It's a lot easier to guarantee a win when you're retired, because, quite frankly, if you're wrong, who really cares?
I don't think I'll be wrong when I say the Bombers will roll tide over the Alouettes this Friday, and it's for one simple reason: When this team loses, they don't make excuses for their performances.
Case in point, when head coach Mike O'Shea was offered a softball of an excuse after the Toronto game, he wouldn't even step into the batter's box, let alone try and make contact with it. It seemed obvious to everyone that after only four days of rest since their last game, and leading at the end of the third quarter, a collapse in the final stanza would indicate fatigue had gotten the best of them -- but he wouldn't bite. The head coach would not excuse their performance due to a shortened schedule, and neither would any of his players. Coaches and players alike shouldered the blame and internalized it, and did not look for anything or anyone to pin their defeat on.
Throughout two of the three losses they have suffered this year, it would also be fair to say the defence has significantly outperformed the other two phases of the football team. Against Edmonton, the offence only contributed a single field goal. In the next loss to Saskatchewan, the defence, once again, held the opposition to only field goals and nine total points. These kinds of efforts by a defensive dozen are rare and spectacular, but they were wasted because they were not complemented by the offence or special teams. Conversely, it could be said special teams outperformed the other two phases in their third loss against Toronto, but you wouldn't know it after speaking with the players. Not only does this team not accept mulligans on their off days, they don't point fingers at one another, when a group of them overachieves.
It is rare for a team this young and inexperienced to have the maturity to not create a division of labour when losing inevitably rears its head. To be sure, we don't know what goes on in that dressing room, and five wins makes three losses that much more palatable, but it is still impressive nobody has even hinted or suggested all of the squadrons are not pulling their weight -- when at times, it has clearly been the case.
Even more surprising though, are the number of players, coaches and even general managers that hold themselves accountable when things don't go the way they had hoped. You almost get the impression if one was to roll a live grenade into this locker-room, there would be no shortage of human shields to smother the blast. Quarterback Drew Willy, who, notwithstanding Kevin Glenn in 2007, has played better football for this franchise than anybody since Khari Jones in his prime, is often publicly critical of his own play, without prompting. The head coach has established himself as the fall guy when there is underachievement, and when they were winning all their early games, their GM was tempered and cautious about their success. All this selfless talk, humility and camaraderie, it almost makes you long for a day or two of bravado, B.S. and boasting. But not quite.
So why should one guarantee a victory when a team just lost a game by more than two touchdowns and has now lost their last two in a row? Football teams that don't make excuses for their performances, that don't point fingers at one another and that take responsibility for their own actions are the ones that do something about losing and respond to adverse scenarios. When players and coaches are not fogged by denial and have the perspective to see that as individuals and members of a team are culpable for both success and failure, they operate in an environment where mistakes get corrected and performances improve as a result. When a football team has this many good traits, you can't help but expect a positive response.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.