By Ryan Karhut
With the much anticipated hype of the new stadium, management took some bad advice and assumed it would be done prior to the original completion date. Armed with the good news the Bombers requested the CFL to start them on the road for the first four games. Thus giving them time to ensure the new stadium would be ready to open for game five of the season….let’s start there.
With delays of the stadiums completion taking away from the team itself, the Bombers opened training camp missing several key players from last season. Gone were veteran olineman Obby Kahn and Brandon Labatt. Replacing them? Well, youth and inexperience. Let’s start there.
After an outstanding 7-1 start last season the Bombers struggled the rest of the way stumbling to an ugly 4-8 record down the stretch. A lack of discipline, focus, and missed opportunities were the scape goat along with then offensive coordinator Jamie Barresi. So in the off-season he was replaced by Gary Crowton,a man with no experience in Canadian football, and all the problems should go away. Yet they all still remain. Let’s start there.
The team started the year on the road against the defending Grey Cup Champion BC Lions. After that game the team played seven days later in Montreal. The Lions game was never close and a battered Bomber defense was torched to the tune of 443 yards by future Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo in Montreal. Seven days later the team traveled to Edmonton where Buck Pierce didn’t survive the first quarter and ended up with a significant injury. The team limped into Toronto 5-days later and got beat by just 3-points. So after 26 days and 15,844 km traveled our boys were finally about to play their first home game. Let’s start there.
The boys returned home with an improbably late game win over the Eskimos sealed by a last second fumble by their quarterback Steven Jyles when the Eskimos were in position to tie the game. That luck soon ran out when Montreal visited the next week and the theme of the game was the Bomber shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and selfish penalties. This style of undisciplined play seemed to be a growing trend. Let’s start there.
A break for the Blue and Gold followed the Alouettes game and a chance to recharge the batteries for the players and coaches alike. What seemed like a positive for the struggling Bombers was soon turned into another negative. Four players from the Bomber decided to put themselves ahead of their teammates and returned back to practice late after being given time off. All of which were fined but none were suspended. Let’s start there.
The high flying Ticats came to town and on the strength of six Ticat turnovers the Bombers were able to squeak out a 7-point win. Despite once again a rash of undisciplined penalties by the Blue and Gold they were able to hang on for the win. The defending Grey Cup Champs were up next and last week as the Bombers found out, it’s tough to win a game against a great team even at home. The Lions did a great job while struggling to keep the game close. They never let the Bombers pull away and just lingered long enough until they got going. The Bombers committed 13-penalties and once again it was costly as the team self imploded down the stretch. This time not only did it cost the team the game but it also cost Paul LaPolice his job. Let’s start there.
Paul LaPolice was rewarded for taking the Blue and Gold to the Grey Cup last year by being given a two-year extension on top of the year he had left on his contract by the organization. This ensured LaPolice would be guiding this team until the end of the 2014 season. Fast forward back to the present and after all that has gone wrong for the now 2-6 Bombers, GM Joe Mack has decided to relieve Paul LaPolice as the head coach of the team and go in another direction. So not only do the Bombers owe Lapolice the rest of this year’s contract, estimated at about $130,000, but they also have to pay his entire salary for the next two years! That offseason extension that they signed their now former coach to is worth $230,000 per year. Essentially the Bombers will have paid Paul LaPolice a total of $73,750 per game during this 2-6 season. Let’s start there.
When you add up the coaches extension, the $250,000 quarterback Buck Pierce who has only played in 23 games out of a possible 44 since signing with the Blue and Gold, plus the team pushing their veteran oline out the door this year, and their lack of success in recruiting and signing any key free agents this offseason, it all adds up to an underperforming general manager. Joe Mack has continually steered this team in the wrong direction time and time again. I believe his firing of LaPolice was a way for him to buy himself more time and job security. The Bombers are set up for a strong finish now that the team is getting healthy for the first time this year. Mack knew if he made the change now and the team finishes strong, he ensures himself another season as the boss of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Why is it no one seems to want to start there?
As always I would love to hear your thoughts on the Bombers struggles this year.
— Ryan Karhut