[url=http://www.winnipegsun.com/2014/01/30/deja-blue-as-collaros-signs-to-ticats]http://www.winnipegsun.com/2014/01/30/d ... -to-ticats[/url]
It's deja-Blue, all over again.
For the second straight off-season, one of the CFL's up-and-coming quarterbacks has eluded the grasp of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The latest one got away under completely different circumstances, but the sting is familiar, and leaves three-down football's most wanting franchise counting on yet another Plan B.
Former Toronto Argo Zach Collaros was, by most measures, the most promising of the free-agent arms crop, a quarterback who can run, throw and, most importantly, win.
Basically, he was this winter's Mike Reilly.
Reilly, the former B.C. Lion, was in Collaros's shoes a year ago: ready, willing and able to become a starter, with an expiring contract that had suitors lining up for a look.
The Bombers and Eskimos were the two teams most desperate for a signal-caller, and readied their pitches.
Only while Winnipeg GM Joe Mack sat twiddling his thumbs behind his desk, Edmonton's Ed Hervey took the proactive approach, trading for Reilly's rights in advance of his becoming a free agent.
Next thing you knew, the Eskimos had signed their future.
Fast forward 12 months, and it's the Bombers, alone, with the greatest need at the most important position.
Even the expansion franchise in Ottawa managed to position itself better at quarterback, landing veteran Kevin Glenn and the rising Thomas DeMarco in the expansion draft.
We can presume either would have been available via trade, but not to worry — the Bombers would address the problem in free agency.
Wednesday, the Argos gave up trying to re-sign Collaros and gave up trying to trade his rights, releasing him outright.
Cue the courtship, complete with trips to Winnipeg, right?
On Thursday, the 25-year-old signs not with the Bombers but with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who made it to the Grey Cup last season behind the aging but still effective arm of Henry Burris.
Ticats boss Kent Austin clearly thinks Collaros was the top quarterback on the market, so good that he was ready to discard Burris on the same day.
The Bomber brain trust wasn't so sure. They had one eye on Saskatchewan's Drew Willy, another potential free agent.
Now, we're told the Bombers went after Collaros, threw some good money at him, only to be rebuffed: he signed a three-year deal with the Ticats.
Why? Was it because of the bustling night life in Steeltown? The beauty of the city? The weather?
Perhaps he just wanted to stay in Southern Ontario, closer to his native Ohio.
Or maybe he got a better feeling dealing with the Ticats than he did dealing with the Bombers.
Maybe Austin, a Grey Cup winning coach and quarterback, offered something the rookie GM and rookie head coach couldn't offer in Winnipeg: a proven ability to win.
It appears the franchise futility here is self-perpetuating. The Bombers have done it wrong for so long, nobody believes they're about to start doing it right.
Didn't Winnipeg have an in with Collaros? New head coach Mike O'Shea knew him from the Argos, and he knew O'Shea.
Surely, the up-and-coming pivot would recognize the bright future of the up-and-coming coach, and the two would capture the hearts of a football-mad city together.
A beautiful new stadium that's the envy of the CFL, a fan base dying to fall in love with its team again — what could be better than that?
Hamilton, apparently. Collaros called his decision a "no-brainer."
And so the Bombers are left with Austin's discard, the 38-year-old Burris — assuming they're more successful in trying to sign him than they were 14 years ago, when he chose Regina over Winnipeg.
Anybody else sense a trend, here?
Burris would fit right in with that annoying radio ad. Recycle everywhere, indeed.
Beyond Burris, who might have a year or two left and who'll find it's a completely different kettle of fish playing in Winnipeg's offence and behind Winnipeg's O-line, it's off to Plan B for the future.
Word is the Bombers are just as happy, even happier, with a Burris/Willy combination as they would have been with Collaros.
It's funny Kent Austin didn't feel that way.
What does he know, anyway.