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Seven coaches, seven bad first seasons: Will O'Shea be different?: Blue growing pains likely

History shows new regimes have struggles

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The odds are not always in our favour.

There is a lot to like about what is happening, and what has happened so far in Bomberland for 2014, but what should our expectations be in year one for yet another new regime and head coach that have taken control of the franchise?

Thus far we have seen the scouting department double in size and competency, yet stay within the same operational budget.

A new quarterback has been signed who, though he has only started three games in the CFL, has completed 68 per cent of his passes, has a QB rating of 99.1, and has thrown nine touchdowns versus five interceptions.

A Top 5 receiver in the CFL was purchased in free agency, along with a seven-time divisional all-star in the defensive backfield, and one of the best offensive line coaches you could hope to land has come back for a second helping and has hopefully brought his bag of magic tricks with him.

The team picks second overall in the upcoming draft, they have an aggressive, inspiring head coach and they re-signed Bryant Turner, Mike Renaud and Alex Suber and brought Jason Vega back into the fold.

Things are looking as if they are turning around for the better, but what is a realistic expectation for year one?

Going back 18 years, all the way to 1997, the team has had seven different head coaches, and year one for almost all of them has not been very pretty to look at.

It is important to note that when we say year one, we are talking about the first full year the head coach had at the helm of the team, which excludes any time in which they may have taken over mid-season from another coach that was fired.

To no one's surprise, Jeff Reinebold kicks off this statistical exposé with only four wins in his debut season, back in '97.

Even though Dave Ritchie had a stretch with the Blue and Gold where he won more games in a three-year span than any other CFL team (2001-03), he still only had six victories in his first season in 1999.

Jim Daley was up to bat next, and he won five in 2005.

Doug Berry had the most successful start of anybody during this time period, winning nine games in 2006, and was also the only coach during this era to make the playoffs in his rookie season. Coach Mike Kelly came next and won seven games before he was let go, and Paul LaPolice only won four out of the gate in 2010.

Lastly, Tim Burke, with his first full year at the helm of the ball club in 2013, won only three games, tying the franchise record for all-time fewest.

Over almost the last two decades, the inaugural seasons by coaches brought in to lead the Blue Bombers have resulted in an underwhelming average of only 5.4 wins over 18 games.

If coach Mike O'Shea is to tie the best of all of these men, he would be batting .500, and to surpass them, he would almost have to double the average and win 10.

Add to this equation the fact Winnipeg moves back to the Western division this season, where the three playoff teams had 14, 11, and 11 wins respectively, it seems like categorical improvement won't be automatic, even with the sweeping and positive changes we've seen so far.

If history does choose to repeat itself, and if these statistics mean anything, then there is a thread to hold onto, though.

While year ones have proven to be incredibly meagre for the majority of the last 20 years or so, two of these coaches -- LaPolice and Berry -- got to the Grey Cup in year two, and Ritchie made it in year three of his tenure.

So if O'Shea can live and learn through what will most likely be an inauspicious debut, then the Bombers may have a shot at becoming more than relevant when the Grey Cup comes home in 2015.


Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, usually appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2014 D3

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