In more ways than one, the success of the 2015 Blue Bomber season rests on the shoulders of second year quarterback Robert Marve.
Marve, a product of Purdue University, will be making his first career CFL start on Friday versus the Toronto Argonauts. Gifted with tremendous athleticism and a cannon-like arm, Marve has won the affection of football fans across the province of Manitoba with his captivating style of play. And now he’s their only hope.
Starter Drew Willy is out for the next 6-8 weeks with a tibial plateau fracture and a partial PCL tear; back-up Brian Brohm’s ineptitude would make Tee Martin blush; and fourth stringer Dominique Davis is a CFL rookie not named “Ray” or “Cato.” If the Bombers are to win another game before October, it will have to be with Marve at the helm.
No pressure, kid.
The reality is that Marve’s success — or lack thereof — will have deep implications for the Winnipeg Football Club both on and off the field.
On the field, this club is desperate for a win. The Bombers, 3-4, will be in a season-long battle with the BC Lions for the third and final playoff spot in a tough West Division. League-wide parity will likely eliminate the possibility of an extra playoff spot becoming available via the crossover, while the usual consolation prize for finishing out of playoff contention — a high first round draft pick — will be unavailable to a Bomber club that selected defensive back Garrett Waggoner in the CFL’s supplemental draft back in May. Simply put, the Bombers cannot afford to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
Off the field, the Bombers need Marve to be successful for both short-term and long-term financial reasons. The Bombers have drawn an average of just 26,700 fans this season — not enough considering the outstanding atmosphere and amenities offered by Investors Group Field. Casual fans have shown they are no longer willing to buy tickets to watch a losing football team. This organization needs wins. Now.
Short-term ticket sales is just the tip of the iceberg for a club that is desperately hoping to sell out Investors Group Field for the 2015 Grey Cup. Though the Bombers have yet to publicize sales figures pertaining to the Grey Cup, these screenshots from Ticketmaster.com reveal huge sections of temporary and upper-level seats still available with kickoff just fifteen weeks away. Based on some rough calculations I’ve done from the seating chart, I’d estimate there are 8,000-10,000 tickets still unsold for November 29th’s championship game, give or take a few thousand. Optimally, the Bombers would like to sell these tickets to local fans coming out to support their local team in the big game. If Robert Marve is unable to earn a handful of wins for this organization over the next two months, that’s not going to happen.
The Winnipeg Football Club is still on the hook for more than $80 million dollars in loan payments to the province of Manitoba for the construction of Investors Group Field. The economic windfall that would follow a home Grey Cup appearance would go a long way to securing the financial future of the Blue Bomber organization. The funds generated by a home Grey Cup win would be even more lucrative.
The only way that happens is if Robert Marve can string some wins together.
He gets his first chance tonight.
John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk