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.