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Turbulent times in Bomberland: Vocal Bellefeuille rebooting Bombers' offence after first session as boss

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It was just five minutes into Marcel Bellefeuille's first practice as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' new offensive boss when the session came screeching to a halt with an ear-piercing command.

"Stop! Stop! STOP!" bellowed Bellefeuille as a set of receivers sauntered toward the line of scrimmage.

The new boss waved his arms for a few minutes -- this is called teaching in pro football -- before the practice continued. Point made; lesson, the Bombers hope, learned.

"I thought he got after the players pretty good," said head coach Tim Burke after practice. "I like to hear an offensive coach yell at his players every now and then. A lot of guys don't do that.

'I thought he got after the players pretty good. I like to hear an offensive coach yell at his players every now and then. A lot of guys don't do that'

-- Tim Burke on Marcel Bellefeuille's first day on the job

"I also thought we completed more balls in practice on a first day (of the practice week) than we usually do. I think that was a telling sign."

Yes, this is what is now considered progress in Bomberland these days, where the only statistical category the club ranks first overall in through seven weeks is total number of GMs/CEOs/coaches fired.

But there was also a sense, provided from those who were in Bellefeuille's meeting and on the field with him, that the tweaks he has already made will at least allow the Bombers' anemic offence to attack more efficiently.

To more often than not be the hammer and not the nail, so to speak.

"He's implementing more of his knowledge of CFL defences and putting our offence up against that," said quarterback Buck Pierce. "We haven't changed a whole lot of verbage... it's hard in a week to change how you call things. Without telling too much, we're going to look at the defence, analyze what they do and hopefully that will help our schemes out."

That sounds like a simple enough change, but can't be stressed enough given what's unfolded with the Bomber organization both in the last week and over the last few years. While other franchises have stockpiled offensive minds on their coaching staffs -- Toronto's crew, for example, features Scott Milanovich, Marcus Brady and Jason Maas, all ex-QBs with CFL playing and/or coaching experience -- the Bombers have been woefully short in that department.

Gary Crowton, a likable man who was spotted saying farewells to fans in the parking lot before practice Monday, came to the Bombers without a lick of CFL experience. And in recent years, Bomber attacks have suffered while U.S.-born and trained offensive co-ordinators such Kit Cartwright (2007-08) and Manny Matsakis (2009) struggled with learning some of the intricacies of CFL offences.

In Bellefeuille, the Bombers have brought aboard a guy who grew up in the three-down game as a player, an assistant and a head coach at both the CIS and CFL levels. He's smart -- heck, on Monday the man used "nomenclature" in a sentence -- and he can be both analytical and get in a guy's grill at the same time.

Of course, all this means diddly and squat if the Bomber offence continues to struggle just to move the chains this weekend and beyond. But Bellefeuille's experience as a co-ordinator in this league has to help sooner or later.

Now Pierce, to his credit, refused to toss Crowton under the bus on Tuesday when asked about his dismissal on the weekend. But he also summed up how this deal works when asked to comment on the suggestion the offence was an American one designed to fit on a CFL field.

"A lot of people will say that because of (Crowton's) background, and rightfully so," said Pierce. "He had been in the U.S. game his entire career. Not having a whole lot of CFL experience under his belt, those comparisons are going to be made.

"But he tried. He did everything he could do to adjust his style. It just didn't fit at the time. And pro football is results and getting it done quickly."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2013 C1

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Updated on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:35 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

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