. (speaking of the posts) With the exception of Red’s 1st post there isn’t much intelligent dialogue here.

  4. Stampeding // July 10, 2018 at 8:54 pm //

    I used to spend many Friday nights down at the Victoria Pavilion in my Jr high days, watching the Harts, Honky Tonk Wayne, Bad News Allen, The Great Gamma etc etc. In those days the Victoria Park, Inglewood, Ramsay areas were a little seedy, we’d walk around the area after the card and often get harassed by hookers, drunks and druggies, probably dumb for us to be there, but what did we know!!

    • Stampeding // July 10, 2018 at 8:59 pm //

      Then until a few years ago my favorite hangout was the French Maid in downtown Calgary.

    • Puck Hog // July 11, 2018 at 12:16 am //

      Seedy, hookers, drunks and druggies….sounds like Mchorrors stadium today.

      • Stampeding // July 11, 2018 at 12:21 am //

        Afraid not. McMahon is bordering a very affluent neighborhood on the westside. Better have at least 1 million for a fixer upper

  5. Backside shoulder // July 10, 2018 at 10:42 pm //

    Buono was a great coach. Key word being was. The game has evolved and changed and he hasn’t yet.
    June Jones is the same way. A 1983 offense is good but teams will adapt and stop it.
    Teams like Winnipeg, Edmonton and Ottawa are teams who can change their offense and adapt to the new rules.

  6. Wally is known for more often than not recognizing an aging vet’s best before date. However his own best before date happened a few seasons ago and he may have even recognized it but was incapable or unwillying to do anything about it.
    This is a rebuilding/transition year for the Lions so hopefully they don’t rush Lulay back prematurely because even a healthy Lulay cannot fix bad coaching from Wally and the shortcomings of a rookie OC with a new playbook, in Jarious Jackson.

    • Philski // July 11, 2018 at 2:13 am //

      Oh…I don’t know about that…punted a lot of vets off the team before their true “expiration date” came into effect.

      • Here are some guys that come to mind off the top of my head that Wally correctly called the end of their pro careers: Carl Kidd, Dante Marsh, Kory Banks, Dave Dickenson, Kelly Bates, and there are more, some whose names escape me at the moment.
        So Philski, what about the names of guys that Wally missed on, got any?

        • Philski // July 11, 2018 at 8:14 pm //

          Well, Barrin Simpson went on to have some very productive years with the Bombers…Otis Floyd has couple of good seasons with the TC’s…couple of players Wally unceremoniously gave the boot.

          • Philski // July 11, 2018 at 8:17 pm //

            He also traded QB Reilly to the Esks for a bag of footballs…my point is he has done some good things with the Lions throughout the years…but far from perfect.

  7. Wally WAS a great coach,; however his time has COME and GONE. Lions fans have next year to look forward to. What this year shows to Hearvy is that NONE of the current Lions position coaches deserve to be promoted to the Head Coach after Buono retires. This is a good thing for Lions fans who have the 2019 season to look forward to. Paul LaPolice should be the next HC of the BC Lions after Buono hits the dusty trail (retires).

  8. AreaFiftyNone // July 11, 2018 at 12:44 am //

    Mr Devon Claybrooks for Leos HC in 2019

  9. I stand by my assessment of Buono – – great regular season coach but constantly got stage fright in the playoffs and choked as the heavy favourite.

    Look at how many 1st place finishes Buono had over his career and then collapsed in the playoffs.

    His “legacy” with Calgary still remains strong – – the 2016 and 2017 choke jobs by the Stamps were vintage Buono.

  10. Evil Empire // July 11, 2018 at 2:40 am //

    Buono has accomplished alot in this league. But, he’s also proven that almost every coach loses their touch at one point, or another. He’s past his best before date. And, I don’t pay enough attention to the day to day business of that team to say exactly what went wrong.

    But, in this situation Buono is pretty much screwed. While he cannot afford many more losses to West division teams. What he can afford even less is to bring back Lulay too early. Then have him suffer another season ending injury. Which could be a career ending injury. It sucks for Lion fans but, it is what it is. At this point I would not start Lulay in the next game. And, I’d be very wary of putting him in the game at all, other than in garbage time.

    But, I believe the Lions/Buono did make a real mistake in that for years they could not locate a CFL quality starter. Or at the least a guy they could weather the storm with. They had that with Reilly. But, of course you’re not going to be able to keep a guy like that holding a clipboard indefinitely. In hindsight though, it’s very obvious they kept the wrong guy. And have since failed to find another starter, or decent back up. They thought Jennings was that guy. But, recent evidence leans the other way.

    And, I think hamstringing an incoming GM, with a certain HC is not ideal. The same with doing it to an incoming HC, with anybody on the coaching staff. But, I understand that sometimes that’s just the way it is, and could have been done for many different reasons. With some reasons being very legit.

    So, whatever happens in 2018 concerning coaching errors. Or things that GM Hervey has had to live with as leftovers from the previous regime, are not entirely his fault. Especially, since the previous GM is still his HC, and technically still his boss, I think. But, starting next year he has to earn his way. And his number 1 priority has got to be the QB position.

    Of course a HC may play a little gamesmanship in not naming his starting QB in a situation similar to this. But, I don’t believe that’s the case here. Wpg knows enough about both those guys, that they should be able to gameplan for either. I actually think he’s waiting for someone else to make the actual choice for him ( ie, medical staff, or Lulay himself ).

  11. Wally won’t name a starting quarterback for Saturday Becuase he forgot their names. Probably forgot his own name!

    It all falls on him. He has been great but it was time to go in 2011 when he first went. Story goes Brailly asked him to come back when things started to decline. He should have trusted his decision to step down and refused, explaining for the good of the team. There is talent there but they can’t get much out of it at this point.

  12. Jennings has the the tools but an inadequate tool box. He’s lost all confidence and no longer plays desperate – moving his feet and making things happen. He’s thinking too much and not reacting. Perhaps a sports shrink would help. Or a different playbook.

  13. Red&White Forever // July 11, 2018 at 11:36 am //

    This whole article could have been one sentence: “Wally prefers Lulay to start, but if he’s not ready, Jennings will get the ball.”

  14. Stampeding // July 11, 2018 at 11:38 am //

    If the was a Mount Rushmore in the CFL it would be:
    Hugh Campbell
    Wally Buono
    John Huffnagel

    • Garcia98 // July 11, 2018 at 12:38 pm //

      With all due respect I would remove Hufnagel (he’s very good but not all-time good…yet) and insert Ron Lancaster. As a player, broadcaster, and coach he was amazing. We may never see anther individual like him. Cool guy too. Honourable mention would go to Don Matthews. All he did was win. Buono is for certain on the all-time great list. Although like Matthews its time for him to retire.

    • You left out Don Matthews

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