WINNIPEG—Drew Willy shrugged off criticism about his role in the Blue Bombers’ struggling offence, saying it comes with the territory.
“That’s how it goes as a quarterback,” Willy said after yesterday’s walk-through to get ready for tonight’s home game against the Calgary Stampeders.
“I’ve seen a lot of things over my professional career, whether I was the back-up or whether I was on practice squad or whether I was the starter,” he noted.
“I’ve seen some of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game go through some stuff.”
The “stuff” Willy is going through this season already has included boos from his hometown fans and calls for back-up Matt Nichols as the Bombers sit with a 1-3 record.
Willy said he gets a lot of support from other quarterbacks around the league.
“It’s kind of a small fraternity,” he remarked. “[We] kind of talk about things by yourselves that maybe the outside doesn’t understand.”
Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said he hasn’t personally talked to Willy about the topic, but knows how the tide can turn.
“Fans are fickle, and that’s what they are,” Mitchell noted. “They love you for a minute, they hate you the next.
“They can’t wait for the next guy to come up because [it’s] a new changing face.
“To Drew, I would just say, ‘Stay confident. Be the guy you are and just keep playing football,’” Mitchell added.
Winnipeg’s offence under new co-ordinator Paul LaPolice has averaged just 20 points through four games, eighth in the nine-team league, even though it’s added such talent as receivers Weston Dressler and Ryan Smith, along with running back Andrew Harris.
Mitchell, meanwhile, has Calgary’s offence averaging 26.7 points through three games for third place, but the club only sports a 1-1-1 record.
Willy said he’s comfortable with the new playbook and still is adapting to some of the new receivers. His aim is to make sure his fundamentals are good on every play.
Connecting on some deep throws—one criticism of his play—also wouldn’t hurt.
“Once I start hitting these deep balls, everyone will be good with everything,” Willy said. “So that’s what it really comes down to.
“I’m just trying to get better every single day out there and keep working,” he stressed.
Willy has thrown six completions of 30 or more yards, but some have been catch-and-run plays.
Ottawa’s Trevor Harris leads in that 30-plus category with 12.
Willy has completed 114-of-158 pass attempts for 1,239 yards. The attempts are the most in the league and the yardage second.
He’s thrown for five touchdowns but also three interceptions.
Mitchell is 69-of-107 for 910 yards, five TDs, and one pick through three games.
He’s completed eight passes of more than 30 yards.
Winnipeg still is looking for its first home win this season. Since Investors Group Field opened in 2013, the Bombers are 7-22 there, including losing their past five games.
Calgary won’t make that feat any easier.
The Stampeders are coming off a bye week with a history of success. They’re on a 13-game win streak after a break, including seven of those on the road.
Winnipeg was under a heat alert yesterday, with a temperature of 31 C and humidity making it feel like 42 C.
It’s forecasted to feel like about 34 C with the humidity at kick-off tonight—a heat Stamps’ Virginia-born receiver Marquay McDaniel said he loves.
“I told them when we got off the plane, I feel like home,” said McDaniel.
“The humidity, I like it.”
McDaniel had seven catches for 116 yards when Calgary beat the visiting Bombers 36-22 back on July 1.
The Stamps also have won their past seven games in Winnipeg, with the last loss coming in July, 2009.
Winnipeg last beat Calgary in November, 2014 in Alberta.