By Ryan Karhut
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced today that they have replaced Paul LaPolice as head coach of the team. The move came after a crushing defeat on a last second field goal by the class of the league, the BC Lions. The Bombers are 2-6 so the news shouldn’t be a shock. Yet somehow it is. Lets look a little deeper as to why that may be.
One year removed from winning the Eastern Division and losing in the Grey Cup to the same BC Lions, things seem to have taken a dramatic turn for the worse, or did they?
When we think about last years version of the Blue Bombers we think about an opportunistic defense, timely offense, and of course Swaggerville. We think about a 7-1 start to the season and an improbable Grey Cup run. We think about how this season we expected that if we got just a bit better, the cup would be ours.
We forget that after that great start we stumbled the rest of the year to a 4-9 record. Combine that with this year and the Bombers are a staggering 6-15 in their last 21 games. We also don’t look at the whole this team started in this season. The excitement of playing in a new building never came to fruition, starting four straight games on the road, and their star quarterback Buck Pierce getting hurt at the beginning of game two this year. It would be hard for any team to come out of this much adversity with a winning record. Yet I don’t believe this is why LaPolice was fired.
No the real problem stemmed from respect or the lack there of. When you or I go to work we respect our boss(es). Perhaps not all the time but enough to show up on time and do our work. We all know if we do something wrong we kind of cringe in fear of the repercussions. For me it is Jon Ali and for you it is your boss striking a little fear into us when we push limits to far or sometimes not enough.
The Blue Bomber players seemed to be missing that this year. Perhaps they didn’t lose respect for him but they lost that fear. They lost that sense of urgency which can be caused simply by familiarity. Coaches who are dictators struggle to last because athletes get tired of listening to them yell the same things at them all the time. Players coaches have what happened to Paul LaPolice work against them. That is they get too tight with the players and before you know it players are pushing limits like never before.
Last year the team and community got swept up in “Swaggerville” and the defense took on a persona of its own. It was not an issue because the team was having success on the field, well early in the season anyway.
This year we had players tweeting in the off-season with their displeasure with the franchises lack of ability to keep key free agents and sign impact players. Then we had four players return from the bye week a day or two late. All were fined as none had valid excuses. Then on Friday Night Football against the BC Lions. The Bombers took 13 penalties during a game that ended up being decided by three points on the last play of the game.
Not only is the number staggering but so is the type of penalties taken. The Bombers had three objectionable conducts (two for throwing the ball at a player after a play) and 2 unnecessary roughness penalties. All of these penalties are completely preventable and are players acting on behalf of themselves and no one else.
Alas this is why LaPolice was fired. Not the record, the injuries, or the offenses struggles. No, simply put, he lost the edge that bosses need to be successful. Far to many players felt too comfortable with their coach, took advantage of his lack of authority, and acted on their own accord. It is one thing to lose a close game. It’s another to repeatedly try and give a game away to the opposition through dump penalties and selfish acts. Bomber management could not stand for it any longer and Friday’s game showed them it was time for change, it was time for a boss to put that fear back into him employees.
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.
— Ryan Karhut