Contract Extension Ends Excuses For Willy

Drew Willy has signed a contract extension with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers through 2017 worth approximately $400,000 per season.

The 2014 campaign was a tale of two halves for the first-year CFL starter. Willy led the Bombers to a 6-3 record start last season, highlighted by two last-minute, come-from-behind victories in Montreal and Hamilton.

The second half of the season, however, was a disaster. Suffering from a number of minor injuries, Willy finished the season with just fourteen touchdowns to sixteen interceptions, losing all eight of his starts in the campaign’s latter half. While there were reasons for Willy’s struggles beyond his control – an injured Nick Moore and a shaky offensive line among them – the brunt of the blame falls at the feet of the Blue Bomber starter.

Was Winnipeg’s offensive line great in 2014? Of course not. They struggled for large stretches of the schedule. At times they were awful. Veteran left tackle Glenn January played hurt for much of the season’s latter half, while rookie international Cordaro Howard was unable to adequately replace an injured Patrick Neufeld at right guard. For perspective, the Bomber offensive line improved noticeably when Howard was replaced by rookie Matthias Goossen. When your international talent along the offensive line can’t compete with your Canadian rookies, that’s a big problem in the CFL.

With that being said, the offensive line hardly deserves the full blame for Willy’s struggles. Listening to fans and media talk about the 2014 Blue Bomber offensive line, you’d think the club had dressed five under-slept kindergarteners to start every game. In reality, it was a line that was rarely great, sometimes terrible, but often adequate. I broke down the entire home game versus BC last season to reveal just how much time Willy had to throw throughout that contest. My analysis wasn’t meant to suggest that Willy was the entire reason for the failure of the Bomber offense – surely offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille, Willy’s receivers, and, yes, the offensive line deserved fair shares of the blame – but to prove that Willy’s performance was hardly beyond reproach.

Does all this mean that I’m against Kyle Walters’ decision to extend Drew Willy’s contract? Not all at. If Willy lights up opposing defenses in 2015, the extension will end up saving the Bombers a lot of money in the long run. I’d just like to have seen Willy do more to truly earn the raise he was given prior to receiving it.

The excuses have run out for Willy. He has had a full season to learn Marcel Bellefeuille’s system and will enter the 2015 season with a healthy Nick Moore and a re-vamped offensive line. Dominic Picard brings nine years of experience to the middle of the Bomber o-line, while Stanley Bryant is the best left tackle in Canada.

The Bombers have set the table for Willy to succeed and are now paying him like an elite CFL quarterback. It’s time Willy started playing like one.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.