Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's fine and well to fire coaches and execs, but what about the screw-ups on the field?

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GUELPH, ONT. -- CEO Garth Buchko was certainly held accountable for his failures. Ditto GM Joe Mack.

And then last weekend it was offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton who was the latest to be held accountable by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- as Crowton joined Buchko and Mack on an unemployment line that's been swelling in recent weeks with the ranks of former Bombers employees judged deficient.

But for all that the accountability axe has been swinging lately in the offices of Investors Group Field, one group of Bombers employees that has remained curiously untouched in this trying season has been the actual players.

Indeed, for all the constant talk from Bombers head coach Tim Burke in recent weeks about how no one's job is safe and everyone is just one more bad game away from joining Buchko, Mack et al down at the EI offices, the fact is just the opposite has been the case.

Let's take, for example, the 46-man roster released by the Bombers Friday morning in advance of today's game at Alumni Stadium against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Embarrassing

But first, a quick bit of background. The local professional football team fell to 1-6 with an embarrassing 37-18 loss to the Ticats at home last week that ran Winnipeg's losing streak to five games, their home losing streak to four games and just might have been the team's worst performance of an already dreadful season.

So with all this talk of accountability and that kind of debacle as the most recent backdrop, clearly there will of course be big roster changes this week, right? You'd think, right?

You crazy kidder. No, the sum total of the roster changes the Bombers made to a team that was utterly outclassed by the Ticats last week were the following:

On the roster -- backup FB Carl Fitzgerald and backup defensive end Freddie Harris; off the roster -- injured receiver Chris Matthews and backup defensive lineman JT Gilmore.

Well then, that should turn things around quite nicely, right? This time we're the kidders.

No, for those of you keeping track at home, what all this means is that, for instance, receiver Kito Poblah -- who last week dropped the easiest touchdown catch since leather helmets -- will once again be in the lineup today.

And so too will be the five men who make up a Bombers secondary that last week surrendered 250 passing yards to Hamilton QB Henry Burris -- in the first half -- and did for the noble institution of pass coverage what Lindsay Lohan has done for 12-step programs.

So how can this be? How is it that a team so ready to axe pricey executives and coaches will not -- despite repeatedly saying otherwise -- hold its own players to account for their failures? Have we not long since reached the point where some players need to be whacked?

"Hopefully we start a winning streak and we don't even need to talk about that," was Burke's answer for the media Friday.

Yes, a winning streak would be nice. But just suppose that instead of that, Burke was asked, your players go out on the field today and get manhandled and lose once again, as the oddsmakers who have installed the Ticats as 101/2-point favourites today fully expect?

Last straw

Would that finally be the last straw that gets some players whacked? "I wouldn't say that, no," Burke replied.

So there you have it then -- no one's job is safe, except everyone's.

And -- surprise, surprise -- that suits the players just fine. Just listen to the reply of cornerback Jovon Johnson -- one of those underachievers in the Bombers secondary -- when he was asked Friday if the time has come for some players to be moving along.

"I play with my teammates and I never disrespect any of them and they're all capable of going out and getting the job done," insisted Johnson. "It's just a matter of us going out and getting some wins and try to perform to the best of our ability."

So this roster as presently configured is good enough to win?

"Yes, most definitely," said Johnson.

So why hasn't it been?

"We haven't put together enough games offensively, defensively and special teams to win in this league. And in order to be a good team in this league and win games you have to put all three phases of the game together," he said.

So there you have it again -- the problem with the Bombers isn't the players, it's the playing. Or something like that.

Whatever the case, what has become crystal clear in the past couple weeks -- both from what the Bombers have done and what they have not done -- is that if you don't have a number on your back in this organization, you have a target on your back.

And the sad part is the next guy to get whacked could very well end up being the same guy who has been so bewilderingly reluctant to do some whacking of his own.

They say nice guys finish last. Tim Burke is both at the moment. And that might make him next.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

bomber game day c3-4

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 C1

History

Updated on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 6:27 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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